Diana Prince had several tasks to carry out: she had to get accustomed to the world outside her bubble of Themyscira, fulfill the mission of the Amazons, and most importantly, lay the foundation for female-led superhero films, or even films, in Hollywood. And while following in the footsteps of such flops as Catwoman and Elektra isn’t difficult, Patty Jenkins and her team more than had their hands full with the expectations going in. Wonder Woman faced the inevitable (and more than anything, petty) backlash from male audiences who cannot fathom female fans let alone a female superhero, and on top of that, it came within the DCEU, a franchise which has only received mixed opinions so far. Owing to all this, I walked into the film with uncertainty and fear, both of which were converted to hope for not just the future of the DCEU, but also of a Hollywood which can think beyond white males to helm their films.
It seems that the events of 2016 have birthed a new generation of cynics, and at the turn of the new year, all one can hear around are people crying over the horrible year that has passed. However, being one who prefers to count gifts over curses, I consider ourselves blessed to have received a stellar list of films, taking various different genres to stranger waters, and realizing the full potential of some others. Now while the movies that big franchises and studios have churned out were more in the form of financial investments than works of art, 2016 has witnessed masterpieces from global filmmakers and the independent categories. The following is the list of films that I think made the most of their run-time this year, and deserve to be seen by one and all. (This year, I’ve added suggestions of old movies similar in some way to each film on this list, so the doubtful ones can decide what to watch.)
At the time we meet them, the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are all connected by a thread of similarities: they are all battling their own inner demons, facing problems with their personal relationships, played by the best talent that Hollywood can muster and communicate solely through jokes and openers to exposition. After the premise, however, the filmmakers are allowed to experiment and be creative with their stories – as long as the essential ingredients of an infinity stone, references to other Marvel films, and villains exasperated enough with our reality to open portals for other worlds to take over, are not missed out in the process. Doctor Strange is the nth film in the franchise (Where n is twice the number of years since Iron Man came out. Well, almost.) for which an end looks nowhere near, which tells the story of a doctor who learns to forget everything he knows, as he embarks on a journey of endless metaphysical possibilities. Armed with an extremely intriguing premise, an exceptional cast and amazing visuals, this is a film that hits all the notes required of the franchise in its race to that last portal battle, while also trying some new things along the way.
Ever since the movie-going audience took to the internet, and especially since this year’s Deadpool, Hollywood has been paying more attention to the advertising campaigns of their films than the films themselves, in the ever-raging struggle for box office results. World-building is the game of today’s superhero film genre, and as we move forward, it seems that references and easter eggs have taken a higher pedestal than the story or characters themselves. And when your market is served by a duopoly of two comic book goliaths, it is only inevitable that they mimic each other in attempting to recreate the other’s success. David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is the third film in the DCEU and their answer to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, bringing together unfamiliar names and secondary villains in what was intended as a flashy thrill ride of twisted team spirit and no-stops action. Brimming with exposition and forced dialogue, strung together in a plot that lacks motivation, and succeeding one of the most commercial advertising campaigns in recent history, it proves to be the most disappointing film in recent times. Continue reading
The X Men have been through a lot over the past two decades, and I don’t mean just the missions the actual students at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters have been on. Following several missteps in the bloated The Last Stand and the universally panned Origins: Wolverine, Matthew Vaughn breathed fresh life into the mutant saga with First Class, and after Bryan Singer came back on board to wipe the slate clean with Days of Future Past, it seemed as though the directions available for the third film in the new series to take were boundless. Unfortunately, Singer’s Apocalypse is a cluttered superhero movie that tries to fit way too many plotlines into what could have been an interesting discussion on its opening lines – a mutant so overpowered that it thinks itself a god – making it feel rushed and thrown together despite its long runtime. The franchise that pretty much kicked off the current age of superhero films seems now to be choking on the clichés it helped make popular, making its audience feel the exhaustion of the genre, like no other film before it.
If you had told me five years ago, fresh off the release of The First Avenger, that the Captain America Trilogy would go on to rival Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy someday, perhaps the most generous reaction you could expect was laughter. Now it is 2016, where superhero films dominate almost every inch of entertainment accessible to man, and fresh out of Civil War, that statement carries an argument that packs its share of punches. The Russo brothers have shown, with The Winter Soldier, their ability to take an unshakeable love of comic-book mythology and pop culture, and arm it with a penchant for intelligent direction of political thrillers, an art they perfect in the latest film in the franchise. Civil War not only gives its audiences their money’s worth in a visual feast of action set-pieces and homage to the source material, but also gives them emotional satisfaction in the interactions and development of these characters that have been carefully built over the past films.
Ben Affleck is Batman, but the direction is bad, man.
What qualifies good entertainment? Is it the progressive explosion of gorgeous images and sounds that sows the seeds for future excitement, or is it a coherently crafted story that does not lose focus on its ideal? If the former were true, then Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would be the most entertaining movie of all time. But it isn’t: it’s why Interstellar wasn’t as good as it could have been, and why the pretty straight-forward Superman: the Movie still holds up today. However, when the film in question has superheroes running around in it; the truth lies somewhere in between: what hits the spot is a strong central story, elevated by the display of intriguing visuals and treats. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is as heavy as it sounds, with every beat a battle cry and almost every image paying homage to iconic panels from the comics. Despite the many cool implications and references that make the prospect of the DC Universe exciting, the sloppy direction is unable to contain all the storylines into a single cohesive piece. Continue reading
Satire is one of the hardest genres to pull off, but one of the best when it’s done right. Masters of the rib-tickling art in the past have shown us through films like Airplane! and Dr Strangelove that satire thrives when handled with utmost subtlety, resorting to as few crass jokes and pop culture references as is possible. Tim Miller’s – and really, Ryan Reynolds’ – Deadpool brashly subverts these rules and adopts only those jokes and gags that draw out the most amount of ‘WTF’s from the crowd, and in doing so, gives us one of the most faithful comic-book adaptations to date. Deliciously meta and embracing the irresponsible, wisecracking persona of its protagonist (as well as the actor who portrays him), Deadpool is the kind of superhero movie that you will never see under another banner. It was a unique creation when it came to Marvel Comics in 1991, and succeeds in gleefully shocking cinema audiences in 2016. Continue reading
We live in a wonderful time; a time when we can watch the superheroes we read about in comics and watched very rarely in movies, mostly animated, come to life and share time on the big screen in a huge cinematic event. Joss Whedon and the whole team at Marvel have been toiling away for the past few years to make the otherwise more obscure Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and Thor household names, and it has been three years since they united on screen for the first time ever. Now, after another round of solo movies – some surprisingly good (The Winter Soldier) and some surprisingly bad (Iron Man 3) – the Avengers are back in action to take down an enemy that they, at least their poster-kid, created. And while Age of Ultron maintains that undeniable popcorn-quality entertainment that the franchise is famous for, it does not live up to its predecessor and in fact falters on several counts that make it not the most satisfying of sequels. If Avengers was that delicious dish you watched being prepared and served hot, Age of Ultron is the same dish served the next day with a couple of new sides, but keeps you searching for more. One thing’s for sure: the best part of the film is Hawkeye. (To those jaws that have dropped, I will address this later on in this review.) Continue reading