With 2016 bringing us a slew of comic-book films, 6 to be exact and them all receiving very different receptions now would seem like a suitable time to rank them. Although comic-book films are prevalent every year at the moment, 2016 has allowed them to branch out with DC ramping up their cinematic universe with the releases of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ so we now officially have the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe which will continue to battle each other throughout the next few years. DC have had a particularly hard time this year with both of their films receiving negative reviews and drawing lots of controversy. I love controversy as I have had different reactions to both films but I can understand why they have drawn up so much debate. ‘Suicide Squad’ is also the first comic-book film to be from the perspective of the villains and ‘Deadpool’, a comic-book adaptation that is 15 / R-rated and it really earns this rating. I wrote a post earlier on this year but I do think this will be interesting for the future as we will hopefully get some adult-orientated comic-book films.
So this hasn’t just been a typical year in this genre hence why I have felt the need to rank them. Let’s get started!
6) X-Men: Apocalypse
‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ severely drops the ball big time – it is far and away the worst entry in the entire franchise and apart from a promising first 45 minutes or so, is an overlong CGI bore. The story is incoherent and sloppy and particularly towards the film’s climax, the film is unwatchable. Even the acting which is normally stellar is very underwhelming and there are many examples of both old and new characters phoning it in. Oscar Isaac is an especially awful villain and it’s such a shame to see such a talented actor reduced to a throw-away role like this. There is some stuff to like here – there are a couple of good sequences peppered throughout the first two thirds of the film and particularly the film’s opening is rather promising but other than this, it is with heavy heart that this film is an outright disaster. (Review here)
And now for the good one’s…
‘Deadpool’ is unfortunately a bit of a disappointment given the hype it has recieved but individual set pieces and sequences are absolutely fantastic. Director Tim Miller really knows how to direct action and the opening action sequence is perhaps the most exciting action sequence in a comic-book film this year. Ryan Reynolds is also perfect in the titular role but the rest of the cast aren’t particularly great. It does suffer from a low budget and tonally, it can be quite obnoxious in parts. The humour is also quite primitive given the directions that they could have gone in although I do admit that I did chuckle a few times. Fox also heavy-handedly promote their X-Men universe to the point where it feels that is being rammed down the audience’s throat which is a shame. It would be great to see Deadpool team up with his X-Men counterparts but a constant reminder that this is happening shouldn’t occur. The film is also so focussed with lambasting every other comic book film that exists that it falls into conventionality, particularly the third act. Now all this would seem negative – there is a lot to like in this film but it is also deeply flawed. Sadly, Tim Miller won’t be returning to direct the sequel. (Review here)
4) Suicide Squad
‘Suicide Squad’ is unfortunately a disappointment compared to the promise of the trailers that have preceded the film for the past year and half. It is quite noticeable that this film has been tampered with by the studio – the film often feels like a music video in its editing and the whole film feels incredibly disjointed and its humour feels very forced at times. The story is virtually non-existent – it is paper thin and the characters are solely put first. Now that all said, there are large portions of the film that David Ayer seems to have made that are left in the film and there are some outstanding sequences buried in this middling adaptation. Ayer also does a very good job in developing the characters enough for audiences to care about them and warrant a sequel even if the film that they are in here isn’t the best. The cast assembled here have clearly put in a lot of effort into their roles and the performances clearly pay off with Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Viola Davis being the standouts. There is one exception which is Cara Delevingne who is absolutely god-awful in this. Although very promising in places, ‘Suicide Squad’ is ultimately nowhere near good enough as it should have been and is further evidence of a director’s vision being compromised by the studio. But I would definitely be up for a sequel with the hope of an improved narrative and less studio interference. (Review here)
There is a big step-up in quality from here…
3) Captain America: Civil War
‘Captain America: Civil War’ is a very solid effort from the Russo brothers and is an improvement over ‘The Winter Soldier’. It has a great cast and is one of the rare ensemble comic book films of recent times to not feel overstuffed. The film is however overlong – it takes a long while to get going and there is a lot of excess baggage that could have been trimmed but when the film does get going after 45 minutes or so, it’s surprisingly coherent for a film that has a lot of characters to juggle and is well-paced. Surprisingly, the film also features one of the best villains in the franchise, an aspect that Marvel are not good at and consistently fail at even in their best films, but Daniel Bruhl makes for a menacing and calculative three-dimensional villain and is the best comic-book villain of the year out of all these films. This is a strong comic-book film that develops the MCU but the reason why it’s at 3rd is because it doesn’t do particularly much in the way of risks. (Review here)
2) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
It was a tough choice where to rank this film – in many ways, this could have been my favourite or it could have been behind ‘Captain America: Civil War’. Although ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is wildly uneven and its overstuffed story is very incoherent at times, there are aspects of this film that are absolutely stunning. Director Zack Snyder took a lot of risks here and although this film has received a whole host of different responses, this is by no means a safe comic-book film and is more of an experiment. Snyder’s treatment of these superheroes is very controversial at times (here Batman kills people unlike in the comics for example) and there are some gaping plot holes and some questionable decisions in the plot. Larry Fong’s cinematography is jaw-droppingly good and there are some outstanding camera shot that are a pure spectacle to behold. A lot of the cast here are great – Ben Affleck’s performance is a brilliant rendition of the Caped Crusader and Gal Gadot and Jeremy Irons are also welcome additions. Unfortunately Henry Cavill’s Superman is sidelined but is more fleshed out in the superior Ultimate Cut. The film does suffer in its final act which is an action sequence too long and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a misfire. This film is a marked improvement over its predecessor, ‘Man of Steel’ and the film is very entertaining and features some outstanding sequences and some interesting ideas. ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is not your conventional comic-book film and is all the better for it. Sadly I don’t think Zack Snyder will be given quite as much creative freedom for ‘Justice League’. (Review here)
1) Doctor Strange
‘Doctor Strange’ is a delight from start to finish – it is thoroughly entertaining, extremely well-paced and has perhaps the best visual effects that I have seen in a film for a while. The film is bolstered by its excellent cast who are all wonderful and Scott Derrickson is a clear fit for the material – you can really tell the passion that has gone into this film behind the camera. It’s a lot more stripped down than a lot of the other comic-book films this year which means the film can get a chance to breathe and develop these characters. Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular character is wonderful as is the rest of the cast which was a given from day one – when you have a cast comprising of Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton, you know you are in for a treat. Although the film takes less risks than ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, it is more coherent and has a lot of heart to it which gives this film the edge. A really impressive film and hopefully we’ll have plenty more to see from these characters as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand. (Review here)
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister