Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange was the last of the six big comic book movies to be released in 2016. We had been looking to this year as the first great big one for comic book movies since so many from various studios were coming out. Each of the major players, Marvel Studios, DC Films and FOX all had two movies each this year, and with Doctor Strange well past $500 million worldwide, all six comic book movies this year have done well at the box office no matter what anyone says. Numbers don't lie, of course.
So now comes the fun part: figuring where each of this year's films rank from worst to best. There's a lot of lists going up on Twitter and social media and I want to offer mine here, having seen all six of this year's movies at the theater at advance showings and a few of them multiple times.
I'll start off by saying that even though I'm ranking these movies from worst to best, I think they are ALL good. I wasn't disappointed by a single one of this year's comic book movies, even among all the arguments and jawing being done on social media about the quality of certain movies. No, even though I felt some were better than others I still like them all and for this being the first year of having so many major comic book releases in the same season, I can't wait for how ridiculous 2017 is looking to be next year.
So here is my ranking of the comic book movies for the year 2016, starting right off the bat with the one that I liked the least:
6 - CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
That's right, the most successful, best reviewed and highly regarded comic book movie of the year is the one that I enjoyed the least of them all. In fact if it weren't for Black Panther it really wouldn't have been that great at all. To be fair, Marvel Studios has not made a bad Marvel Cinematic Universe movie yet in my opinion, but they are so stuck on their formula for these movies that they struggle to make anything as good as Captain America: The Winter Soldier was and with Civil War they just decided to make it the third Avengers movie, especially during the airport scene when they spend 20 minutes completely ignoring the villain of the movie and his nefarious plot, while they fight each other with fists, weapons and one-liners. I also still feel like Spider-Man's introduction was a little forced at best. It's a solid movie and certainly was a great way to kick off Phase 3 of the MCU, but it left a lot to be desired for me in the end.
5 - SUICIDE SQUAD
The reason I didn't like this movie more than I thought I would is because I wasn't expecting the structure to be the way it was. The first act of the movie is kind of slow going and takes awhile to get off the ground and then at about an hour in it starts to pick up the pace so that by the time we hit the third act, we are rolling and it's awesome. That's really my biggest issue with the movie at all. I don't mind Enchantress as a villain or El Diablo's final transformation, I don't have a problem with Jared Leto's Joker being in the movie for only around 15 minutes total because it's not his movie, and I don't think it's too dark at all. It's a solid world building movie that establishes more of how the DC Extended Universe works and puts everything including magic on the table now for future movies. Plus Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis and Leto were fantastic and Jai Courtenay's Captain Boomerang was almost worth the price of admission himself. Hi-larious.
4 - DEADPOOL
This movie solidified my faith that on some level FOX does know what they are doing with comic book movies. They haven't quite figured out Fantastic Four yet and they may never figure that one out, but they got "The Merc with the Mouth" just right. Deadpool is the perfect deconstructionist comic book movie for people who love to make fun of comic book movies and people who can laugh at how ridiculous comic book movies can be. This one is by far the most ridiculous and it knows it. Nothing is off limits, not even poking fun at FOX's constant continuity errors within its own X-Men franchise, or making fun of Ryan Reynolds' failed Green Lantern movie for DC. It's hilarious, horribly inappropriate, and was a breath of fresh air for the genre. It's only fourth on my list because of how much I thought of the next three movies.
3 - DOCTOR STRANGE
As much as Marvel has found its "assembly line" formula for the MCU, it doesn't mean that its movies aren't still entertaining or that they can't find a way to break their own rules once in a while. Such is the case with Doctor Strange, which is the most visually stunning Marvel movie to date with by far the best cinematography and visual effects in the MCU. It's not the strongest story and it still suffers from the "plot device villain" problem, and I'm not talking about Dormammu's appearance, I'm really talking about Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius, who merely moves the plot along without any true menace or imposing threat for the whole movie. Where Strange excels though is in the acting from Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor, the fact that it is different enough from the MCU standard fare but not so different that it felt out of place, and the vastly improved and impressive visual style of how the movie was shot and composited. It really blew me away and was a joy to watch in an IMAX theater. It's not one of Marvel's best movies, but it's one of the better ones and I actually do enjoy it more than Captain America: Civil War.
Now for the Top Two, which I saw multiple times at the theater:
2 - X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
I really don't get the nitpicky, whiny hatred for this movie at all. It's arguably the best X-Men movie for several reasons. Now maybe I feel that way because I'm not so heavily invested in X-Men comics and therefore didn't set myself up for a massive failure in terms of not getting exactly what I wanted in the movie, but that's a GOOD thing. Movies are not comic books, they are adaptations of such and just because they are not exactly like the comic book doesn't make them bad or "wrong." No, Apocalypse doesn't look the same. No, Mystique as far as I know was never the leader of the X-Men. No, not much attention was paid to Angel or Psylocke. None of that ruined the movie for me one bit. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were both phenomenal again, Evan Peters is still the best Quicksilver, they FINALLY got Storm right with Alexandra Shipp's performance, every mutant on the team got a great moment in the movie to shine and the Wolverine "Weapon X" cameo with Hugh Jackman was fantastic. Did I mention Sophie Turner's awesome job as Jean Grey? Or that the movie is an excellent end piece to the "First Class" trilogy? How about the chills I got with the last shot of the movie of the whole team in the Danger Room, dressed in outfits that pay respect to the 90's X-Men cartoon, preparing to do training battle against a Sentinel as the door closes on McAvoy's fully bald Professor X, watching over his team? That's just the tip of the iceberg of what I loved about this movie. Very underrated and more than worthy of the $543.9 million worldwide that it made at the box office, which is not even close to a flop.
1 - BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (ULTIMATE EDITION)
It is the most talked about comic book movie of the year and might be the most talked about movie of the year period. Beloved by many, reviled by others and the subject of multiple controversies involving Rotten Tomatoes, movie critics, bloggers and social media sites. To say that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of the most divisive movies ever made would be an understatement, but I will always remember what happened in my sold out IMAX theater at the first 6:15pm advance showing. The audience applauded and cheered twice: once for Wonder Woman's first fully costumed appearance and once for the movie itself. We left the theater wondering what the hell the critics that were already firebombing it were thinking about when they watched it. Little did any of us know the chaos and ridiculousness that would follow the rest of the year surrounding this movie would reach insane levels to the point that it is STILL being talked about at the end of the year by people who just can't let it go. There is so much to LOVE about this movie, from Larry Fong's brilliant cinematography, Ben Affleck's dynamite performance as the Dark Knight himself, the fantastic action sequences, Jesse Eisenberg's maniacally manic Lex Luthor, the hidden thematic messages, the easter eggs for loyal DC fans, to seeing The Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together on the big screen for the first time, and that's all just the tip of the iceberg for what this film brings to life. Of course, as much as I did enjoy the theatrical version, it's the Ultimate Edition that reigns supreme for so many important reasons. I still believe that had Warner Bros. released that version in theaters, they would have hit the lofty billion-dollar box office they were looking for, because what they would have lost in more showtimes they would have gained in stronger critical acclaim and repeat viewings. The 3-hour runtime scared them and it shouldn't have. The movie is a true EPIC and should be considered as such. It's hands down the best comic book movie I saw this year and one of the best ever made, in my opinion.
So there's my list, in order for 2016. I'm sure many agree with it just as much as those who think it is insane. The great thing about it is that next year in 2017, we'll get to do this all over again with Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League all being released.
Indeed, it is a great time to be a geek.