Top Ten Worst Films of 2016
2016 has finally come to an end, and it is time to take a look at the year’s films. While there were more than a few great films released in the last twelve months, the year also had its share of disappointments and failures. There’s no shortage of films to select from, so without further ado, here are my picks for the top ten worst films of 2016.
- The Legend of Tarzan
The Legend of Tarzan is not as bad as one may expect, but it’s also not particularly good either, and that’s where the film suffers most. It’s a well-acted film and a thrilling adventure at times, but ultimately there’s something missing. However, the missing element is one of the film’s essential qualities, and that’s making the character of Tarzan interesting. The film certainly isn’t unwatchable, with several great action sequences and a surprising amount of racial sensitivity for such a major studio film. However, these elements don’t exactly do much when The Legend of Tarzan needs more Tarzan. It’s an admirable attempt, but for all its schlocky joys, it’s an empty film.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows doesn’t represent a failure conceptually, but a failure in potential. It’s unfortunate when a film gets this much right with its characters, presenting unique and interesting versions of its titular characters, but fails to grasp any logic for its story. While there are many good things in how the characters are handled, the story is all over the place, and the lack of development and ridiculous side characters make for a disappointing sequel. However, the film really fails with its story, as Krang’s plot for domination merely ties action scenes together and ultimately fails to make logical sense. There are fun moments for sure, but the overall weakness in characters that aren’t the turtles really lowers the film. The film isn’t uninspired, but it’s certainly underwhelming and a failure in living up to the characters’ legacy.
Incarnate is one of the most infuriating horror films in recent memory, not due to its poor quality, but its squandering of an admittedly intriguing concept. Not only is the film a nearly beat for beat rip off of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, borrowing nearly identical story elements, iconography, and moments, but it’s ultimately a clichéd approach to a tired genre. The film is relentlessly uninteresting, but it’s climactic moments are clearly imitating a better artist. The idea is interesting, and despite a few intriguing dream sequences, the majority of the film is tedious melodrama, ripping every cliché out of the book and not having the self-awareness to justify it. Aaron Eckhart, a brilliant actor, does his best and makes the most of the weak material, and seems to understand the tone of the film more than anyone else. It’s an utterly forgettable and thoroughly uninteresting venture, ranking amongst the biggest letdowns of 2016.
- Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
I was a big fan of the 2012 Jack Reacher film. In an era of monotonous action films, it felt like a breath of fresh air that delivered an intelligent, daring thriller. There’s a cruel irony in the fact that the film’s sequel is a generic, formulaic thriller that takes little chances and gets caught up in the same contrived plot that the first one avoided. While Tom Cruise is undeniably one of the best and most charismatic stars on the planet, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a huge disappointment. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a major let down, and despite a great turn from Cruise, the film’s familial subplots are tedious and its main storyline is exasperating. As a huge fan of Cruise, it’s disappointing to see one of the most fun actors on the planet burdened with such weak material. Perhaps there’s life yet in the franchise, but Never Go Back is certainly not the film to do so.
- Blair Witch
When the original The Blair Witch Project was released in 1999, it was revolutionary. No one had ever attempted the “found-footage” format before, and its success inspired countless imitators. But flashing forward to 2016, the genre has been an easy cash cow for greedy studios making a cheap, generic product. While the new Blair Witch is hardly as jaded or cynical as many modern horror films, it offers nothing new to the genre, taking no risks and improving nothing. It’s a bland film that ultimately amounts to nothing, which is unfortunate considering the potential to do something bold and exciting. In a year full of original and unique horror films like Lights Out and Green Room, Blair Witch sets the genre back, and reminds us why it’s often disregarded in the first place.
- Free State of Jones
Free State of Jones is a shockingly incompetent film, not due to any sort of technical incompetence, but due to the overall lack of a narrative line. The film simply meanders from point to point, inexplicably wandering through decades of history without giving any emotional weight to the story or characters. What’s disappointing is that there is good content here, and has the makings for a great miniseries or documentary, but completely fails as a three act film. The word “boring” may be a childish description of the film, but there’s simply too much content, and while much of it is good, it’s just jammed together, forming a loose collection of scenes that rarely relate. Matthew McConaughey delivers an excellent performance, and while the cast is uniformly excellent, the weird time gaps seems to impede character development. The film is a letdown, an unfortunate squandering of an inspiring true story.
When remaking a film, classic or otherwise, the filmmaker’s goals should be simple; outdo the original in several ways, or create enough variations in order to give the remake its own identity. While Ghostbusters will hardly fall within the ranks of the worst remakes of all time, the film falls so much on retread to be unique. On top of that, the humor for the film drops off in the second half, and the overall lack of character development disservices the film’s attempts to honor the original. Remakes are tricky in every sense of the word, and while Ghostbusters can be criticized for innumerable things, from the poor CGI to the awkward cameos, it’s cardinal sin is not being funny. For each good joke in the film, and there are many, there’s an awkward moment or failed punchline. Failing to live up to a classic original is understandable, but the inability to forge a new identity is where the film falls flat.
- American Pastoral
A film like American Pastoral is an actors’ piece, but like any performance piece its dependent upon the script. This is where the film falters; the dialogue is relentlessly unsubtle, placing the film’s themes directly within the script without any attempt to use visual imagery or ambiguity. Instead of taking advantage of the format of cinema, the film meanders from scene to scene with the drama feeling more and more melodramatic as the film goes on. The characters ultimately feel like tools used to spew the film’s repetitive rhetoric, and while the intention was to make the film tragic, it’s ultimately a bore. When asked to describe the film following my screening, the best I could provide was “if Ordinary People was directed by Tommy Wiseau”. I’m not sure exactly what wrong with the film, and while it’s not a cynical nightmare like Independence Day: Resurgence or the Transformers films, it’s one of the biggest disasters of the year, wasting great source material on a boring, infuriating melodrama. Few hold Ewan McGregor in such reverence as I do, but perhaps his career will and should peak with acting alone.
Morgan isn’t just one of the most inept and illogical movies of the year, but one of the most infuriatingly bland. The film deals with many familiar sci-fi concepts, from artificial intelligence to man acting as God, but not only does the film fail to provoke thoughtful discussion, but is unable to bring anything new to the table. While it’s hard to fault any of the performers, the characterization is unreasonably bland, and a disservice to the talented cast. The characters are so dull and lifeless here that even A-list talent like Paul Giamatti or Toby Jones can’t save the film, with dislodge lifted out of every generic horror film ever. It’s a thoroughly unpleasant experience, with a grin visual style and an utter lack of suspense or genuine terror. We certainly need an increased number of original sci-fi films, just as long as they’re nothing like Morgan.
- Independence Day: Resurgence
In a year full of cynical, unnecessary sequels and retreads, Independence Day: Resurgence stands above them all as the most unnecessary and lifeless. There are dozens upon dozens of logical questions begged by the film, but the most egregious remains: why should we care? While the original film possessed a gleeful innocence, the sequels starts with meandering melodrama between uninteresting new characters, and ends with a series of bland action sequences, which hold little emotional or dramatic weight. Independence Day: Resurgence is a letdown, but many of the film’s logical missteps or bland characters could’ve been forgiven if there seemed to be any sort of effort. There isn’t. The film just goes through the phases, and unfortunately can’t even make a big, bombastic summer movie fun in any way. It’s an obvious quality gap from the first film, and the worst film of the year.