Top 10 Sci-Fi Epic Fails Of 2011

’Tis the season of the turkey, so let’s celebrate sci-fi biggest flops of the past 12 months

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10 Mars Needs Moms

Not just a flop of 2011, but of one of the biggest cinematic losers of all time, Robert Zemeckis’s Mars Needs Moms cost about $175m (£110m) to make and market yet grossed less than $40 million worldwide. It also – for the moment – seems to have forced the end of Zemeckis’s love affair with motion capture CG movies and seeming inability to see any problem with the uncanny valley . Having directed The Polar Express and Beowulf using the process, Zemeckis set up the company ImageMovers Digital with Disney in a deal to create more motion capture films. First up was A Christmas Carol , with a CG Jim Carrey, then Mars Needs Moms . A new version of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine was in development, but after the gargantuan failure of Mars Needs Moms , Disney and ImageMovers parted company and Zemeckis is now back in the world of live action films with the Denzel Washington thriller Flight . Somehow, though, ImageMovers has survived, having entered a new two-year deal with Universal. Well, the company presumably came at a knock-down price by that point.

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9 Smallville’s Finale

We’d been waiting 10 years for the money shot, and when it came it looked worth about thruppence. Yeah, Clark finally wore the costume, but only in long distance ropey CG, and in one brief shirt-ripping moment when we got to see Tom Welling in Brandon Routh’s hand-me-downs.

It wasn’t only the disappointment over the lack of seeing Welling in full-on action as Supes that let this finale down, though. Lex’s much-publicised return – despite one suitable stirring face-off scene between the slaphead supervillain and Clark (“You and I, we will both be great men because of each other. We have a destiny together Clark, only on different sides”) – was anticlimactic and pointless. Lois's second thoughts about her wedding to Clark were contrived and overlong. The resolution to the season-long Darkseid plot was perfunctory and unexciting. There were a few good moments here and there, but as finale to a 10-season phenomenon, it was decidedly less than Super.

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8 Supernatural “Season Seven, Time For A Wedding”

The usually solid Supernatural rarely makes a misstep, gifted with a talented writing team who have a thorough knowledge of their audience. Which is why recent episode "Seven Seven, Time For A Wedding" was such a surprise, mis-using the one thing the show tends to do so well: meta.

(Be warned, spoilers!)

The premise might have seemed funny on paper, but it was criminally short of laughs on screen. Ultimate fangirl Becky Rosen bewitches Sam Winchester into marrying her against his will. Hilarity does not ensue. In fact, what follows is embarrassing on every level you can think of, mainly because Becky is a one-dimensional cartoon character who has essentially just mind-whammied Sam so she can rape him (despite the show rather clunkily mentioning at one point that they haven’t had sex yet). Fans, to their horror, suddenly realised they were being mocked (they’re supposed to be Becky, after all); the writers’ gentle teasing of fandom had become an all-out attack.

Crowley pops up at the end of the episode, so it’s not all bad. But it’s a small saving grace for a story that not only wasn't funny but also left a huge section of the show’s fanbase seething at being portrayed as unbalanced, “ugly”, men-kidnapping potential rapists. Whoops...

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7 Green Lantern

The cinematic equivalent of a shrug, Green Lantern was heralded by a marketing fanfare of biblical proportions, but was met with an almighty “m’eh!” Lantern fans loathed it for so many reasons (Ryan Reynold’s smug face, the CGI porn, the CGI suit, Blake Lively’s inability to act her way of a paper bag with a fire escape marked Exit in it) but to general audiences it was just a very average, by-the-numbers superhero movie. Certainly it had that designed-by-committee look that suggests the suits were more in artistic control than director Martin Campbell. However, the negative energy on the fan forums began to feed on itself and soon it became a badge of honour not to have seen Green Lantern . The result: a $200 million movie that made back only just over $100 million worldwide, and a countless number of Green Lantern t-shirts that were left hidden at the bottom of a sock drawer thereafter.

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6 Catwoman #1

DC’s controversial 52 reboot was in no way a flop – it saw the comic company’s sales soar, proving that a huge publicity stunt, no matter how cynical, can get the punters excited. And there were many triumphs including Grant Morrison’s Action Comics and Animal Man . But the climax of Catwoman issue one was one of those ill-judged pieces of sensationalist nonsense that beggars belief. Improbably-proportioned, spandex-clad supertypes boffing on a Gotham rooftop? Al fresco supershagging? Yup, it’s the kind of idea that should stay in the pub where the writers came up with it. Fan reaction was a mixture of hilarity and revulsion.

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5 Outcasts, Episode One

We know we’re risking the wrath of the show’s small but vocal fanbase by including Outcasts in this list. “Once again,” they’ll claim, “ SFX is knocking a show that tried to bring intelligent science fiction to prime time television.” But the key word there is “tried” and the important fact to remember is “it failed”. Spectacularly. The show fared so badly in the rating it was unceremoniously shunted to late night on Sundays for its last few episodes.

We’re happy in retrospect to admit the show did improve. We gave the final episode a fairly decent review. But the show only has itself to blame for its failure by kicking off with one of the dullest, least engaging, confused and confusing premier episodes ever produced. Instead of introducing its characters and concepts with clarity, it concentrated on a character who ended the first episode getting killed. Well, hey, well done on a cheap shock, but no points for helping us get to know the characters we’re going to spend the rest of the series with. It was the same with the frontier world setting – you didn’t really get a good idea about the structure or geography of the place. Hell, it wasn’t until the third episode we got a decent CG overview of Forthaven and realised how big it was supposed to be. From the pilot it looked like a couple of shacks, a gate and a sandpit.

Presumably the idea was to just drop the viewer into the situation, and let them work out what was going on, rather than relying on lengthy exposition which is a worthy aim. But you need to give viewers something to care about…

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4 Sanctuary “Fugue”

You’d think after Buffy’s “Once More With Feeling” no show would ever dare do a musical episode for fear of comparisons. Somebody didn’t send the Sanctuary team that memo.

The main problem with “Fugue” is not that it isn’t as good as “Once More With Feeling”. It’s that it’s just downright awful.

Not only did the rationale for the musical sequence make no sense whatsoever (only one character is affected by an illness that makes her communicate in tune, yet there are other sequences without her with characters like Magnus bursting into song), but the songs themselves were dire. They weren’t even songs, just dialogues set to music with hint of a chorus, or motifs, or refrains. One laughable moment has Will and his suicidal girlfriend performing a rock duet before she thrown herself off a roof – it looked for all the world like a amateur theatre re-enactment of Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life” video. It would help if any of the cast could sing; instead, the crew is forced to bring back Magnus’s dad in a dream sequence because the actor is also a blues singer.

Remarkably, on TV.com , where a user review average score of in the sevens usually means an episode is shockingly bad, “Fugue” scores an unheard of 5.7.

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3 Starfire # 1

Look, we really don’t want to say, “It hasn’t been DC’s year”, because it some ways it has. As we mentioned earlier the 52 relaunched has mostly been very successful. But the company has been connected to five entries in this top 10 (ouch) and here’s another, with one more yet to come.

The relaunched Starfire rubbed fans (especially female fans, unsurprisingly, and quite rightly) up the wrong way by not realising that there’s a difference between “empowered female” and “slut”.

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2 Torchwood: Miracle Day “The Blood Line”

“Is that it? We’ve sat through 10 weeks of soft porn, glacial exposition and Welsh gags for that? This whole show has been a giant crusty vagina/arse crack having a bit of a wobbly?” That just about paraphrases 90% of the comments left on our site after the final episode of Torchwood aired. It pains us to have to include “Miracle Day” in this list – especially after the awesome televisual milestone that was “Children Of Earth” – but there’s no denying, “The Blood Line” was a major let down. A good half of it seemed to be two sets of people standing in front of two identical gashes on either side of the planet, talking. And talking. And talking some more. In the background bits of debris were being sucked into the rocky crack; a kind of visual metaphor for all the show’s potential seeping away into a bottomless pit.

And Miracle Day had started so promisingly.

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1 Wonder Woman

And the biggest turkey of the year… we never got to see. Though its turkeyness was so legendary, perhaps we should be thankful for that.

Ally McBeal creator David E Kelley was behind this major overhaul for the character, which made it as far as a pilot before NBC decided, “Nah.” This would have been a very different take on the character, almost too stupidly gimmicky and too smart-arsedly post-modern to summarise. As well as her usual Diana Prince alter ego, Wonder Woman also had a third guise and a day job as Diana Themyscira, the head of Themyscira industries. In the show's universe, it would have been public knowledge that Themyscira and Wonder Woman are the same – think Tony Stark and Iron Man in the second film – while Diana Prince is still a secret alter ego to both. Apparently, it would have been all about the traumas of being a “modern woman”, trying to balance home life and work, with a lot of goofy comedy.

That sounds bad enough? But do you recall the reaction to the first official still of the costume? Not the one above, but the one below, that was met on the internet with an almighty, “You what?! She looks like someone on a hen night in a cheap, plastic Wonder Woman costume!” We were later assured by Kelley and co that that was only one of a number of costumes she would be wearing. And no, that wasn’t them backing down under pressure, nosiree. That had always been the intention. They decided to release the image of the really crap costume first.