In a year like no other, 2016 was home to an abundance of superhero and sci-fi films. In this mess of movies, there were strong standouts and disappointing duds, but hey, at least the studios are trying! No matter how these films turned out, especially when compared to one another, we were all fortunate enough to be able see our favorite heroes, from Captain America to Captain Kirk, appear on the silver screen. Before, we could only find them in the pages of comic books and on the smaller screens in our own homes, but now, they are all around us and significantly more prevalent in popular culture. For that, and for the opportunity to see them towering in theaters before us, we will always be thankful.
However, that will not stop us from ranking 2016’s superhero and sci-fi movies, from worst to first. In doing so, I do not intend to put down a film or its creators; I simply wish to create a dialogue, one that will hopefully improve superhero and sci-fi films for years to come. Additionally, this list is by no means scripture; everyone will have their own interpretations and opinions on each film.
So, from the worst to the best, here we go!
10. Suicide Squad
Look, I know I’m going to get a lot of hate for placing this film at the very bottom; however, I cannot, in good conscious, place it anywhere else, even before number 8 or 9.
In the interest of fairness, we can start with the good parts of this film — or the good part: Will Smith.
Despite the rushed, nonsensical plot — Cara Delevingne’s weird belly-dancing, the lack of Joker (which was probably a blessing considering what we did see), and the other barely developed characters — Will Smith’s Deadshot was the eagle-eyed knight in shining armor that almost saved this film. While Margot Robbie and Jai Courtney also gave strong performances, Will Smith blew them all away; he was completely engulfed in his character and truly appeared to be dedicated in every scene. So, if any DC or Warner Bros. executives were to read this, please give Will Smith a Deadshot film.
As for the downfalls, I’ve already listed a few, and I’m not sure I could list them all here.
However, there are two more that standout. First, there was no need to use the song “Spirit in the Sky,” especially since it was already featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix. Second, Katana randomly showing up and then randomly going to the bar with the Squad — ultimately but also temporarily betraying Rick Flag — just made no sense. Such an amazing character deserves an amazing introduction, not just an after-thought: “Oh yeah, guys, by the way, this is Katana. She is here to protect me and her sword traps the souls of her victims.”
All in all, the film was clearly rushed, chopped up, and sewn back together again with silly string. Perhaps with more time in the script writing phase, David Ayer, who I still believe to be a talented writer and director, could have given us a REAL, well-thought-out Suicide Squad film, instead of the hysterically tragic mess that cursed 2 hours and 5 minutes of my life.
9. TMNT 2: Out of the Shadows
While most found this film to be worse than Suicide Squad, I only slightly disagree for two major reasons: Michael Bay and the curse of the summer blockbuster.
Despite his name becoming a signifier for explosions and CGI, Michael Bay is a talented director. Bad Boys is still one of the best, most hilarious cop movies ever made, and his directorial style made it even better. Whether we want to admit it or not, Michael Bay seems to know exactly what he is doing with both the Transformers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
While we can hate on the odd, watered-down versions of the characters, the ridiculous plots, the overuse of CGI, and especially the symphony of explosions, these are all elements of a summer blockbuster film. We may not like it, but it’s what audiences expect in a summer blockbuster. So, naturally, it’s what Michael Bay delivers year after year after year.
Sadly, this blockbuster trap has fallen on the Ninja Turtles now, not just the Transformers.
After acknowledging this sad reality, we really cannot expect much from these films; all we can do is laugh at one or two jokes, hope the action sequences draw us in, and just be happy to see Bebop, Rocksteady, and Kraang (even though he wasn’t voiced by Fred Armisen, which would have been AMAZING) on the big screen and benefiting from a prodigious budget.
8. Warcraft: The Beginning
Despite the hype surrounding World of Warcraft, the filmmakers did not deliver.
While medieval fantasy films are typically slow, Warcraft was exceptionally sluggish.
I tried really, really hard to pay attention, which is never a great sign for a film. Sure, there are films that require a lot of attention to fully understand, but with this one, it was an entirely different story. The pacing was a beat-per-minute, and there wasn’t much to speed it up along the way. Even if one were to fall asleep, you wouldn’t miss anything too important.
However, there are some things to appreciate. In Warcraft‘s case, they beautifully captured several elements from the game and even improved on some. Most noticeably were the visuals; for the amount of CGI in this film, it was extremely well-done, probably the best use of CGI on this entire list. Yet, what any World of Warcraft player can appreciate is the attempt by the film to house multiple storylines much like the game. In the end, they simply crowded the film, but at least they tried to keep that vital idea intact.
7. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
If this was a list of the most controversial or most debated films of 2016, I’d probably put this one at the top However, this list is for the best comic book/sci-fi movies of 2016, and unfortunately, despite Zack Snyder’s courageous attempt, it’s number 7 here.
There was a lot to love in BvS, but there was also A LOT to dislike.
For example, Wonder Woman, the non-titular character, was nothing but amazing: she was strong, relentless, mysterious, and alluring. But on the other hand, there was the rest of the film.
A lot of people have tried to defend this movie because, admittedly, there are things worth defending, but at the end of day, the main problem was Snyder’s ambition. With a drive comparable to Lex Luthor’s ambition to rid the world of Superman, Snyder flew too close to the sun; he packed this movie so full of references, symbols, and ideas that it just became a mess. Plus, there is just no defending the fight-ending “Martha” name drop. It’s poor writing, not powerful symbolism.
While we can all admire what Zack Snyder wanted to do, which was to tell the most ambitious and complex superhero story ever filmed, he simply made a dimly-lit mess.
6. X-Men: Apocalypse
Despite the overwhelming success of Deadpool, Fox dropped the ball with this attempt to bring one of the X-Men’s greatest, most terrifying foes to the big-screen.
But it wasn’t all bad! In fact, the younger versions of Cyclops, Jean, and Nightcrawler were enjoyable and captured their characters well, arguably better than the original actors.
Don’t get me wrong; James Marsden, Famke Janssen, and Alan Cumming did well too, but the ability to see the beginnings of these characters, before their time as a team, was fun to watch and even allowed them to appear a little more heroic overall.
However, Apocalypse was not portrayed well.
Actor Oscar Issac did perfectly fine as the character, but with all that makeup and the tuning of his voice, you could hardly tell it was him. Despite this, the major problem with Apocalypse was not in his appearance, it was in turning him into a cliche. In the comics, Apocalypse is admittedly an odd but powerful character, but in the film, he just appeared to be any other overly powerful villain with a desire to cleanse the Earth: “Blah. Blah. Blah. You can’t stop me. Blah. Blah. Blah. I will destroy the world.”
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Disney made a wise investment in the Star Wars property. The films will almost always be moneymakers. However, it’s looking more and more like the only great Star Wars films will be those made decades ago.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was not terrible, but in this writer’s opinion, it was always doomed to disappoint, much like the prequel trilogy.
As a cultural theorist, Wolfgang Iser states in his work that it’s always better to imagine, to essentially fill in the blanks as a reader or viewer, than be told by the author how things occur. The imagination fills these voids by creating grand fantasies specific to every individual. Imagining, on your own terms, how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader is much better than watching Hayden Christensen hit on Natalie Portman and talk about why he hates sand. Similarly, there is more joy in imagining how the Death Star plans were stolen, or debating whether the Death Star was inherently flawed or not, than there is in being told how it all happened.
Despite this, Disney still gave us the Rogue One film, filling in more time before the original films. While fans can appreciate the effort and specifically appreciate the fantastic, diverse cast, the film still suffers from a relatively nonsensical plot filled with one-dimensional characters, forced cameos, cringe-worthy dialogue, and uncanny CGI characters.
4. Star Trek Beyond
Yes, I know you have already cursed my name for putting Star Trek above Star Wars, but hear me out.
While Star Trek Beyond had its own issues with plot, which was a bit messy, the heart of the Star Trek franchise was intact. Over the years, we have seen plenty of crews, full of wonderful characters, fly throughout the stars within the Star Trek universe. Although each crew and story was different, they always possessed the same heart within them, the same goal: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” In Star Trek Beyond, this heart is not only present but even leads the film and the characters. For that reason, I have to place Trek above Wars. Personally, Rogue One did not feel like a Star Wars film until halfway through, and even then, it still paled in comparison to Star Trek Beyond in grandeur and character.
3. Captain America: Civil War
I’m sure there is another list where this film is number one — probably most lists for the best superhero and sci-fi film of 2016 — but here, in this list, it’s not.
For all the spectacle and thought-provoking questions, this film was not as good as it could’ve been.
Yes, we all loved the airport battle, and we all felt the emotional dilemmas Cap faced; however, there were some glaring issues with this film. Despite Zemo’s cunning competence, his plan only worked because the movie required it to, which is fine for most viewers since movies are genuinely unrealistic, but still! The Russo Brothers dedicated a significant amount of time in the film to showcase this idea, but in the end, thanks to luck, it didn’t even matter.
More importantly though, while this film allowed us to see new sides to our favorite characters, it did not venture far enough into them and plume their inner depths. We only saw the surface of the complex emotions accompanying these ultimate betrayals and attempts for revenge.
What would have made this film truly great would have been a deeper dive into the problems of vigilantism, super-powered beings, and the crushing betrayals between close friends, instead of just the seemingly half-hearted reactions Civil War gave us.
2. Doctor Strange
Yes, I put both Marvel Cinematic Universe films in the top three. Call me biased if you want, but the MCU generally makes good movies.
Unlike the above films, Doctor Strange was mostly balanced in its exploration of largely unfamiliar territory.
This is the first MCU film to focus predominantly on magic. While Loki’s magic and trickery plagued the MCU for quite awhile, we have never seen magic on a scale such as this. More importantly, we have never seen visuals quite like this! Watching Doctor Strange feels like you have fallen into an IMAX presentation of Inception dialed up to eleven.
All in all, the performances by Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, and Chiwetel Ejiofor are compelling, the plot is mostly solid, and the formula is still working, for the most part. However, for future installments, it would be wise for Marvel to mix things up a bit. We can only watch an arrogant asshole transform into a lovable superhero so many times.
Also, please work on your villains, Marvel! I want to see some REAL evil in the MCU films, not just in your outstanding Netflix shows, which were clearly the real winners of 2016.
Is this an odd choice for the best comic book/sci-fi movie of the year? Absolutely.
Do I care? Absolutely not and neither does the Pool, which is what made this movie the best of the year!
Deadpool had it all: comedy, heart, interesting storytelling by mixing the present with flashbacks, and a serious lack of various storytelling conventions. Even through the romantic comedy parts, there was till that unorthodox twist. More importantly, Deadpool defied the typical superhero movie, and it defied it well.
Admittedly, this is still a silly movie to place at the top, but its where it deserves to be. Deadpool was the movie I quoted, the movie I talked to friends about, and the movie I re-watched most. For all the cheap humor, and even the lackluster villain, the film still made the most of its eccentric main character while simultaneously succeeding as a genuinely good, comedic movie.
Do you agree with this list, or have I lost my mind? Let us know in the comments below!