I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but 2016 was a veritable Hindenburg of a year. Film looks like it got off pretty easy compared with everything else that happened last year, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have some pretty bad stuff served up either. So let’s get this out of the way first so I can get to talking about all the good movies we had later.
Now something to keep in mind, like all lists, this is entirely subjective and I don’t want to ridicule anyone who does derive enjoyment from any of the movies on this list. These are just the movies that I personally thought were pretty bad.
Gods of Egypt
I didn’t feel it was morally right for me to actually put this on my Top 5, because I simply could not bring myself to actually sit through all Two hours and six minutes of cinematic disaster that was Gods of Egypt. So ineptly cobbled together and executed you’d swear this was some sort of collective fever dream we’re all having instead of an actual movie Summit Entertainment distributed into theaters, Gods of Egypt is alternately heartbreaking and wildly hilarious. This is the kind of bad you rarely see; a project clearly borne from extreme love and passion for an idea but completely fails to justify itself to actual human audiences who saw it. It’s absolutely hilarious to watch if you’re like me, but such an utter thudding failure on every level that I struggle to find a movie technically worse than this that came out this year. Gods of Egypt feels like an island of broken dreams, and it might have been better if it had been permanently shelved.
Well, I saw this just recently enough so that it sticks out in my mind, but I’m too lazy to actually devote enough thought for a full analysis of this, so lets give you the basics. I’ve played enough of the Assassins Creed video games to know at their best they’re pretty “Ehh.” Attempting to dip into the “lore” of the Assassins Creed universe to make a film was probably never going to be a good idea since even die-hard fans of this stuff could tell you the story is always the weakest aspect of any Assassins Creed games. What you get with Assassins Creed as a result is a self-serious, muddy mess of a movie. The best I can say is that the filmmakers clearly tried their best; (director Justin Kurzel made a pretty good-looking adaptation of Macbeth last year and honestly seems like he’s way too good for this material) it’s got some decent action scenes, pretty solid performances around the board, and even an okay score to go along with it. Sadly it all seems like wasted effort, since it feels like the film was written by androids with a threadbare understanding of genuine human emotion or how narrative works. The story is badly constructed and stretched, and the characters are so devoid of any recognizable or relatable motivations that it makes the movie even harder to take seriously. It’s also easily the worst looking film of the year; continually crowding everything in frame with fog and sticking strictly to a blue and tan color palate. The aesthetic works in short doses but not over a sustained movie and it all just looks ugly. So I guess as a representation of the games, it’s pretty decent, but I can’t see it convincing anyone to care about this series. Overall, pretty bad.
The Top Five Worst Movies of 2016
The Legend of Tarzan
Now for the actual “WTF?” disasterpiece I saw in theaters. The Legend of Tarzan is such an odd, odd duck. And it’s the kind of odd duck that could only exist in 2016. Only in today’s film industry could any studio (Hi Warner Brothers I’ll be talking a lot about you on this list) attempt such a poorly thought out gamble of a movie and be surprised it would fail. But it’s 2016, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is working and since the rest of the world seems to be hastily losing its grip, why the heck not. The Legend of Tarzan is bad. Not bad enough to stick around in your memory, but bad enough that it begins to resemble some kind of proverbial onion of bad ideas; with every layer getting worse. It feels like someone should have questioned at some point just who was thinking this would actually gather enough traction to launch a franchise, but I guess nobody cared, so why should I?
Honestly, Suicide Squad is the movie this year that hurts me the most. This movie probably should have been the easiest bet Warner Bros. has made so far with any of their DC Cinematic Universe movies, but apparently leaving well alone isn’t a phrase that resonates with the studio executives at Warner Bros. What probably would’ve ended up being a decent-but-forgettable edgelord-fest, and keep in mind I’m speaking as someone who put this as my most anticipated movie of 2016, turned into one of the most poorly crafted blockbusters in recent memory thanks to a post-production crapshoot that’ll probably be more memorable to history then this movie will ever be. I can see a lot of the more problematic elements working in a better package, but it all falls deafeningly flat thanks to the terrible editing. Suicide Squad’s disappointing for me on every level and I’m already just tired and depressed thinking about it. I hope Bright is somewhat better than this.
I know I already wasn’t big on the Bourne movies and the overinflated reputation they’ve gained since the 2000’s, but Jason Bourne is a failure far beyond the gripes I have with Supremacy and Ultimatum. I’m hard pressed to find a more generically boring and lazy action movie this year than Jason Bourne. Promising itself to be the big return fans always wanted, anything and everything new added to this installment feels like it came fresh off the assembly line of typical writing clichés of 2010’s. It’s almost like the franchise is trying to catch up on all the NEW generic and boring crap that’s popped up in its absence. And it’s probably not a good sign if all I can remember about the action scenes is that almost all of them were really kinda boring. I can only name one I really remember and enjoyed. Jason Bourne is the worst action movie I saw this year, and I think it’s time to bury this franchise for a few decades until the inevitable reboot.
Hey, speaking of franchises that peaked in the 2000’s and are rapidly losing their relevance! Apocalypse is bad for a lot of the same reasons Jason Bourne is, but intensely more infuriating. After spending a whole movie bending over backwards to reset the continuity to the point where the X-men movies could have finally come into their own and actually evolved, Apocalypse dramatically flings the doors open and falls on its face. Alternating between chasing the aesthetic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and giving lazy, hackneyed fan-service to anyone who will accept it, the most memorable thing about Apocalypse is how little it seems like anyone tried to make something good. The writing’s absolutely abysmal, none of the new actors look like they want to be here, the old actors look like they want to be here even less, and the special effects are absolutely horrendous. Apocalypse is the most cynical cash-grab out of the super-hero sub genre I’ve seen yet. None of what it tries to accomplish feels earned, non of it feels unique, and none of it was an enjoyable sit for me.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
You know, I’ve been seething internally about this movie for about nine months now and it’s still hard for me to completely vocalize my thoughts on why this movie offends me and so many others on a personal level. I really, really could have written an entire essay on the magnitude of the failures of this movie. And I hope someday I do. My original review didn’t even scratch the surface. Most of what I could say has already been said, and said much better then I ever could. But I still feel I have to go off on this movie a little more or I’m going to go insane. Dawn of Justice is a gross misunderstanding of what the characters of Batman, Superman, or literally any character in this movie originally was or represents to people; but even taken as a kind of artistic mistranslation, (sorry I refuse to use the word interpretation here,) it’s still fascinatingly awful. You can still have a completely different take on a character or characters and create a legitimate piece of art from it. That’s what Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is, and that comic got used as direct inspiration for this movie! But you have to actually make something of substance with it–something that’s actually saying something! And Dawn of Justice has absolutely nothing unique or of substance to say in the end. It’s a series of images and noise all wanting to mean something but end up meaning less because of it. And that’s without even acknowledging the movie’s atrocious attempts to shove the kind of world-building Marvel spent four years on into one movie.
I’m honestly struggling to find a conclusion to all this. Something to sum up all my feelings on this sickening, horrifying disaster released into the theaters under the guise of portraying two of America’s greatest pop-culture icons. But the more I think of it, the more I see it’s just a sign of the times. We’re in for a rough future, and it should have been obvious from the minute we saw a single frame of this movie. But there’s no use morning the past, and the only thing I can do is take the knowledge I’ve gained from this movie and learn.
Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a better year of film.