Ruk Ranks Every Movie He Saw in 2017 (85-81)

Note: This was originally posted in February 2018. So if it feels a bit out of date, that’s probably because it is.

…Boy, it sure has been a year, hasn’t it?

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That’s not a rhetorical question, FYI. I would like someone to confirm that it has in fact only been a year. Because God knows it feels like it’s been a lot longer than that.

Anyway, while America and the rest of the outside world has continued merrily on its downward path into a Trump-tinged trashfire (because God knows what 2016 was missing was more Nazis), film-wise 2017 was actually fairly damn good. Sure, perhaps a decent part of that has to do with me being a bit more discerning in what I watched rather than just going for anything that took my fancy, but the difference in general quality between my 2016 list and my 2017 list is really something impressive. There were a lot of really good movies that came out this year from all sorts of unexpected places. From surprise horror hits like Get Out or It, to Marvel/Disney’s continued conquest of the known world, to the DCEU actually managing to pull off a good movie for once!

I mean, okay sure, on the negative side, it has been kind of a shite year for one of my favourite genres, namely Animation, but honestly that only ended up driving me more into seeking more indie and foreign animations and needless to say, I found some definite gems that I might not have looked for otherwise. Hell, there are a lot of really good animated movies I found this year, if you know where to look.

And, of course, I decided that the best way to celebrate this glorious year of creativity and diversity in filmmaking was by putting it all on a fucking list.

Seriously though, if you’re not familiar with how I do my end-of-year lists, basically, rather than limit myself to a Top 10/20/25/etc, I prefer to rank every single movie I saw in the year, from worst to best, and comment on them all. And this year I saw a whopping 85 movies, so yeah this is probably going to be quite a long list. And God knows there’s going to be a lot of surprises because I saw a fairly wide spread of movies this year. From mainstream to indie to foreign to obscure to movies people are going to be angry I rated so low and vice versa. Heck, I even managed to follow in the traditions of my 2016 list by picking a really obscure movie for my No 1.

That said, be warned, some of the movies this year are going to have some really long-ass commentary on them. I am really not holding anything back on some of these, both for good and for bad. But, hey, this entire thread’s existence is kinda prevaricated on the idea that people theoretically for some reason give a crap about what I have to say about movies, so I guess that won’t be too much of a problem?

So yeah, let’s get this show on the road.

 

85. The Mummy

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Say, did you guys know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe made a lot of money? Like, a lot? Enough to make other studio turn their heads, lick their lips and start planning ridiculous ideas for their own cash dispensers Cinematic Universes? It’s almost a shame then that pretty much all of said studios are absolutely terrible at it. I mean seriously, even ignoring the DCEU’s general shittiness finally catching up with it this year, we’ve had ideas thrown around for a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe, a Robin Hood Cinematic Universe and, of course, Sony’s belligerent attempts to somehow construct their own Cinematic Universe around Spiderman, despite him already joining the MCU and, y’know, nobody fucking wanting a Spiderman Cinematic Universe.

Which brings us to the most recent case in point? The Mummy. Aka that one movie that dared to ask ‘Hey, what if we started off our universe with Iron Man 2, but somehow even worse?’

Yeah, this was not a good movie in the slightest. In fact it’s actively quite awful. It’s a patchwork of other popular blockbuster franchises, poorly blended together and disrupted by the sort of ham-fisted universe building that makes BvS’s Knightmare or Amazing Spiderman 2’s Sinister Six teasing anything look downright subtle. As a blockbuster it’s irritating, as a horror movie it’s laughable and as the foundation for an entire cinematic universe, it’s really not something that will get you anticipating what comes next.

Quite frankly, one of my biggest issues with this movie is that it really doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It starts off as a Transformers movie, with constant explosions and noise and screaming and army stereotypes yelling at each other. Then it makes an attempt at being a horror movie (key word being ‘attempt’) which begins with lazy jump scares and eventually morphs into full-on Army of Darkness level slapstick. (Point of order, if my reaction to your scary zombie horror scene is uproarious laughter, then you may have done something badly wrong.) After that it makes a hard turn into an Avengers movie, albeit an Avengers movie if you took out any of the charm, humour, charisma or competence and replaced it all with boring shared universe exposition. By the time it gets to the unintentionally rapey conclusion (at least I hope it was unintentional), you’ve pretty much lost any ability to care about these people.

Hell, even Tom Cruise was unbearable in this. His character was clearly supposed to be a Han Solo-esque roughish character, but he’s so poorly written that he either comes off as unbearably bland or just the worst fucking asshole. Sofia Boutella is trying as the titular Mummy but is hampered by the fact that the film clearly doesn’t really give a shit about her. Heck, they reveal almost everything about her character, including her backstory, motives and evil plot in a 5 minute prologue at the beginning. Which wasn’t even the first scene. As for the direction, it was like having keys jangled in your face 24/7. Nothing but constant, exhausting noise, be it explosions, military craft or just the constant background thrum of the score. It never takes a moment to just be quiet or give you a chance to breathe or slow down, as if the movie was frightened that we’d switch off if it wasn’t shrieking at us every moment of its run time.

And need I even talk about the cinematic universe building? It’s impossible to miss because the movie grounds to a dead halt when it turns up halfway through the movie. I’m serious, it kills the narrative momentum stone dead. The movie before that, while far from being even average, at least felt like it had some structure and story. But when Russell Crowe turns up as the head of Prodigem (aka SHIELD with the fingerprints filed off), it feels like a sharp turn into a completely different script and movie, filled with boring exposition and ham-handed ‘teases’ for a wider universe shoved straight into your face. It’s distracting, irritating and subtracts from the movie as a whole.

The fact is, I think studios misunderstand why audiences are interested in Cinematic Universes. It’s not about seeing a bunch of characters/world sharing the same screen space, it’s about seeing a bunch of characters/worlds we like sharing the same screen. We like to see Iron Man and Captain America and Thor share the screen because Marvel put effort into making certain we like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc. It’s all well and good to say that you have a Cinematic Universe, but it’s meaningless if there’s nothing in said universe worth watching. And there’s nothing in the Mummy that’s worth watching or that I want to see more of. Thus it fails.

 

84. Transformers: The Last (god, I hope) Knight

You know, I’m probably going to surprise everyone when I say this, but I actually rather liked Age of Extinction. No seriously, I did. I mean, sure, it was about seven hours too long, Marky Mark’s daughter and her boyfriend were both terrible characters, that Romeo and Juliet underage law thing was fucked up and I ended up getting a headache by the third act, but AoE did actually feel like Michael Bay was making an effort to try and improve. I mean, for one, you could actually tell the Transformers apart! And most of them actually had some kind of personality! Hell, Optimus even had an honest-to-goodness character arc! Plus the comic relief didn’t make me want to rip off my ears, which is always a plus. But, to get back on track, while I’m not going to call AoE a great movie by any means, it was enjoyable enough to make me vaguely interested in the next movie. Not enough to see it in theatres, mind, (I do have standards) but interested nonetheless in where the franchise went from here.

Turned out the answer was ‘straight back into the shithole’.

I mean, Jesus, this movie was bad. This movie was really bad. I once described AoE as two serviceable movies jammed together into one. This movie feels like about 5 different stories ripped apart and then halfhazedly patchworked together like some sort of Frankenstein’s Monster, except the left leg is several sizes smaller than the right leg, the right arm is missing and someone accidentally put the head on backwards. Seriously, how many goddamn plot threads are there in this movie? There’s the Cybertron terraforming plot, there’s Optimus turning evil (for like one scene), there’s the little kid living in the junkyard warzone place, there’s the King Arthur stuff, there’s Transformers living throughout history, there’s the Witwicky conspiracy, there’s the fallout of the previous movie, etc etc. Each and every one of those plots would probably be enough to support an entire movie, yet this films tries to run through all of them. When I heard that Paramount were apparently putting together a Transformers Cinematic Universe Writers Room, I was unaware they’d be attempting to fit every single idea into this one film.

And it’s ultimately I think this flaw that kills the movie. Almost none of those plot threads gets the time or development they need and ridiculously throw off the pacing at that. Seriously, it takes about half the movie just to reach the second act. You have Merlin giving a heartfelt important speech worthwhile of a movie’s climax five minutes into the movie and without enough time to get to really know this character or give this speech any weight. You have this little girl who has a decent amount of set-up in the first act and then just… hovers around because the movie doesn’t know what to do with her. And don’t even get me started on the climax. The climax was truly dreadful. Nothing but empty sound and fury and uninteresting CGI tearing up the landscape. I couldn’t even tell you if it was good CGI because it was soooo boring. No stakes, no interest, nothing but explosions and shouting and moments that I imagine are supposed to be triumphant, but end up signifying nothing. It’s geniunely one of the worst blockbuster climaxes I’ve seen in a long time.

So, in conclusion, I might as well say what other people have been parroting for years. This franchise needs either fresh blood or simply to die. Because this is honestly a new low for the thing. Maybe Bumblebee will change this, but, somehow, I doubt it.

Also Cogman was overrated. Don’t @ me.

 

83. Death Note

Okay, fair warning here, I’m not going to be objective in the slightest when I talk about this movie. Which, I know, is kind of a stupid thing to say in the middle of a subjective list where I subjectively rank my least/most favourite movies of the year subjectively. But I really needed to emphasize that the original Death Note series, both manga and anime, was a major influence on me growing up. Not only did it kick-start my own love for anime and manga, but it also introduced me to psychological thrillers in general and really expanded my horizons on how to create tension and conflict in a story without necessarily resorting to action. To this day, I can look at large swathes of my fiction writing and think ‘Yup. That was influenced by Death Note.’

So, needless to say, I really owe a lot to the series. And, as a result, it was kind of difficult for me to go into Netflix’s recent live-action adaptation (which I got to see in an actual cinema a day early, courtesy of London’s Frightfest) with a completely open mind. But I will say I did try to give it a chance. I was prepared for changes, I know the complexities of adapting such a work and I was perfectly willing to try and accept the movie as its own thing, regardless of the source material.

Unfortunately, by the end, I hated this movie. I hated it a lot. I haven’t seen an adaptation so badly miss the point of its source material since the 1999 The Haunting remake.

See, the thing that really made the original Death Note so entertaining was the rivalry between Light and L. The tense, psychological warfare that ensued as the two genius both attempted to out-think, out-wit and corner the other. Most of the best moments come when these two flex their mental wits against each other, to the point where they can make even a seemingly-friendly game of tennis seem like serious conflict of mind.

The Netflix movie, on the other hand, decided that nah, all that stuff didn’t really seem all that important. Obviously what people really wanted to see as the main focus of the story was a vapid teenage romance between an idiotic hormonal Light and his psycho girlfriend with power issues who you barely even need a minute to realise is going to end up eventually betraying him. Oh and lots and lots of gore and gruesome deaths. Sure, we can maybe keep L as a side focus, but let’s just toss all the stuff that made him such an awesome and interesting character and turn him into a gibbering idiot halfway through.

Now, I know I should probably not be comparing this film to the source material so much, but it’s so difficult because there’s so much this movie gets just plain wrong compared to said source material. I don’t mean changed, I mean wrong. Changes I could understand, because that is the nature of an adaptation, but this movie makes changes that not only don’t make sense but actively undermines the film. From minor stuff, like Light being pressured into his first kill (which severely affects the direction of his character) to wholesale scenes/moments that are clearly meant to be homages to similar scenes in the original but also clearly don’t work because they sucked out everything that made said scenes so great in the first place and thus they just come out as looking kinda dumb.

Honestly, that could be a good sum-up for the movie. Just kind of dumb. Almost every character or aspect in this film is fiercely stupid compared to their original counterparts. From Light, who decides to immediately to show his murderbook to a girl he barely knows in an attempt to get into her pants, to L who decides to directly confront Light at a café, not in an attempt to corner him (like in the original series) but for more or less no reason. And then breaks into Light’s house to try and browbeat him into confessing when his police chief dad is right there. And also decides to let his aide/parental figure walk around showing his real name and face while investigating the guy who only needs a name and face to kill you! And-

Ahem. Well, needless to say, L got really shafted in this adaptation.

To be fair, there are still a couple of good points to be found in this movie. The actors do a fairly solid job with the material given, the direction is decent and Willem Dafoe just plain blows it away as Ryuk, the sinister Death God who watches over the notebook. He’s easily the MVP of the movie and honestly one of the few things that feels like an actual improvement from the source material. But that doesn’t make up for the rest of the movie feeling like a slap in the face to fans of the original.

The fact of the matter is, as an adaptation, Netflix’s Death Note is garbage. And as its own thing, it’s still fairly bad. The characters are idiots, the plot twists are mostly predictable and it focuses on the stupidest aspects of its own story. Perhaps if you’ve never seen or read the original series, you might enjoy it some but considering how much the original series meant to me, I found this just insulting. It’s the equivalent of a MoS where, while I can’t objectively say it’s worse than the Mummy or Transformers 5 (or even some of the movies yet to come up), it still pisses me off much much more.

 

82. Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry

You know, normally I tend to refrain from including anime movies based on existing series in these lists, largely because it’s difficult to judge them on their own merits when they rely so heavily on you being aware of the ins and outs of the source material.

Also, they usually suck.

However, I decided to make an exception for this movie because I actually got the chance to see it in cinemas as part of a special screening. And I figured, hey, there are enough direct-to-video on my lists, I might as well include this for funsies.

That said, it still sucks.

For those unaware, Fairy Tail is a long-running fantasy shonen manga series that recently ended last year about a group of wizards in a magic guild. I’ve actually been following the manga for quite a long while now (more out of habit than anything, to be honest), so it’s something I’m relatively aware of. It’s also probably the shonen equivalent of the DCEU (minus WW) in that, in spite of good visuals, it’s really terrible on almost every single storytelling level and I don’t for the life of me understand why so many people like it so much.

I mean, I’ll give it credit that the series started off fine, but the average story arc in the manga usually consists of a handful of ‘quirky’ but ultimately really forgettable villains, the cast of side characters ramming their one-note running gags into the ground,  creepy fanservice, a bunch of fake-out deaths that no-one buys for a minute, one or two genuinely cool aspects that get painfully underutilised, more creepy fanservice, deus ex machinas up the wazoo, the token ‘badass’ female character doing something that’s supposed to be ‘badass’ but just ends up as ridiculous, the token non-badass female getting shat on (possibly literally (see ‘creepy fanservice’)), creepy fetish fanservice, a bunch of spiel about the power of friendship and the importance of the guild in spite of the fact that only 7-8 characters in said 30+ member guild even actually really do anything important and finally the main protagonist anti-climactically beating the main villain by punching him in the face with fire while ranting about friendship. And then more fanservice.

Like I said, it’s really not a good series. That said, all of that is also more or less what happens in this movie, so accurate representation, I guess? That said, the movie and the series still sucks. But fuck it, I enjoyed them more than the Netflix Death Note movie.

 

81. Alien Covenant

Fun fact: I actually kinda enjoyed Prometheus? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love it by any means and it has noticeable flaws up the wazoo, but I liked it for what it was and didn’t share the loathing hatred for it that everyone else seems to have. That said, I really don’t get what exactly made Ridley Scott look at Prometheus and the terrible reception to it and think ‘Hey, what if for the next one, I removed most of the actually interesting aspects of Prometheus and made the characters even stupider to compensate?!’ As it is, he ends up ignoring or misunderstand everything that made the original Alien so great to an almost frightening degree.

I mean, okay, for one, can we talk about how ferociously stupid the characters were? Like, this was something that got brought up a lot in Prometheus, but it is taken hella up to eleven here. That scene in the medical bay and everything that follows was more like a goddamn Looney Tunes cartoon than anything expected to be taken seriously in a horror movie. Or the guy who keeps wanting to land a spaceship in a storm despite almost everyone telling him that it will crash and everyone will die. I mean yeah, they’re not supposed to be scientists or anything, but these guys lack even the most basic common sense. Plus most of the characters were so disposable and bland that even though one of the main selling points was the whole ‘couples’ thing, I had no idea who was paired with who or why I should give a damn for most of the movie.

More or less the sole redeeming feature of the movie is Michael Fassbender as David/Walter and even that’s hampered by the movie firstly making it obvious that they’re going to do the switcheroo near the end and secondly deciding that he should be the one who created the Xenomorphs which, newsflash alert, nobody wanted to fucking know how the Xenomorphs were created. It was far more satisfying when they were an unknown threat/existence. An… ‘Alien’ if you will.

So yeah, this movie was unnecessary and just kinda awful. Even the final third’s poor attempts to mimic the original Alien film fell flat. There’s no sense of isolation, tension, creeping terror, just a hissing monster running around the ship. Pasting Xenomorphs everywhere does not fix the issues with your movie. And, as it is, I struggle to care about where this franchise goes next.

 

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