Superhero Movies 2016 – Worst to First

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Here’s a look at the superhero movies from 2016, ranked from worst to first:

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7. BATMAN V SUPERMAN:  DAWN OF JUSTICE – By far, the worst superhero movie of 2016. The script by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer doesn’t work. In spite of the fact that Batman and Superman do not trust or like each other, a big part of the plot revolves around Lex Luthor’s plans to pit them against each other.  Why?  They’re enemies already!  Also, the big moment where Batman and Superman change their tunes about each other is both unbelievable and anticlimactic.

Both Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman are fine, but the story they are in is not.  Also unimpressed with the action scenes by director Zach Snyder.  Best Part:  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Worst Part:  Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

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6. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN- Tecnically, not really a superhero movie, but growing up I always considered Tarzan a superhero of the jungle.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is a serious good-looking production by director David Yates that suffers from one fundamental problem:  it’s boring.

Alexander Skarsgard is terribly uncharismatic as Tarzan, Margot Robbie somehow doesn’t wow as Jane, and Christoph Waltz thinks he’s still playing Bond baddie Blofeld, hamming it up as villain Leon Rom.  The liveliest lines go to Samuel L. Jackson as Tarzan ally George Washington Williams.  The movie would have been better served had it given this oomph to Tarzan.

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5.SUICIDE SQUAD –  The DC superhero movies continue to struggle, but that being said, I liked SUICIDE SQUAD.  Somewhat.

Whereas she didn’t wow in THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, Margot Robbie more than makes up for it here as Harley Quinn.  Robbie’s electrifying, sexy performance as the bad-girl-turned-good-maybe easily steals this movie.  It’s easy to understand from Robbie’s performance how Quinn is the Joker’s girlfriend.

While I’m not a Will Smith fan, he’s really good here as Deadshot, and his and Robbie’s performances were the main reasons I enjoyed this movie.  The rest of the cast is simply average.  The plot less so.  The screenplay by director David Ayer has all this build up to this squad of misfits only to see them square off against one of their own, a supernatural witch, no less.  This one simply lacks vision.

Also, Jared Leto’s Joker is ultimately a disappointment, partly because of his performance, but mostly because the role is under written.

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4. DOCTOR STRANGE – The first of the superhero movies on this list that I consider excellent.  It’s no surprise that all four of the top superhero movies from 2016 come out of the Marvel Universe, the studio that continues to churn out one superhero hit after another.

Certainly the most imaginative superhero movie of the year.  Not only does it tell a captivating story, but it’s also a visual treat. Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent as Doctor Strange, the obnoxious neurosurgeon turned superhero after a devastating injury ruins his career and sends him in search of healing through the Far East mystic arts.  What he finds is new life as a superhero.

As usual with the Marvel movies, it struggles with its villain, as Mads Mikkelsen really doesn’t get to do a whole lot as bad guy Kaecilius.

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3. X-MEN:  APOCALYPSE –  My sleeper pick on the list.  Critically panned and not really loved by fans, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE nonetheless entertained me from start to finish.

The main reason I enjoyed this one?  The performances by James McAvoy as Professor Xavier, and Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Since taking over these roles when the series rebooted with X-MEN:  FIRST CLASS (2011), McAvoy and Fassbender have made them their own.  It’s difficult to dislike a movie when these two talented actors are helming it.

Of course, Jennifer Lawrence is here, too, as Raven/Mystique, but in all honesty I’ve enjoyed Lawrence in most of her other movies more than here in the X-MEN series.

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2. DEADPOOL (CKF) – For many, DEADPOOL was the best superhero movie of 2016.  For me, it was second best.  That being said, it was certainly the most unusual superhero movie of the year.

Foul-mouthed Deadpool— played by Ryan Reynolds in a role he was born to play— lets loose with an abundance of raunchy language not even George Carlin, Richard Pryor, or Eddie Murphy combined could match.  As such, this R rated superhero movie is not for everyone, but if you don’t mind raunchy language, you are in for quite a treat.

The liveliest superhero movie of the year, as well as the funniest.

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1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR – My pick for the best superhero movie of 2016 is easily Marvel’s CAPTAIN AMERICA:  CIVIL WAR.  This one plays more like THE AVENGERS 2.5. Its story about a rift between Captain America and Iron Man is much more believable and emotionally satisfying than the rift between Batman and Superman in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.

This one is so good, that even though it’s the third Captain America movie, it belongs in the conversation as one of the best superhero movies ever made.Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo direct this one with high energy and lots of style, and the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is a genuine crowd pleaser.

Also features a phenomenal cast which has no business being in a superhero movie. You’ve got Chris Evans as Captain America, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier.  And with all these folks doing their things and doing them well, the movie is almost stolen by young Tom Holland in his debut as Spider-Man.

An awesome movie.  Marvel has been churning out one quality superhero movie after another going back to IRON MAN (2008), and they show no signs of slowing down.  I’m looking forward to their upcoming releases in 2017, starting with LOGAN on March 3.

And there you have it, my list of the superhero movies from 2016.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.  Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

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THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) Is Laborious & Dull

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I love the old Tarzan movies.

They’ve been around since the silent era and grew to epic proportions in the 1930s with the films of Johnny Weissmuller.  I watched these, but I grew up watching the color Tarzan movies of the 1950s and 1960s on TV, films that featured the likes of Gordon Scott and Mike Henry as Tarzan.  These films were colorful and fun.

It’s been a long time since there’s been a decent Tarzan movie.  I went into THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) hoping it would be the movie to the end the Tarzan drought.  It’s not.

It certainly tries, and it does attempt to be a classy and elegant telling of a Tarzan tale.  The trouble is Tarzan and the rest of the movie are just so darned boring. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character just can’t seem to catch a break these days.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN opens with the nefarious Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) trudging through the Congo to make a deal with Chief Mbonga (DJimon Hounsou):  Rom is to deliver Tarzan to the chief, and in return the chief will give Rom unlimited access to the diamonds there.  What the chief doesn’t know is that Rom is really there to convert the natives into slaves. Which begs the question, if Rom intends to overthrow Chief Mbonga anyway, as is implied later in the movie, why waste half the film chasing down Tarzan?  Why not just conquer Mbonga in the first place?

We first meet Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) living the life of a noble gentleman in London as John Clayton with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie).  They have put their time in Africa behind them, which is why John refuses to return when Her Majesty’s government asks him to travel to Africa as a special envoy.  But he’s persuaded to go by an American, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) who tells John his fears that someone is turning the population of the Congo into slaves.  Jane returns as well against John’s wishes.  He fears for his wife’s safety, but she convinces him to change his mind, explaining that like him, her true home is also in Africa.

So, they return to the jungle, and as expected, Leon Rom is there waiting for them, but his men bungle their attempts to capture John and manage to nab Jane instead, which as you might expect, doesn’t make John very happy.  Not to be outdone by the main character in the film, Samuel L. Jackson’s George Washington Williams tells John he’s following him into the jungle, and the two men spend the rest of the movie chasing down Rom and his henchmen.

It’s not difficult to deduce which side will win.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN has a lot of problems, but its biggest problem is the way it goes about telling its story.  Director David Yates and screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer make some odd choices.  The film begins with the Leon Rom sequence, then jumps to London, and in a series of flashbacks recalls John Clayton’s origins in Africa, where his father is killed and he is “adopted” by gorillas.  These plot points are revealed in increments, as the film switches back and forth between these flashbacks and some pretty dull dialogue between John and Jane in London.  The result is a terribly slow and laborious first third of this movie.

Things do get better.  In fact, the movie builds to a rather satisfying ending, but it takes forever to get there.

Another problem is the casting.  I didn’t warm up to Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan at all.  I found him terribly stiff and boring.  He makes for a quiet and somber Tarzan and gives the hero little or no personality.  I expected more from Skarsgard, who’s the son of actor Stellan Skarsgard.

Nor did I enjoy Margot Robbie as Jane.  She’s gorgeous and beautiful, but there’s something very annoying about her personality.  She pretty much tells Rom that her husband is going to fix him good, and that’s about it for depth:  she knows what Tarzan is capable of, and she seems to have zero doubt that he will rescue her.  Not one time does she even appear the least bit scared that she might die.  Nope.  Tarzan will save the day.  And I’m beautiful to boot!

Christoph Waltz is fine as the villain, Leon Rom, although he doesn’t stray very far from his comfort zone.  He could have easily walked off the set of SPECTRE (2015) where he played Blofeld, change clothes, and become Leon Rom.  Truth be told, I thought he was better as Rom than he was as Blofeld.

Then there’s Samuel L. Jackson, who seems completely out of place here.  The film is a period piece, taking place in the 1890s, yet Jackson’s George Washington Williams speaks like a 21st century character.   I kept waiting for him to don an eyepatch and declare he was Nick Fury in disguise.  In fact, at times it seemed this movie wasn’t a Tarzan film at all, but Nick Fury vs. Blofeld.

As a result, Tarzan is overshadowed by Jackson and Waltz. Skarsgard lacks their charisma, and there also wasn’t enough Tarzan in this movie. The satisfying scenes towards the end, where Tarzan interacts with the animals of the jungle, should have come earlier and been more frequent.

Things just don’t mix together well in THE LEGEND OF TARZAN.  You have Waltz on one side doing his thing, and Jackson on the other doing his, and a bunch of less interesting stuff in the middle.

The other jungle movie released this year, THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) did a much better job telling its story.  And both films include a similar elephant scene, but the one in THE JUNGLE BOOK was more effective.

Even the animals here are rather dull.  While the apes look good, they don’t look as good as the apes in the recent PLANET OF THE APES reboots, nor do they possess the sharp personalities of the apes in those movies.

My favorite acting performance in the film belongs to DJimon Hounsou as Chief Mbonga, and it’s for one scene. When Mbonga laments that Tarzan killed his son, it’s the most powerful moment in the movie.  It’s such a strong sequence that I found myself wishing the film had been about Mbonga!

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is an oddly constructed tale that eventually gets better but is so long getting there it’s almost not worth it.

Tarzan is a really cool character. He deserves to be in a really cool movie.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is not it.

Before this movie, I was eagerly awaiting the next great Tarzan movie.

I’m still waiting.

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