The summer movie season officially kicks off with a resounding bang this week with as Joss Whedon’s long-anticipated The Avengers storms into theaters. Looking at this awe-inspiring co-op of extraordinary people, it’s easy to see how they could earn the title of Earth’s mightiest heroes. While these titans of heroism are not the first crime-fighters to be immortalized in film, not just any superhero can be accepted into The Avengers organization. We decided to take a look at some lesser-supers and examine why their bids for membership would be unquestionably denied.
Sam Raimi, and his adaptation of Spider-Man, is largely responsible for the resurgence of superhero cinema in the last decade. But in 1990, almost as an audition for the Spidey film he would one day helm, Raimi brought us a decidedly more emotionally volatile character in Darkman. Once a prominent scientist, Peyton Westlake is mutilated and left for dead during an explosion orchestrated by gangsters. He may have gained amplified strength and immunity to pain, but the fact that Liam Neeson is playing a hero who weeps at the drop of a hat is more than enough of a strike against Darkman to exclude him from Nick Fury’s squad.
The title song to this 1993 oddity suggests, “Ain’t nobody badder than The Meteor Man.” Once you see the film, you’ll agree… but not for the reasons intended. Robert Townsend, who also wrote and directed the movie, stars as an inner city high school teacher endowed with powers he doesn’t quite know how to handle by a chance encounter with a meteorite chunk. The film is cheesy with a capital B, but it’s the inexplicable parade of cameos that make The Meteor Man memorable; again, for the wrong reasons. Along with well-known celebs like Don Cheadle and James Earl Jones, the latter sporting one of the worst hairdos imaginable, the film also features forgettable musical acts as Naughty By Nature and Another Bad Creation.
Now I know what you’re thinking, this guy should be admitted to the group based on his apt name alone, right? Unfortunately The Toxic Avenger, and the film franchise that bears his name, is far from what I would call Avengers material. A bullied janitor falls into a vat of toxic waste and becomes a super gross pummeler of bad guys. As with any Troma Team production, The Toxic Avenger does not skimp on the crass humor, the excessive violence, and the general lack of taste. I’m not sure if it was our hero ripping off the arm of a thief or his exceedingly uncomfortable love scene, but at some point it was clear Toxie wouldn’t be sharing a locker with Iron Man anytime soon.
It would seem appropriate to disqualify a hero such as Blankman from admittance into The Avengers right out of the gate, as he harbors no super powers. But then again, Hawkeye doesn’t really have any super powers either and he’s a charter member. Blankman, alias Darryl Walker (alias Damon Wayans), also shares Tony Stark’s penchant for inventing gadgets. However, that is pretty much where is he ceases to be a viable candidate. He’s not much of a fighter, his presence in his pajama-like costume is far from intimidating, and his superhero quips… are far from super. Of course it doesn’t help that the movie in which Blankman is housed is a tiring, sophomoric bore.
Mark Hamill once saved the universe from the tyranny of the Galactic Empire, and there is no doubt The Avengers would be happy to have Luke Skywalker as a member. Hamill’s turn as the CIA agent in pursuit of the cyborg hero Guyver (Jack Armstrong) does little to improve his application. The film centers on an alien technology, supposedly on Earth for eons, that while part of their insidious plot to enslave mankind, actually endows a human with incredible powers. It’s about as campy, laughably performed, and cheap as one would expect from a direct-to-video ’90s movie directed by a guy named Screaming Mad George. Actually, that’s a great name. I wonder if Screaming Mad would consider applying to be an Avengers villain.