By Matt Fleming, Kyle G. King, and Jarrod Jones. While it would be very easy to simply crawl back into bed and call 2016 a bust, it’s customary that we pour a deep one and reflect on all the filmic horror we endured in the year that was. 2016 may now be our collective rearview, but the cinematic nightmares it wrought will linger (for the entire duration of this article, anyway).
So here they are. The worst 2016 had to offer, bitterly remembered by DoomRocket’s ANTI-MONITOR crew.
Gods of Egypt. Alex Proyas handled the backlash of his racially insensitive Gods of Egypt rather well. He issued a statement apologizing for not casting any Egyptian actors in his movie about Egyptians, then he made a movie so ridiculously absurd that people found plenty of other things to latch onto and complain about, completely forgetting his racial transgressions.
Though Proyas was able to assemble a cast of more than qualified non-Egyptian actors to play mythological Egyptians, as far as taking the material seriously? Every member of his cast appeared to operate on completely different wavelengths. While Gerard Butler repackaged his Leonidas character from 300 with an added tinge of malice, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau attempted to unburden himself of that Game of Thrones baggage and aimed for the back of the room. Brenton Thwaites spent half of movie running amok and the other half embroiled in romance. By the time classically trained theater actor Geoffrey Rush arrived, the tone of the movie and its characters finally achieved omega-level cockamamie.
Proyas failing to synchronize the ridiculousness of his Lisa Frank palette with his self-serious universe destined Gods of Egypt for failure before it ever set foot in theaters. This is Hollywood at its worst: Blindly swinging at anything remotely related to action or romance or (gods help us) Shakespeare, myth, or fairy tales, with next to zero thought or care given to making its material appealing or even digestible for its audience. Gods of Egypt was a powerhouse of a Hollywood failure, a 140 million dollar picture doomed to 3 dollar second-run houses. Put it in a tomb and bury it. — KGK
Suicide Squad. Here was a film that was test-marketed, re-edited, and fussed over to the point that when it finally lumbered into theaters in August, what was presented before us was a corpse, thoroughly picked clean, devoid of any vitality, brio, or daring. A sad marionette dangling from Warner Bros’ strings with a smiley-face painted haphazardly onto its skull. In course correcting the tone of its laughably self-serious DC Cinematic Universe, the studio responsible for Dawn of Justice veered wildly in the other direction, crashed into a ditch, insisted it hadn’t been drinking, and that no, it didn’t know where its clothes had gone off to.
Some most critics rightfully thrashed Suicide Squad upon its release, which meant that the less discerning subsect of the DC Comics faithful — the small crew of die-hards for whom director David Ayer said he really made Warners’ 175 million dollar gamble — kicked up enough dust that the overall shittiness of the resultant film got obscured in the argument between people who were just happy to see Harley Quinn in a movie and people who know when they’ve been fed a shit sandwich.
Studio interference would have been enough to explain the visually bipolar chaos on the screen, if we didn’t already know a few damning things about its production: Ayer had but six short weeks to hammer out a screenplay, Jared Leto was given a wide berth in developing his take on The Joker (to the film’s peril), and the company that spliced together the first, least-garish trailer gave us the final cut of Ayer’s film, to which Ayer, who obviously knows a good gig when he’s got it, said, “Fine, whatever you wanna do — just don’t fire me.” Seems the only way to appreciate Suicide Squad is to just nod politely and keep your big mouth shut. Well. Fuck. That. — JJ
London Has Fallen. Many of us can agree that 2016 has been disconcerting, to say the least. Tremors of that wariness exploded into theaters back in March with the unnecessary sequel London Has Fallen. Whereas Antoine Fuqua’s 2013 Olympus Has Fallen was an ugly yet entertaining romp through a fictional presidential kidnapping, Babak Najafi’s successor is full-on terror-sploitation at its worst. In today’s climate of disappearing airplanes and questionable international leadership, London Has Fallen is the exact opposite brand of entertainment theatergoers needed.
Amidst a flurry of CGI-fueled mayhem and carnage, a lily-white president and his hulking bodyguard fight a justifiably vengeful family of terrorists, reinforcing the global-political dirtiness that many people have been striving to clean up for the better part of twenty years. The Has Fallen series seems to deliberately take the stance that America is justified in its mad methods of keeping whatever safe, just so long as no more of our pretty landmarks get irreparably destroyed.
Unfortunately, the second entry in the seemingly-endless bromance between Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart managed to outgross the original by enough of a margin to ensure a third entry sooner than we’d all hope. Before we know it, these two are going to be remaking Air Force One, only with more useless violence and less competent actors. The world is scary enough right now without another reminder that it can still, somehow, get worse. — MF
Independence Day: Resurgence. With twenty years between the first Independence Day and ID4: Resurgence, Roland Emmerich — whether he realized it or not — had daftly wandered himself into a challenge: To make a sequel that appealed to two different generations with two widely different standards for sci-fi action movies. Regrettably, Emmerich’s own low standards for campy monster movies prevailed over all else; Resurgence was born from a mess of a script that offered zero percent of fun for its audience (or hell, even its cast).
Without the bravado of Will Smith to cut through Emmerich’s appetite for absurdity, Independence Day: Resurgence amounted to little more than a Hollywood smash-and-grab. What was considered to be the ultimate summer popcorn movie failed to spawn a sequel worthy of the popcorn served at its screenings. Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman came back to hide behind the younger, prettier (and more boring) faces that ate up precious screen time. Emmerich united two generations of moviegoers in the knowledge that the filmmaker never really got what made the original Independence Day so much fun. Welcome to Earth, Roland. — KGK
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Caught in the middle of the never-ending battle between art and commerce is the superhero movie, that omnipresent subgenre of the action/adventure film comprised of entities that share far too many similarities in their DNA to be considered anything other than products. Every once in a while there comes a movie like The Dark Knight or Spider-Man 2 to rattle the foundations of blockbuster filmmaking with their downright novel and fresh-eyed perspectives on the importance of myth in our humdrum postmodern lives, but too often come the shit examples of the superhero movie. And make no mistake, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is the epitome of shit.
It arrived early in 2016, perhaps as a dark harbinger of the horrific things to come. It revealed the ever-widening schism that lay between comic book fans and film aficionados, and the quickly dwindling distance between loving a fictional character and becoming a rhetoric-spewing advocate for it. It’s telling when the arguments over Zack Snyder’s latest cinematic atrocity time and again took a verbal detour towards the definitions of cynicism and objectivity just so everyone could find validation in their own opinions.
That’s what Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice did. It justified every self-satisfied sneer film snobs ever directed towards the superhero genre. It made shitty comic book fans insist that certain films just aren’t for everybody, ensuring that the roots of their “fuck the critics” sentiment would blossom by the time December’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story thundered into theaters. And it’s been an irrational slapdance of anti-intellectualism ever since. If you’re still, somehow, in the camp that Dawn of Justice is a “good”, “underrated”, or worse, “misunderstood” film, it’s high time you smartened up. — JJ
Batman: The Killing Joke. It’s not incomprehensible why the storytellers decided to take this route: including Barbara Gordon in the story (beyond animating the reprehensible things that happen to her, that is) demands that we have more of a backstory here. In a more carefully structured screenplay, Batman’s romantic interest with Batgirl might have been used to emotionally galvanize the Dark Knight to action against his foe later in the film. Instead, after Barbara and Batman have their rooftop tryst (which looks and sounds just as awkward as you’d imagine), we’re treated to a straight-faced, panel-to-frame adaptation of the original graphic novel that doesn’t leave much room for the filmmaker’s dubious narrative decisions to actually take root. Its famously ambiguous ending has no punch, the connective tissue between the new sequences and the original material aren’t there, and the fumbling attempts to give Barbara Gordon (the victim of the story) any agency at all is painful at best and egregiously fetishized at worst.
Liu puts together few artfully constructed shots here, but all of them are owed to the iconography of Brian Bolland, whose Joker is arguably the most recognizable version of the character ever committed to popular media: his lean, vicious, and indescribably mad Clown Prince is up there in the echelons of Jerry Robinson and Bruce Timm, but in The Killing Joke, Liu’s animation rarely stays on model (the amount of teeth in the killer clown’s mouth vary from shot to shot), with the noted exception of the light outlines that cup Batgirl’s breasts in a shade of blue, drawing the eyes right to her chest even when she’s cloaked in darkness.
If we were to hold The Killing Joke to the standards of similar shlocky fare — for the sake of argument, let’s say it shares the same shelf space as most of Joe Eszterhas’ nauseating oeuvre — Sam Liu’s animated film fails at what it set out to do, which is to create an R-rated superhero story imbued with psychosexual content. (That is why they made an R-rated Batman cartoon, yes?) It’s abhorrent slashfic with a multi-million dollar budget. It says nothing of value, it doesn’t do anything the graphic novel didn’t do already, and it’s another dreary example of Warner Bros Animation at its most uninspired. Put simply, it’s a film that never needed to be made. — JJ
Agree? Disagree? Which films did you genuinely despise in 2016? Sound off in the comments section below.