It’s 2017, and you know what that means: It’s time to take a look at what the movie gods of 2016 left for me. For my master list this year, I combined Movies at the Theater and Movies on DVD/Streaming, since my 2015 theater count was so low. But then I actually went to the theater a lot in 2016, and those are the movies I want to talk about.
So, consider this post a roundup of the new movies I saw. Don’t worry, we’ll get nerdy with numbers and old movies next.
2016 Sure Was Super (at the movies, anyway)
I usually see about four movies at the theater each year, but the offerings this time around were so plentiful that I nearly doubled that number. Last year brought me superheroes, the supernatural, aliens and magic — and while I was harsher on some of them than others, there wasn’t a single movie that I disliked. Good job, 2016! You did one thing right!
1. Captain America: Civil War
Were you Team Cap or Team Iron Man? One of the things that I really liked about this movie was that it didn’t go out of its way to make either side was flat-out wrong. It’s Captain America’s movie — his name is in the title — but the idea of having some oversight and accountability for the Avengers when they leave a giant path of destruction on their way to doing good isn’t a bad one. And that it comes with the support of Tony Stark, the egocentric, self-proclaimed “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist,” shows a growth for that character that was fitting with the sea of Marvel movies to come before. But the Sokovia Accords were poorly conceived, and I don’t really think anybody can blame Cap for not wanting to round up powered people on a registry and dictate when, where and how they’re allowed to live their lives.
That so much of this movie existed in those shades of gray is one of the reasons I loved it. Not only is there the Accords-based divide between The Avengers, but there’s also everything with Bucky, Cap’s lifelong friend who was abducted, brainwashed and turned into a super assassin who killed Tony’s parents.There’s no easy answer when one man sees his parents’ murderer walking around like a ticking time bomb and the other man sees a friend who had no choice in the matter. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the movie’s purported villain Zemo, a man who is definitely doing bad things but is also blinded by grief over his family’s death during Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Of course, Civil War isn’t perfect. Let’s be honest, a lot of Zemo’s plan relied on convenience and happenstance, and with a cast so large, some characters felt like they got shortchanged. But, from a person admittedly unfamiliar with the comic, the story is good, the action is great and the late addition of Spider-Man, which I thought I was going to hate, was a breath of fresh air for a franchise approaching its second decade.
Follow the link for the full review, but I was pleased enough with this sequel. It stumbled a little trying to decide if it wanted to be a true continuation with new leading characters or a blatant rehash and cash grab with its old ones. The new cast felt tragically under developed and bland, which was odd as essentially two-thirds of the main new players were adult versions of their kid counterparts from the first movie. But Brent Spiner darn near stole the movie, and Jeff Goldblum was used just the right amount to feel like an Independence Day sequel without turning into The Jeff Goldblum Show. Bill Pullman’s former President Whitman went through a ridiculous transformation in the last third of the movie, and that was odd, but overall, ID4-2 was worth my money.
3. X-Men: Apocalypse
With three original movies, three “early” movies and soon to be three standalone Wolverine movies over the past 17 years (plus Deadpool, I guess. IDK, haven’t seen it), the X-Men franchise is getting a little long in the tooth, but it still knows how to please the faction of its crowd that isn’t terribly picky.
X-Men: Apocalypse trades mostly on the charisma of its stars, and that works in it’s favor. Unlike Independence Day: Resurgence, it strikes a nice balance between its students and its old guard of characters. Sometimes the plot and storytelling feel a little thin, but the people are generally likable enough that it’s easy to let that go. One of the more interesting things to me though has been watching James McAvoy march ever closer to Patrick Stewart’s version of Professor Xavier while Michael Fassbender gets farther from Ian McKellen’s Magneto and is far more interesting for it. Don’t get me wrong: I love Sir Ian’s Magneto, but the character only barely skates by being on- note. Fassbender has had more to play with and while it’s been good for him, it’s hard to see his Magneto growing into the other.
Sure, anyone can find something to complain about, whether it’s the continued teasing but lack of payoff to Jubilee, the over-exposure of Jennifer Lawrence, or some legitimate cheesy moments, I thought it was a nice way to wrap up the trilogy and say a goodbye to most of these characters before spinning into some of the other X-franchises after this year’s Wolverine swan song “Logan.”
Forget the haters; I liked it. It wasn’t the first movie, and that’s OK (and I wonder if 1984’s Ghostbusters would be so loved if it were made for the first time today). This Ghostbusters had to walk a fine line between nostalgia for its predecessor while still fitting the mold of a 21st-century summer popcorn movie, and it did so admirably. And that’s not even touching all the drama born from *gasp* female ghostbusters. Follow the above link for the full review, or this one to see why I changed my tune while waiting for this movie.
I was not super kind to this movie when I first saw it, and while I haven’t seen it since, I’m 99 percent sure my reaction was mostly due to the 3D. It just messed with me, and I think I’m done with it. Because otherwise I think this was probably a good movie. Sure, the villain felt a little underbaked, but I feel like that’s been a trend in movies lately. What really made Star Trek Beyond for me were the character moments between Spock and Bones, an expanded role for Scotty, newcomer Jaylah and that big ol’ identity crisis for Kirk, which could have used a little more work, but was still a nice nod to 2009’s Star Trek.
6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Thanks to some book-splitting, this was the ninth cinematic visit to JK Rowling’s wizarding world…and I found it a little underwhelming. Visually, it was stunning. I liked all the characters from Eddie Redmayne’s creature-wrangling ex-Hufflepuff Newt Scamander to the witchy sisters Tina and Queenie and the lovable muggle – ahem, no-maj – Jacob, and I felt like I really should have loved this look at the 1920s American wizarding world. But for all the magic this movie had, it just didn’t feel very magical. Honestly, I think it just got weighed down in everything it tried to do. I don’t regret seeing it; I’ll for sure see any sequels or spinoffs it produces, but I’m just not super excited about it.
7. Doctor Strange
Man, this was a trippy movie. And funnier than I expected! Granted, I knew next to nothing about the character going in, and I don’t know how he stands up next to his comic book counterpart, but I really enjoyed it. I was a little worried, because my perception was that Doctor Strange was a little farther back in the Marvel catalogue than the more mainstream X-Men/Avengers/Spider-Man characters, but this was a good origin story, and I never really felt out of the loop. And this really felt like a role that was as tailor-made for Benedict Cumberbatch as the scene-stealing cape he wore. My only complaint is that it’s unclear how long Strange spent studying magic and mysticism, and could easily fall into the trope of “white guy masters in weeks or months what all these nonwhite characters have spent years learning” trope. But, I mean, it IS unclear, so I’m perfectly willing to let that drama go, especially considering how clear Strange’s struggle was in the beginning. Surprisingly, this movie that I was mostly seeing out of a general feeling of obligation ended up being perhaps my favorite movie of the year.
But that might just be because I had to push Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to 2017.
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