It’s the most wonderful time of year: it’s time for the Bitch Awards. For the first time ever, I’ll be covering more than Best & Worst Films and TV. This year coverage will also expand to include Best Episodes and Best Scenes, so stay tuned throughout December.
Let’s bitch it out…
We begin our coverage with the bad movies of 2016. It’s not hyperbole to say there were a lot this year (summer 2016 in particular was a dicey time). Although the box office will likely creep across the line into the black, that’s primarily due to a few shining stars and a couple of late season blockbusters (hey Rogue One, you’re looking good). But if you were a film with a #2 in your title, gosh was 2016 ever a rough ride for you.
With that in mind, let’s kick off the six annual Bitch Awards with a tip our hats to the cream of the crap by calling out the worst films of the year:
#5: American Pastoral (McGregor, 2016)
American Pastoral is the prestige picture that gets everything wrong. On paper the pedigree of both the cast and the source material looks like a slam dunk, but it only takes a few minutes to see that something has gone wrong in director/star Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut. Chief among them is McGregor’s decision to act in the film: as the obsessive father who refuses to let go of his increasingly radical daughter in 1960s middle America, McGregor is a bad fit from the get go. Similarly miscast is wife Jennifer Connelly, who is given nothing to do and still can’t nail down her bitter, sullen character. Dakota Fanning tries her best with the material, but Merry is by definition an obscure, flitting character – she’s never really real and as a result Fanning has little to flesh out. The rah-rah Americana of the film’s premise feels stagey and fabricated; the critique that’s an essential part of Philip Roth’s novel feels like artificially contrived, even accidental, in the film.
American Pastoral therefore comes off as an hodge-podge of “serious” drama scenes, performed by miscast actors who are uncomfortable in their roles. Then the film overstays its welcome with a 2+ hour runtime. American Pastoral may have begun with the best of intentions, but the result is a disappointing mess.
#4: Warcraft (Jones, 2016)
It should be noted that a movie can be enjoyable while also being absolute dreck. That’s more or less the case with Warcraft, the long in-development feature adaptation of the ultra-successful video game franchise that Legendary clearly hoped would yield them a Lord of The Rings-style franchise.
Alas the writing was on the wall from the very first leaked images: the prolific CGI used to transform actors into orcs is cartoony and unconvincing, and the film never truly recovered from bad first impressions. It doesn’t help that the script, by talented director Duncan Jones (Moon) and Charles Leavitt, assumes that audiences are aware of the world via the game (nope!), yet also manages to tell the most mundane, obvious tale imaginable (you can predict the outcome for nearly every character within 5 minutes).
The sprawling, international cast has talent, but the best actors are the ones obscured by the mo-cap while the humans, especially Travis “what accent is he doing?” Fimmel, are wooden and bland. It’s a big dumb orgy of sound and CGI violence that never remotely connects emotionally, but is occasionally entertaining in a “why did they spend $160 million on this?” way.
#3: Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016)
Oy vey. So much promise in this film: a reasonably solid cast, an entertainingly ridiculous premise, and a director/screenwriter with a semi-decent track record for action films. And yet all of the reports about the film being a steaming pile of garbage are completely accurate.
The problems in this film start early. Unlike Warcraft – which coasts on a certain level of acceptable stupidity – Suicide Squad is a mess right out of the gates and never figures itself out. Why, for example, do Will Smith and Margot Robbie get their own introductions before the plot begins? Why not have an actual villain for the team to face instead of undercutting the film’s premise by having Enchantress immediately turn into the most boring villain imaginable with the incredibly generic “kill everyone, take over the world” plans? Hell, even her henchmen are crap (yes, murdering humans earns you an R rating, but at least we wouldn’t be left watching the Squad kill shitty looking CGI blobs for 2 effing hours).
Throw in a needless Joker subplot featuring Jared Leto hamming it up into oblivion, a colour palette borrowed from Zack “I only work in blacks and greys” Synder and a film that was clearly edited by 28 different WB committees & focus groups and you have the year’s biggest missed opportunity.
And yet, despite all of these negatives, somehow Suicide Squad still isn’t the worst superhero film of the year!
#2: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Synder, 2016)
The honour of worst superhero film of 2016 goes to this steaming pile of execrement. Batman v Superman: Dawn of a terrible franchise is a film that manages to turn two of the most iconic characters in history into pouting idiots. This is a film that casts Jesse Eisenberg to play a spoiled teenage interpretation of one of the most devious criminals in literature. This is a film that turns the casual contrivance of two characters having mothers with the same name into a major plot point. This is a film that – hilariously – expects its media savy audience to accept that Superman dies at its conclusion despite carrying a subtitle announcing the formation of a super group he will clearly be resurrected into.
Yes folks, Zach Synder takes everything that was wrong with his first Warner Bros attempt Man of Steel and doubles down on it: all of the muted colours, all of the mopiness, and all of the destruction porn is accounted for and amplified. It’s easy to suggest that WB is simply trying to distinguish itself from its Marvel counterpart by adopting a dark and serious approach to its superheroes, but considering how disastrous both BvS and Suicide Squad are, it’s only a matter of time before audiences thoroughly reject these inept attempts.
#1: Gods of Egypt (Proyas, 2016)
Despite the colossal failures of BvS and Suicide Squad, there was still one movie that managed to throw under both: Alex Proyas’ ill-advised sci-spectacle Gods of Egypt. It’s hard to believe that anyone thought that this twist on the “sandals and swords” historical epic ever sounded like a good idea, but hopefully everyone involved was fired due to sheer stupidity.
So what’s wrong with Gods of Egypt?
Let’s star with the script, which is painfully trite, filled with 1-dimensional characters and prominently features thoroughly predictable plot developments. If you’ve seen any dumb historical action film in the last thirty years, then congratulations because you’ve seen everything Gods of Egypt has to offer. Throw in a lacklustre lead (stop trying to make Ben Thwaites happen!) and a super hammy villain (what does Gerard Butler think he’s doing with that accent?!) and this bloated carcass of a film is tough to watch.
The worst element of all, however, are the visuals. OMG THE VISUALS! Director Proyas has one of the best eyes in the biz for smart sci-fi, but he must have gone blind working on this production because not only is the CGI total shit, the “metallic god” look used for the armour is hilariously atrocious. It’s so bad I almost want to encourage people to watch it because it kind of has to be seen to be believed…or you could just watch the trailer because it’s all there on display.
The final piece de resistance in this $140 million misfire are accusations of whitewashing. Shockingly this is what happens when you cast a bunch of white Europeans and Australians in a film about Egypt.
This film isn’t so bad it’s good. It is so bad it’s just bad.
Avoid at all costs.
Next week: the Best films of 2016!