2016 promised to be one of the biggest years for comic book movies with the release of the heavily and very well marketed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which from the strength of the trailers looked set to be the best and most iconic of comic book movies ever made but yet the movie failed to live up to its title; well half of its title at least, which is ultimately why the movie failed. A Batman v Superman movie should have been just that; comic books two most iconic characters clashing over each other's respective vigilante methods leading to an inevitable showdown between the two with each determined to invalidate the other. Unfortunately, the film's subtitle is the problem, as the movie tries harder to be a prequel to the forthcoming Justice League than it ever tries to be what it should be - Batman v Superman, no more and no less. And of important note; the "Martha" scene is one of the worst scripted scenes in cinematic history.
Warner Bros and DC's only other superhero helping was the supervillain version of the Expendables. Aptly named the Suicide Squad, the movie features an ensemble of DC's lesser known villains fighting against one of their own to save the world. Take that poor premise and Jared Leto's disappointing turn as the Joker and you have one of the messiest movies ever made. However, it has to be said that the movie is more entertaining than X-Men: Apocalypse. Technically the tenth X-Men movie since 2000 Apocalypse, much like Batman v Superman before it fails to live up to its title and never evokes the sense of world ending cataclysm the title promises. In all honesty, the movie is so low-key that there is no sense of threat or even entertainment, with the best scene being Evan Peters "bullet-time" scene to the soundtrack of Eurythmic's Sweet Dreams.
Thankfully the other X-Men movie of the year was a welcome surprise and quite frankly a much-needed breath of fresh air to the comic book movie genre. Star Ryan Reynolds performance as Deadpool and the on-screen chemistry with his co-stars brought to life one of comic books most enigmatic characters and proved that the genre didn't need to rely on heavily CGI doctored scenes and over-inflated production budgets. While Deadpool was a highly enjoyable if completely nonsensical movie it was the two offerings from Marvel Studios ever increasing and much coveted cinematic universe that proved to be the best comic book movies of 2016.
Doctor Strange, much like Guardians of the Galaxy before it, was a necessary risk for Marvel Studios. With the studio running out of chances to rely on premier titles such as Iron Man, Thor, and the Avengers it needs to introduce and then develop lesser known characters into the premier titles of the next few years. While Guardians of the Galaxy was successful in pulling this off, Ant-Man's recent underperformance must have weighed heavily on the future viability of the entire MCU. Thankfully such concerns have been swept away with British actor Benedict Cumberbatch turning out yet another magnificent performance as Doctor Strange. Those that enjoyed 2008's Iron Man introduction into the MCU will find similar enjoyment with Doctor Strange's initiation into a universe of full of superhumans, gods, aliens and talking trees.
However, the accolade of the best comic book movie of 2016 and possibly the best comic book movie ever made goes to Captain America: Civil War, the Russo Brothers second turn directing an MCU movie after the acclaimed Captain America: Winter Soldier. The pre-release marketing for Civil War was mostly underwhelming, especially alongside the almost flawless marketing campaign for Batman v Superman. While the trailer announcing Spider-Mans inclusion into the movie was extremely well received, Civil War's trailers, featurettes, and TV Spots lacked impact. Thankfully Civil War proved that no movie should be judged on the strength of its trailers, because although the final product does not benefit from the superficial use of landmark locations, it does rely on the strength of its characters. Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) may not be as enigmatic as Loki or as dynamic as Ultron, but his resolve and the culmination of his simple plan in the movie's climax shows that not every Marvel movie needs millions of dollars of pyrotechnics and CGI to succeed. The movies heartbreaking final showdown aside, another thing Civil War achieved was to generate the desire in audiences not only for the MCU iteration of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) but also served as a very fitting introduction to many for the Black Panther. In all honesty, before his solo movie was announced I knew little if anything about T'Challa, King of Wakanda. But after seeing Chadwick Boseman's ass-kicking performance in Civil War I am genuinely excited to see the Black Panther when it is released in theaters next February.
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