Note: This was originally written in January of 2017 for a forum project. So it’s possibly a touch out of date. (I don’t really miss Green Lantern, don’t worry.)
Well, it’s that time of the year again. A time of celebration and remembrance. A time to look back at all the great memories we had in good ol’ 2016 and reminisce on the good times…
…Ah right, yes, this year kinda blew didn’t it.
Still, as far as overall quality of actual movies went in 2016, I’m…well, a bit mixed on this year. On the one hand, as far as blockbusters were concerned, 2016 was absolutely miserable. Aside from Deadpool and most of Disney’s contributions, it felt like almost every major live-action blockbuster this year either underwhelmed critically or financially or in quite a few cases both. I’m really not picky when it comes to my blockbusters but there were really a lot of movies I would’ve otherwise watched that just looked so incredibly unappealing that I ended up skipping them altogether. Hell, Autumn seemed to have a better blockbuster lineup that Summer did this year.
Still, on the positive side, the DCEU finally took off triumphantly… only to immediately fall face first into a ditch filled with manure. And sharks. That are on fire. Twice.
Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss Green Lantern…
That aside, 2016 was actually a pretty damn good year for other genres I’m fond of. Animation is the one most people are talking about (and quite justifiably since there were a lot of damn good hits, both domestic and foreign) but I also noticed a lot of really enjoyable horror movies this year as well. Expect to see quite a lot of animated and horror movies near the top half of my list (although funnily enough no animated horror movies). It was also an interesting year for superhero movies, a personal favourite genre of mine. Sure I’ve already probably made my feelings on the DCEU’s current releases fairly clear, but Deadpool and Civil War both took the genre in new directions and Dr Strange pushed the boundaries of visual inventiveness not just for superhero movies but for blockbusters as a whole. Oh, and, er, X-Men Apocalypse existed too.
This was also an interesting year for me since I started to poke out into a much wider world of film. I went to the London Film Festival for the first time in a serious fashion (I only went in last year to watch The Boy and the Beast early). And even if I only had time for 5 movies, I still enjoyed myself. Plus I’ve been branching out my animation tastes to movies not just made in America/UK/Japan and came across some real gems, some of which are on this list. Oh and I also graduated with a screenwriting degree. That was a thing. Plus I got a doggie.
The dog is probably more useful in terms of finding a job.
Now, I was originally considering just saving time and doing a Top X of the year, but honestly, there are a lot movies I actually want to talk about this year. In total, I saw exactly 70 movies that were released this year. Some domestic, some foreign, some big, some small, some popular, some obscure, etc etc. And since the ones I want to talk about most are so spread out across the year that I decided fuck it, I’ll talk about every movie I saw this year. Why? Because I have an overinflated ego and am convinced that people are more interested in my opinion than they probably actually are.
Well, with that awkward intro out of the way, enjoy my list of 2016 films ranked from worst to best! Now let’s get the ball rolling with my absolute least favourite movie of 2016…
70. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Surprise! It’s not a DCEU movie at the bottom of my list this year, though God knows they tried their best. No, my least favourite of the year goes to this turd of a movie. It’s funny because I didn’t even hate the first TMNT movie that much. I didn’t think it was very good either, but it never annoyed me as much as, say, the first three Transformers movies. And, honestly, the trailers for this movie made it look pretty damn fun. It had Casey Jones, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady, everything a turtle fan could ask for (…Well, everything a fan of the original series could at least). So how did this end up so obnoxiously bad? Seriously, I came closer to walking out of the theatre for this movie than almost any other movie I’ve ever watched (at least in the cinema). Something about it just plain got on my nerves in a way few other movies manage.
I think the big problem is that the movie was so focused on including the things it believed the fans wanted (Casey Jones, Krang, B+R, more action, etc etc) that it failed to put any thought into a) how those aspects could/would work and b ) failed to notice how ear-gratingly obnoxious they made said aspects. Seriously, every second of the film it feels like its throwing keys in your face with constant movement, action, juvenile and unfunny jokes, the lot. It takes about maybe 20 minutes for you to get burned out and then you’ve got to somehow sit through another 2 hours or so, because, in addition to being obnoxious, the movie has too many plots/subplots/characters it has to work through (no please, dedicate 10 minutes to Vern ‘The Falcon’ Fenwick’s subplot). And the new characters are just terrible. Casey Jones, instead of being a badass vigilante becomes the world’s whiniest cop, Krang comes the fuck out of nowhere and makes no sense unless you’re familiar with the original cartoon and Bebop/Rocksteady are not nearly as funny as the filmmakers clearly believe they are. And they’re friggin’ shoved into everything.
So yeah, this movie blows. Badly. It’s not like I have anything against entertaining mindless action flicks or movies giving fans what they want, but this isn’t either. This is the filmmakers forcefeeding you a pile of manure and claiming it’s a cupcake because they dyed it pink and put a Turtles sticker on it.
Still, at least things can only go up from here on this list… well, kind of… if you squint really hard.
69. Suicide Squad
THIS IS KATANA! SHE’S GOT MY BACK! I WOULD ADVISE NOT GETTING KILLED BY HER! HER SWORD TRAPS THE SOULS OF ITS VICTIMS!
…Yeah, this movie really wasn’t very good.
You know, if you had told me back in March that BvS wasn’t going to be the worst DCEU movie released this year, I genuinely would not have believed you. But David Ayer and the WB executives tried their little hearts out and gave us this biblical disaster of a franchise starter. Now, I’m not going to go into too much detail on this one because I want to possibly someday get around to doing a really in-depth look at it, but believe me when I say it’s a disaster on every level. Storytelling, characterisation, direction, action, pacing, editing, all dismal. It’s a movie that honestly misses the entire point of the Suicide Squad in favour of trying to half-heartedly rip off Guardians of the Galaxy/Avengers/its own trailers, while simultaneously missing the point of what made all of those things work so well.
And honestly, I stand by saying that it’s worse than BvS. BvS for all its many many many many flaws at least felt like it had some ambition and that Snyder was trying to do something new. Certainly, he completely fucked up the execution on every level, but at least he was trying. Plus BvS at least felt somewhat structured. Suicide Squad feels closer to Fan4stic than an actual movie. It’s a completely muddled mess. And while a lot of blame certainly can go to the executives for meddling, there are clear signs of Ayer’s own fingerprints on the movie and his vision really is not much better. The sole positive thing I can say about it is that some of the actors (Will Smith) were certainly trying and some of the early Enchantress stuff was actually creepy/cool (at least before she went all CGI glossy Gods-of-Egypt and fucked it all up).
Honestly, I don’t particularly like picking on DC this much (…well, okay, maybe a little), but they’re just so bad at this. One MoS-level failure is unfortunate, two is a problem, three just makes me wonder if the studio was built on an ancient Indian burial ground or something. And it’s especially a shame because I honestly prefer most of DC’s heroes to Marvel’s. But the executives either clearly have no idea what to do with them or just put them in the hands of people who are clearly unsuited for the job. I’m hoping they get their act together for Wonder Woman, but at this rate, I’m really not going to be surprised if that movie ends up poorly as well. (2018 Edit: Thankfully wrong on this one. Justice League though? Yeeesh.)
68. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
I did a five part analysis on this fucker. I really don’t think I need to go into any more detail.
67. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
I honestly do not remember single thing about the first Jack Reacher movie other than that I enjoyed it as a cheesy action movie. This one, on the other hand… was kind of a steaming pile.
In hindsight though, I really should’ve figured this out from the first scene. You may recognise it from the trailers, but it’s where a corrupt sheriff approaches Jack in a bar and tries to arrest him. They have a tense standoff, Jack makes a prediction, a phone rings and next cut shows the sheriff being arrested. Now, when I saw that sequence in that trailer, I had naturally assumed that in the movie proper there was going to be some sort of action moment in between those two cuts, especially considering Jack was unarmed and the sheriff had a gun. But nope, the police show up and the sheriff just gives up offscreen in a half-assed way. And that’s what this movie feels like. Half-assed. Not from Tom Cruise or Coldie Smulders mind, they were only ones with any kind of charm or chemistry (even if Cruise was visibly drifting at times (like in the poster above)), but from everything else. The villains, the story, the action, the whole thing feels disappointingly bland and tired. I honestly have a bit of a soft spot for forgettable action movies, but even this tested my limits. Quality wise, this felt closer to Die Hard 5 than it did the last Jack Reacher.
And don’t get me started on the daughter subplot. Has any subplot in an action movie involving the unknown/neglected daughter to an action hero gone anywhere other than ‘Daughter gets in trouble, argue, stuff showing Daughter/action hero are not so different, the two start to bond + daughter becomes a damsel in the final third’? Because that’s more or less exactly what happens here. It’s especially frustrating because the infinitely more interesting relationship between Cruise/Smulders (who have surprisingly good chemistry) gets shoved to the side in place of the sort of tired shtick you’ve seen a million times. The daughter isn’t that great an actress, she doesn’t have much chemistry with Cruise and she brings out the worst in the latter’s character. It was just tiresome.
So yeah. Not a good movie. They should’ve called it ‘Never Go Back to the Theatre’. …Actually, no they shouldn’t, that line was terrible, never mind.
66. Batman: The Killing Joke
God damn it, DC. Your animation branch was supposed to be the good one! What the hell happened?
Okay, DC’s critically terrible year aside, the original ‘The Killing Joke’ Graphic Novel, by Alan Moore, is genuinely a seminal work, at least when it comes to how the Joker has been portrayed in comics. You can see its fingerprints on pretty much everything the Joker has been in since, from the animated series to Arkham Asylum to, of course, Heath Ledger’s legendary performance in The Dark Knight. However, if there’s one issue with the story, it’s the treatment of Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. It’s pretty much one of the defining moments of ‘fridging’ in comic books. A strong female character crippled in a story she had nothing to do with/had no focus on her, solely to hurt and cause pain to another male character. It’s an entirely legitimate criticism of the story that leaves a black mark on an otherwise great work. So when I heard that the filmmakers were planning on expanding Barbara’s role in this adaptation and putting more of a focus on her and her struggles, I was all for it. But, as I walked out of the cinema after having seen the movie, I had to wonder just one thing…
How in pluperfect hell did this movie make the Batgirl stuff worse than the original comic?!
Seriously, I am blown away at how badly they handled this. Effectively, the filmmakers decided to tack on a 30 minute original ‘prologue’ story to the movie (which had zero to do with the main Killing Joke plot) presenting Batgirl as a jealous irrational bitch, Batman as a jerkass know-it-all, a villain who I think was supposed to be suave but came off as a creepy fratboy, nothing even referencing the Joker or anything from the original Killing Joke story and, of course, most infamously, Batman and Batgirl having sex. Specifically Batman and Batgirl having sex out of nowhere, unforeshadowed and for no bloody point! And then, when the actual plot of the Killing Joke comes around it still goes and makes all the exact same mistakes the original made! It is genuinely mindboggling how offensively bad that prologue is. Seriously, were I to take it on its own, I would put it below Suicide Squad on this list. It’s that bad.
Pretty much the sole reason this movie isn’t at the very bottom of this list though is that, once the actual Killing Joke plot gets started, it’s alright. It’s not a great adaptation, it doesn’t really improve the story in any way, but it’s a solid retelling of a good story. But it’s still overshadowed by the garbage fire that was the prologue. Seriously, DC, what the fuck happened this year?