This article is a continuation of the one begun a few days ago in which I talk about my favorite and least favorite movies of 2016 now that summer is over, and show some insight into my rating system as part of the discussion. The list is in order of release date, not best to worst nor vice versa.
Captain America: Civil War Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and Starring Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.
The 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the third Captain America movie, is their most ambitious, yet, with 12 superheroes, a villain, and plenty of side characters all crammed into one movie. But, because they have been so systematically building their universe bit by bit to this point, they not only manage to pull it off, they exceed what were already high expectations.
Acting 7 out of 10 Arguably the low point of the technical aspects of the film, the acting in Civil War is still very competent. For every mediocre performance, such as those by Elizabeth Olson and Don Cheadle, there are some truly fantastic ones. Robert Downey Jr and Paul Rudd are particularly charming, and Tom Holland absolutely nails Spiderman like no actor, even Tobey Maguire, has before.
Writing 8 out of 10 Writing about this many characters and making sense of the plot is achievement enough. But, every character is given their chance to shine, has real motivation to get involved in the action, develop as a character at least a little bit (and sometimes more than a little), and manage to promote themes that are rarely seen in more serious fare, let alone a comic book action flick, showing that comic book action flicks can be serious fare.
Directing 9 out of 10 As already mentioned, a lot had to be juggled in the making of this movie, and not only does it not seem cluttered, it’s easily understood and incredibly gripping from start to finish. On top of that, it has some of the most creative action scenes ever put to film. That airport battle will be a scene that goes down in history.
Visuals 7 out of 10 Most of the special effects are as fantastic as you’d expect, and the action scenes are for the most part incredibly well framed. But the visuals never go beyond very proficient into beautiful or creative range.
Purpose: 10 out of 10 Captain America: Civil War is perfectly paced, and thus remarkably gripping and entertaining, but it isn’t content to just stop there. It also gives us real complexity of character motivation and theme without ever losing focus on that entertainment which is what is most important.
Average those out, and we get an 8.2 out of 10 and arguably the best movie in the Marvel sage to date (though if you wanted to argue The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy, you’d be very much in your right to do so).
X-Men: Apocalypse Directed by Bryan Singer and Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbinder, and Jennifer Lawrence
2016 started out brilliantly. Never before had there been so many excellent films released in a year before the summer season had even begun. Sure there were a few hiccups (I’m looking at you Batman v Superman) but overall it was looking like this could be an epic year for Hollywood. Then X-Men: Apocalypse came along to lead us into what was to be a summer of one disappointment after another.
Acting 3 out of 10 While McAvoy and Fassbinder did their absolute best, the rest of the cast was either too green, and thus gave impassioned but hammy performances, or too bored, giving us dull, wooden portrayals. Jennifer Lawrence was particularly unhappy to be in the film, it seemed, and even the normally wonder Oscar Isaac just looked lost as the titular villain.
Writing 4 out of 10 Like Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse is an epic story line which includes dozens of characters. Unlike Civil War the characters are given next to no development, poorly understood motivations, and many are included just because and add nothing to the plot. That plot is also not the greatest with a villain whose motivations and actions make little sense, scenes that have nothing whatsoever to do with the plot or even subplots, and the best scene is a carbon copy of a scene from an earlier movie.
Directing 2 out of 10 Much of the movie could have been salvaged, and perhaps even been good, if the director had taken tighter reigns over his cast and crew. So many of the performances are either bored or confused that its obvious Singer didn’t pay much attention to his actors, there are scenes which don’t belong in the film, and things that seem like they’re missing, and few of the technical aspects are to the level they should be in a feature film.
Visuals 3 out of 10 The special effects and make up for the characters of Nightcrawler and Angel were quite well done, but aside from that nothing in this movie looks right. The camerawork is shoddy to the point where you sometimes wonder if its pointing in the wrong direction, the special effects aside from the ones mentioned above look like blobs from a psychedelic 70s flick, and the art direction is almost universally dull.
Purpose 2 out of 10 A superhero action flick has one job, and that’s to entertain us through adrenalin rush. When you have bored actors, camera work and editing so poor you can’t see the action most of the time, and the little action you can see doesn’t look like much more than people surrounded by blobs, and you have a movie that really has no purpose.
And, for those who weren’t doing the math as we go, that makes a total of 2.8 out of 10, also known as lousy.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Directed by Dave Green and Starring Megan Fox and Will Arnett
Being made for kids is not a good excuse for a movie to have sloppy writing, and I’m not altogether sure this movie was made for kids.
Acting 4 out of 10 Despite the fact that the four guys playing the turtles themselves had a blast playing their parts and passed that fun onto us, the rest of the cast just didn’t bring it to anywhere near the same level. Will Arnett was passable, as was Laura Linney, but none of the rest of this cast could give a decent performance if they were promised they didn’t have to do anymore of these films if they’d just act well in this one.
Writing 1 out of 10 This is writing at its worst, in a way even worse than schlock films like The Room or Plan Nine From Outer Space, because those are at least fun to laugh at. Here we are given a story that makes absolutely no sense, people do things just because it was written in the script, and not a single whit of though was put into why anyone does anything other than it might look cool.
Directing 3 out of 10 For all the pacing problems, acting problems, visual problems (getting there in a second) Green at least understands that a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is supposed to be fun. That’s about all he understood, though.
Visuals 3 out of 10 The special effects are commendable for the most part, and the turtles themselves are quite good, but the camera work is some of the worst I’ve ever seen in an action film. Once characters start doing something in the acrobatic or fighting vein you may as well close your eyes since you aren’t going to be able to follow a single thing that’s going on, anyway.
Purpose 4 out of 10 While the film did a decent job of capturing the fun of the cartoon, it still didn’t get who its audience is. If it was trying to bring in the original lovers of the Turtles from the 90s, it forgets that they are adults now and fun does not mean completely assinine and childish to them now. If it is intended to bring in a new child audience, then why does it have half naked Megan Fox, references from the original show, and writing too unsophisticated even for 7 year-olds.
A pathetic 3.0 out of 10 for the turtles. Sorry guys, you deserve better.
To be continued in part 3