Hey everyone! Ryan here, emerging from the Comic Corner to bring you 2016’s TOP 7 LEAST-WORST COMIC BOOK MOVIES.
To keep it from being any longer, I only included the live action theatrical releases, so no mention of Batman: The Killing Joke on this list. They were easy to rank at the top, but the rest were engaged in a nosedive race to the bottom.
I gave it my best shot anyway, enjoy!
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
‘Twas truly the year of the colon films, and this movie gave me pains in mine. After pretty poor reviews of Michael Bay’s first crack at ruining our childhood, they went full-on nostalgia mode and brought in everything we loved about the 80’s cartoon, including the “no fighting with sharp objects” rule. Why even have swords? Slicing pizza?
In fact, we didn’t see the Ninja Turtles fight much of anything in this movie, aside from themselves, cargo boxes, and water. Really? They’re turtles! Stephen Amell does most of the fighting in this film, as a happy-go-plucky version of Casey Jones. Jones usually plays the darker, more sarcastic counter to the childlike turtles, but here he was closer to Michelangelo than Raphael. I’ll take his Arrow persona any day.
Bebop and Rocksteady weren’t far off from the stereotypes we saw in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Another colon flick!). Shredder ended up stuffed in the refrigerator, and Krang was one of the few redeeming qualities of the entire movie.
0/10 stars, will not come back.
6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Coming in at slightly less worse than TMNT, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a hot mess of too many characters, too many plots, and too many Easter Eggs.
I had to see it again after having a DC fanatic explain them all to me, including the “Knightmare” scene showing Darkseid’s world, and why the Flash appeared to Bruce Wayne in a too-soon… dream? Vision? Inception? Whatever that was. The sound design was so bad I actually couldn’t understand him the first time through.
I think Russia may have hacked Jesse Eisenberg’s script and replaced “Lex Luthor” with The Joker or Riddler, and no one bothered to correct his course. Same with Bat-Murder Ben Affleck and Super-Snore Henry Cavill. Batman tries to kill everyone he meets and Superman walks face first into a trap? Who are these characters?!
Wonder Woman showed up to save the film and neither the heroes nor audience could figure out why she came, but her action scenes definitely stood out alongside the Batman warehouse combat scene as the movie’s high points. As for the low point, I think everyone has heard enough about Martha.
3/10 stars. No need to see this unless you’re a hardcore DC fan.
5. Suicide Squad
I can’t really tell you why I enjoyed this more than BvS, maybe just because there were 45 less minutes to endure? There were pretty well defined A, B, and C-plots, although we didn’t get to them until about 30 minutes into the movie, after introducing all the characters. Well, the ones that got story points anyway.
Some guy named Slipknot was tacked on as a red shirt, and Katana showed up to “get Rick Flag’s back” at some point, but clearly had no other character motivations or arc. Most characters were unmemorable (El Diablo) if not cringe-worthy (Killer Croc). If the exposition time doesn’t make it clear, the movie is about Deadshot and Harley Quinn.
I’m not usually the type of person to sing Will Smith’s praises, but maybe because he stands out like a dying flashlight in total darkness, he is the best part of the film. I think he actually has fun playing in these types of genre films with quippy lines, and it shows. However, for a character who reminds us every 10 minutes that he’s on a team of bad guys, he doesn’t actually do anything bad in the movie, aside from boxing a few guards for no apparent reason.
Margot Robbie does a decent job as Harley Quinn, except for her disappearing-reappearing accent. Seems to come and go along with any actual acting, and I have a strong feeling the infamous reshoots had a lot to do with that. I have nothing to say about Jered Leto as the Joker that hasn’t already been said. I’m sure we’ll see him in at least a couple more DC movies, and that’s fine but it’s not something I’m necessarily looking forward to, just like the rest of the DC movie slate.
4/10 stars. Good for fans of Will Smith.
4. X-Men: Apocalypse
I’ll admit it, I’m a Marvel fanboy. But not like this. It wasn’t necessarily bad or groan-worthy like the films above, but I give this one a resounding “meh.” I’m pretty well over Jennifer Lawrence as Blue Katniss, who wasn’t even blue most of the time. I get that she doesn’t want to solely exist in a body suit, so give her some clothes and face paint and call it a day. Do you want the built-in X-Men fans, or the built-in Hunger Games fans? I guess the answer is pretty clear.
Evan Peters returns as Quicksilver in another super fun scene, but at the end you end up scratching your head wondering if that’s how super-speed actually works. He doesn’t slow down time, he goes fast. I guess Bryan Singer was hoping we wouldn’t think twice about it. Hugh Jackman shows up as Wolverine, because of course he does. Oscar Isaac tries his damnedest as Apocalypse but still ends up being less scary than his character Nathan in Ex Machina.
The rest of the X-Men were relatively forgettable, for better or for worse. They do fine, but none of them really capture the feel of their comic book counterparts aside from the look of their powers. I won’t lie, seeing Cyclops’ eye lasers on screen again was really fun! I’ve really been missing the leader of the X-Men for the last 3 movies, which may be why I’m jaded by the franchise altogether at this point.
At the end, we get a glimpse of Jean Grey as The Phoenix, because of course we do. It got almost as many eye rolls as Suicide Squad, but there were less teen-boy eye-candy shots and racial stereotype characters. They missed the mark a bit with the characters, design, and plot, but at least they were on the board.
6/10 stars. See it if you enjoyed First Class or Days of Future Past.
3. Doctor Strange
Ahh, feels nice to be back in the camp of Marvel Studios. Like a soothing balm for my nerd rage. Doctor Strange was far from perfect, however, and far from the best Marvel Studios script. As usual, they absolutely killed it in casting the title character.
Following in the footsteps of Downey, Evans, Hemsworth, Pratt, and Rudd as their respective heroes, Benedict Cumberbatch brings us a great adaptation of Stephen Strange. He has the right amount of arrogance and levity, but also quirkiness and comedic timing. The jokes land well, but don’t quite live up to the high bar set by The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy.
The costume design and visual effects are the standouts here, I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the “mystic” side of the Marvel Universe. While we got a hint of it from Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange really brings home the hand waving and spellcasting sign language. What’s up with that? I’m never sure if Marvel characters are casting spells, shooting webs, or saying “I love you.” After seeing the first trailer, I was a bit skeptical about the Inception-style reality bending, but it worked well in context.
The movie isn’t without its flaws, however. It suffers from the big Marvel weak-link—the villain. We have Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius, who I had never heard of, playing a role usually filled by Baron Mordo in the comics. Mordo is often seen as a rival to the Ancient One, who is manipulated by Dormammu to do his bidding. This brought me back to seeing the Chitauri in The Avengers, because Marvel didn’t have the legal ability to call them Skrull. Doctor Strange throws me off a bit though, because they did have Mordo in the film, but as a fellow student of the Ancient One.
We get to see Dormammu on screen by the end of the film, it’s well executed, and the climax really ties it all together when Doctor Strange outwits him to save the universe. Sorry, spoilers! The hero wins in this one. And of course, the post-credits scenes are as formulaic as always. We see one scene tying the character into a different character’s movie, and then we get a hint at the sequel.
7/10 stars. Definitely watch it, but it’s OK if you wait for it on Netflix.
2. Captain America: Civil War
Aka Captain America 3 aka The Avengers 2.5. The long-awaited culmination of the Captain America trilogy, the Winter Solider story arc, the brewing storm between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, and the best-selling comic book crossover blockbuster summer event of all time! (Don’t quote me on that. Post-Fact!)
This movie has more super heroes in it than you can shake a metal arm at! If this was a trial run for the Russo brothers before they helm Infinity War, I have pretty high hopes for the next installment in The Avengers series. There was one thing they handled masterfully in this movie: the introduction of characters.
They start with Captain America’s New Avengers and a brilliantly choreographed fight sequence that ends in disaster, leading to the reintroduction of Tony Stark, and Thaddeus Ross back from The Incredible Hulk. One of the highlights of the film, Black Panther, isn’t introduced until 35 minutes in, exactly when he serves a purpose to the plot.
Hands down my favorite character in this film, and comic books in general, is Spider-Man. Tom Holland makes his debut as Peter Parker and absolutely nails everything I want in tone and look of the character. However, he doesn’t make an appearance until the hour mark, exactly when he needs to. They didn’t fall into the trap of introducing all the characters via title cards at the beginning, they show us their personality instead of telling us, and it works marvelously (Pun intended!)
Another thing the movie does right is action. The fight scenes are fun and fit with what I know about the characters from the comics. The airport scene is so well covered, I don’t need to mention it here but it’s my absolute favorite set piece among Marvel movies. The jokes land well but don’t overwhelm the serious tone. The Easter Eggs and visual nods to the comics are well-placed. However, and as usual, the misuse of the villain in this movie keeps it from the top of the list. If Marvel Studios can work to correct this overwhelming problem, I think they could easily top the charts year after year.
8/10 stars. See it for the action set pieces, stay for RDJ’s portrayal of Tony Stark’s instability.
The little engine that stole our hearts! Considered an indie movie compared to the rest of this list, they spent just 58 million dollars on Deadpool. However, it stands out like hand-crafted fine china rather than mass produced Ikea dishes.
This film perfectly balances everything I love about reading comic books—good action scenes, clever jokes, and a whole lot of heart. As much as I applaud Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, Ryan Reynolds really takes the cake for best portrayal of a fan-favorite superhero. The best part is, the studio recognized the missteps it made when they introduced him in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and gave him another shot. They even make quips about it in this movie!
The inclusion of some X-Men was appreciated but not overwhelming. We got the well-known Colossus, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who apparently was a joke thrown out in the writing room as the one character Fox didn’t want to save for X-Men centric movies. However, they changed quite a bit about the character and she served as the perfect counterpart to Colossus.
T.J. Miller and Morena Baccarin round out the cast, both serving the film really well. The script uses flashbacks to give us character development while effectively cutting costs by lowering the number of special effects shots.
I can’t sing this movie’s praises enough. I laughed, I cried, I walked out of the theater wholly satisfied. It should be included in film school curriculum as a shining example of how to pull off a smaller budget, since comic book and superhero movies are clearly here to stay.
10/10 stars! Watch it now!
Well, that wraps up my reviews of 2016’s Comic Book Movies! They weren’t all bad, and Deadpool was flat out fantastic, but I’m looking forward to much more in 2017, including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Ryan is a sound engineer in Los Angeles, focusing on Production Sound for Film and TV. He’s an avid video game player, comic book reader, and all-around collector of nerd culture.