(WARNING: This post contains spoilers for many of the Marvel/DC/Fox superhero films of 2016. You've been warned)
With Christmas and the end of the year around the corner, it marks the end of superhero movies coming to theaters. 15 years ago we would barely receive one or maybe two new comic book adaptations in a whole year. In 2016? We were given six different movies from three different studios trying to corner the market.
Surprises happened, as the unexpected Deadpool splashed onto the screen to annihilate the box office while also being well received by critics. DC and Warner Bros.' outings Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad caused controversy, where diehard comic book fans actually petitioned to shut down Rotten Tomatoes for "hating DC" and "favoring Marvel."
Now that our final superhero movies Doctor Strange has been in theaters for a few weeks, can you rank your superhero films of 2016? Put on your capes and masks and let's dive in!
6. 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice'
Oh no, I'm a DC hater, look out! No, I'm not. My favorite film of ALL time is The Dark Knight, so my problem is not with DC. It's with Warner Bros. and the choices they are making by putting Zack Snyder in charge of introducing us to these new film versions of live action #Batman and #Superman. I can talk all day about the odd casting choices of Eisenberg and Gal Gadot, how the titular heroes only fought for about seven minutes, the awful third act Doomsday or the infamous "Martha" moment.
However, I'll simply say the reason this superhero film places last place on this list is because the entire two hours I watched it, I didn't have any fun watching it. No, it's not the lack of humor I usually see in #MCU movies; that certainly didn't help. I didn't enjoy it because the pacing, the effects, the story and everything just added up to a sloppy finished product. Superman and Batman are the two most iconic heroes of all time and seeing them handled like this felt as if Snyder had no care for the characters or making a quality film.
Highlights: The casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and I sincerely hope his solo Batman movie coming in a couple years will be great. Fingers crossed!
5. 'Suicide Squad'
OK, now this makes me look like a DC hater. Nope, just not a fan of badly put-together scripts. I'll be sure to mention problems with some Marvel scripts later on in the list. The idea of a #SuicideSquad movie had a lot of promise because it was going to include entirely new characters who hadn't been brought to the big screen yet. Margot Robbie's casting as #HarleyQuinn couldn't have been better. The issues were behind the scenes (again) as producers didn't allow David Ayer enough time to write the script (only about five weeks before production began) and wouldn't let him complete his vision for the film. Producers then gave the film to the company who edited the trailers that people praised.
By trying to combine Ayer's vision with the company who did the trailer, Suicide Squad became a mish-mash of tones. A sloppy third act and a generic CGI cloud-in-the-sky villain left it feeling like something we've seen 100 times before. They tried to gain intrigue with Jared Leto's interpretation of the Joker, but it simply fell flat and looked like he was trying WAY too hard to be crazy. He couldn't live up to the incredible portrayals by Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger before him.
Highlights: The film having some humor, as well as Margot Robbie playing Harley Quinn so spot on that she's looking to be getting her own spin-off film as the lead.
4. 'X-Men: Apocalypse'
Here we go, now getting into one of the two Fox-produced Marvel films. X-Men: Apocalypse was another victim of a rushed script and production. Only two years after X-Men: Days of Future Past, Fox and director Bryan Singer tried to put together a film that would be the third part of a trilogy, set up a new team of younger #XMen members for future films as well as bring to screen one of X-Men's and #Marvel's most iconic villains in comic history. By trying to make this film so epic, they actually made it feel average. Instead of juggling what felt like 20 characters, they should have focused on a select group of the team to really showcase.
Why is this film better than the DC outings? Well, there were parts I had fun and saw promise in future movies in the franchise. I'm hoping this will teach Fox that making quality story over spectacle is what made X-Men, X2, X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past successes at the box office and among critics. Singer didn't make an awful film, but he didn't make a good film either. At least he kept it a consistent tone.
Highlights: The fun #Quicksilver action piece, Fassbender's dramatic forest scene, James McAvoy giving it his all as the professor and the casting of the younger Cyclops, Storm, Jean and Nightcrawler were wonderful choices in my eyes.
3. 'Doctor Strange'
The magical superhero film starring Benedict Cumberbatch took over the box office for most of November. Although it wasn't Marvel Studios' best film of their two outings, it sure was entertaining. The biggest thing holding this back from being No. 1 or No. 2 was how it felt like a rehash of an origins story we've seen dozens of times before. In fact, in an article last month, I asked if superhero origins movies should stop. Obviously, I don't expect them to stop entirely, but they should still strive to be more original (such as one film on this list we'll get into later).
Why is #DoctorStrange better than the rest before it? Simply because Scott Derrickson was able to take what was considered a C-List character and bring to life with mind-bending special effects and an all-star cast. Non comic book fans hadn't heard of this hero before, but now he's likely on his way to being one of the most popular characters in the MCU. Most of the complaints for the film were nit-picky problems where as the previous superhero outings on the list had genuine flaws that distracted from the overall product.
Highlights: The special effects, the first MCU score to REALLY be memorable, the cast and the ability to flip the script on the standard third act, CGI final battle.
2. 'Captain America: Civil War'
Wait what? This isn't No. 1? That's right, an MCU film was not the No. 1 superhero movie of the year in my eyes. Sure, the airport battle between the two was entertaining. The introductions of a new Spider-Man and Black Panther excited us for future films, and when Cap battled #IronMan at the end it was brutal. I'm not saying Captain America: Civil War is a bad picture, but what faulted it for me was the lack of stakes.
Many comic book fans thought they would conclude the film with a major death. However, the adaptation did not pull the trigger, as no one was really hurt on either side of the opposing Avengers. Yes, Rhodes was hurt, but by the end he seemed to be healing, which left all of them fine. Main heroes and characters need to start dying in the MCU to prevent them from becoming completely predictable.
Why does this one rank above the others? Well, the Russos did the seemingly impossible by telling a story about a large cast of characters while introducing new ones and trying their best to bring the heart of the infamous Civil War comic book event to life. Most of all, this film was simply a fun time in the theater. There's a reason why it was No. 2 at the box office for the summer: There was a fair amount to admire. Is it perfect? Not quite, but it certainly delivered what many people consider one of the greatest superhero action sequences of all time at the airport. Surprisingly, this wasn't the climactic battle scene, as we had plenty more action to go. In another article earlier this year, I examine third act final battles if you'd like to read that here.
Highlights: Tom Holland's new Spider-Man and introducing Black Panther. The airport battle scene and having it not be the third act finale. Giving RDJ some dramatic material to work with against Christ Evans.
That's right, there was only one superhero left, and that's this guy! Deadpool was one of the biggest shocks of the year, as Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller gave the comic book diehards the film we've been waiting for. It is packed with jokes, action and is just plain fun. I had a feeling this would be good once the trailers debuted, but had no idea how it would leave me so entertained. I had to pay to see it again in theaters, something I've only done for a select few movies.
The best part about this was how Tim Miller was able to use a tiny budget (for a superhero movie) of only about $58 million, whereas Batman V. Superman used a production budget off $250 million. That doesn't even include the other $100 million or more they spent on advertising. #Deadpool chose quality over quantity. More money doesn't always mean better product. Deadpool proves that audiences will flock to the screen when they hear good things and are given fresh takes. Fox, please pay attention to that. By allowing your director to actually FINISH his vision and not have studio intervention, he gave us something truly solid.
Why is it better than the others? Isn't it hypocritical this was given No. 1 for an origins story while Doctor Strange was given No. 3? No, because Deadpool didn't follow the tired formula of an egotistical rich man falling into tragedy and having to learn from his mistakes. Wade Wilson is an a**hole from beginning to end. When the movie kicks off, he's already wearing that lovely red mask as we dive into flashbacks. Not to mention the rated-R violence and profanity gave audiences the feeling that they were seeing something they haven't really seen before. It has flaws like every other movie on our list, but in my eyes Deadpool not only had the fewest, it was the most fun to watch.
Highlights: Ryan Reynolds's PERFECT casting, the hilarious script, changing the origins formula, the opening credits, fourth-wall breaking and the highway action sequences.
What's your 2016 superhero movie ranking? Comment below and let's discuss!
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