As always just before the Oscars get underway, it’s time to recognize those movies that usually don’t get such love but fundamentally serve the purpose of entertaining. The big spectacle, the joy of watching things blow up on screen, the action set pieces – all make up for a heady cocktail to justify paying the price of a ticket and hopefully the entertainment. With that in mind, if there was one word to really describe 2016 movies – the word would really have to be middling
Disappointing would be too strong a word but it’s something approaching that when one takes a look at the list. Movies content to coast by, resting on the success of their predecessors thinking that itself might bring the crowds in. Narrative coherence was the other aspect of it as well. So much so that by the end of the year if a filmmaker could weave 20 mins of a coherent story, the movie stood up pretty well. It was also a year where mommy issues dominated the 2 biggest releases of the year – be it “Martha” or “He killed my mother”. Studio interference ruled the biggest franchises leading to muddled visions on screen and more criminally, betraying customer trust as movies on screen completely were different from what was shown in the trailers – a trend likely to continue in 2017 as well.
Without much ado, (there really isn’t much anyways), the best of 2017
Captain America: Civil War – Or how even the best cowboys have mommy issues
Billed as Avengers 2.5, this was in more ways than one a defining movie for Marvel. Adapted in spirit (if nothing else) from the comic book event of the same name, Marvel had to break the bank in more ways than one to get this off ground, Robert Downey’s contract as well as the wrangling with Sony to get Spiderman in. A packed movie based on the fundamental question on who provides oversight to the superheroes, the movie spent probably even less time on it than the comics while continuing the Winter Soldier storyline, while introducing Black Panther and Spiderman to this world as well, while staying true to the vision that it was a Captain America movie and not Avengers. A fairly heavy plate that was balanced in the true Marvel style employing humor, sarcasm, witty one-liners and a terrific mid movie airport sequence that gets all players a moment to shine. Chris Evans truly does shine in the role while a moody RDJ plays a different role compared to his usual self. Chadwick Bosemen proves to be a phenomenal fit as the Black Panther, all quiet menace, barely concealed anger and immense gravitas while Tom Holland as Spidey is quite charming, gawky and a motor mouth. While the Marvel formula is often derided for being well formulaetic, it’s difficult to be that critical when things work as well as they do here. The House of Ideas keeps marching on
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them or hey, you know what America needs right now, a story on how illegal aliens cause a whole lot of trouble
Let’s get a few things out of the way first. I really haven’t liked any of the Harry Potter movies – found their representation of screen very bad. I also don’t like Eddie Redmayne – except for his unhinged, campy, whispery villainous turn in Jupiter Ascending. So FBAWTFT had a whole lot going against it and it still worked. Redmayne’s slightly absent-minded quirky role turned out to be really charming and the novelty of America as the setting worked completely for it even as the special effects on this were truly outstanding. The expansion of the story to cover the Dumbeldore- Grindelwald conflict definitely makes this intriguing as is Redmayne’s connection with the Lestranges.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or how hindsight is always 20/20
For a movie plagued by reshooting troubles, this shaped up really well. In a way, we know what the end point of this movie was going to be. But the very effort of ensuring that it led right up to the opening moments of A New Hope was truly among the goosebumpy moments of the year. It also answers the baffling question on how a truly complicated and deadly weapon like the Death Star would have such a stupid weakness. A diverse cast, impressive location jumping and a fabulous turn by Ben Mendelsohn makes this war movie an engaging one. The Disney strategy of having anthologies along with the Star War sequels was a risky one and Rogue One especially risky given the lack of star names (due apologies to Felicity Jones) but given how successful this turned out to be and with a movie on Han Solo the next one, the force is strongly with them
Other notable movies:
- Batman v Superman: My thoughts here. Also hampered by the theatrical release. The uncut almost 3 hr movie was way better
- Deadpool: Truly R rated and outstanding. Hampered by the fact that Indian censors lacked a sense of humor
- Doctor Strange: Iron Man Redux with magic and an American accent spouting Cumberbatch with the RDJ quirks, attitudes and facial hair
- Central Intelligence – Fascinating pair of Kevin Hart & Dwayne Johnson – so well done and playing off each other quite well
- Star Trek Beyond – A solid entry post the overhyped Wrath of Khan reboot. But whoever came up with the idea of hiding the menace of Idris Elba behind layers of makeup needs an entry pass to Arkham