Probably the least important part of my End Of Years, films have a harder time getting me to watch them than TV series, a much harder time, and so in order to make this list have a decent number of films I’m including not only new films I’ve seen in the cinema but also old films I’ve seen for the first time and recall having a good experience of sitting down and watching it – some of these are in preparation for going to see something at the cinema. Ranked but it’s not a hard ranking, it could be quite flexible and changing, it’s just going on instinct. Spoilers I will try to keep light but if you haven’t watched any of the films below and you care, be careful.
9. The Girl On The Train
Not my idea to go and see, but I went along as it sounded like a nice thriller that I might enjoy. And I did, to an extent. The Girl On The Train is based on a book that I’d probably never read, not because I don’t like reading but it’s hard getting me to read a book these days that isn’t fantasy and so the only way I’d get to see it is on the big screen. The plot was fairly predictable, there were a few twists and turns but nothing majorly jawdropping and ‘the big reveal’ was so well signposted I knew how it would play out fairly early. It’s rare for me to say but I wouldn’t say the characters were likeable either. The good things going for it were the different perspectives seen by the characters and the use of the train as the plot device, that was something I hadn’t seen before. It kept me entertained for the hours it was on as I was figuring out and getting ahead of the plot but I wouldn’t say it was the most well-written or best film. Hence why it’s bottom.
8. Finding Dory
I’m afraid so. I think Finding Dory was the point where I realised I’ve kind of outgrown Pixar and Disney films. Not that I won’t ever watch any new ones again, I’ve heard good things about Zootropolis for example, but I felt on the whole, despite me smiling and enjoying a good part of this, that Finding Dory was pretty weak as far as Pixar films go, and certainly can’t stand up to its predecessor. It is just the same beats, I wish I cared about Dory more but she’s not the best. I felt like the octopus Hank. Who was the best thing about this film, him and the slightly ditzy myopic (major points there) whale shark Destiny, who as new characters kept me interested in the jeopardy. It felt very much seen it all before though. As a kid’s film. I can’t criticise it that much but I don’t think it went far beyond being a kid’s film – the ones that do are the ones worth keeping in lists in future years, this isn’t one of those.
7. Captain America – The First Avenger, Winter Soldier, Civil War
I had not seen any Captain America films when friends asked me if I wanted to come watch Civil War with them, so I quickly went through the first two films in the trilogy, as a minimum for trying to understanding the Marvel Universe, something where I always feel like I’m missing out on something somewhere because of their limitless films that follow the same format but are all so boringly interconnected, such that so much exhausting time and effort is put into trying to understand their latest blockbuster… I’m not feeling kind tonight. It is how you do arc and continuity based storytelling badly though, something I thought was impossible before this. It turns out I’d have probably been better off watching the second Avengers film as there were still things I was confused about in Civil War. The First Avenger was the better of the first two films because of the historical setting, that’s normally something that makes spandex-filled superhero films bearable for me, something set in a time period slightly historical, during the war, yeah, that was okay. I really don’t remember much about the Winter Soldier and I don’t really care to, it felt like one of the most generic superhero film, instead of something where I imagined there would be some sort of Russian forest covered in snow in a Winter War style movie, ‘Bucky’ is just a character. And a character whereby, because of his name, I am constantly reminded of that title disappointment whenever he’s on the screen. And they’re fighting in America. At least I finally found out where that Falcon guy from Ant Man fit in. When I watched that movie, as far as I was concerned, he was an Avenger I didn’t know existed.
Civil War itself was easily the best of the three. With not as much focus on Captain America’s horribly straight and chiselled jaw, plenty of familiar faces from the hundreds and thousands of previous Marvel films, and heroes fighting against heroes, it was fairly entertaining, especially the famous scene on the airport runway, where all the superhero teams faced off against each other. Spiderman and Black Panther really shone in those scenes – still probably not watching their spinoff films unless someone drags me along to those. However, I maintain it would have been better if somebody really important, ideally one of Captain America or Iron Man, had actually been killed by the other at the end of this. They were so close to closing off an avenue of revenue here, I felt, and I would have respected them for a sake of a better story. But as it stands it was definitely one of the better Marvel films for not making me want to break out into snark about consumerism ALL the time.
6. X-Men: First Class, Days Of Future Past, Apocalypse
Just one place ahead, I’m actually going to be far kinder about this one. Similar story, I was summoned to see Apocalypse and we had a home showing of Days Of Future Past first, which helped. And I watched First Class before to catch up. And it was a far more satisfying experience than my ventures into pure Marvel this year. While I’ve still never seen the original trilogy of X Men movies, my first experience with this franchise was a good one.
Partly it was because I far prefer the X Men formula. Superheroes work in stories when rather than playing a titular character, they are in teams with wildly different powers that they can play off each other, see Misfits for a UK version or Charlotte for a Japanese take on that sort of thing. Also, the historical setting of X Men seems far more nuanced and set in reality. Not that a team of mutant teenagers stopping the Cuban Missile Crisis is reality but it seems far more… respectful. First Class in that basis, knowing that the rest of the films move the time period along a lot, felt kind of nostalgic and for once, I rather enjoyed the story of the ‘first superhero adventure’, particularly as Professor X and Magneto had been very well cast (and this was something I was slightly fearful of as I knew they had once been played by the awesome Stewart and McKellen duo and this knowledge is probably the only reason I want to see the original trilogy at some point in the future). Total waste of Darwin though.
Days Of Future Past was one of my favourite superhero movies for a while. Mainly because it was less of a superhero movie and more of a time travel movie and I freaking love time travel as a plot device and treasure it wherever it shows up. This includes an incredibly memorable scene where Quicksilver dances around a frozen room to Time In A Bottle – and you see what I mean about the variety of superhero powers on show? More please.
Apocalypse was not quite as good. It is often hard when writing ancient evil powers into your story but the villain of Apocalypse was far too much of a ham at times – especially given his world destroying powers, how he was beaten, because Sansa Stark has a really strong hidden power, was not the most satisfying. However it reintroduced a lot of mutants who I understand are far more classic X Men (i.e. Storm, whose aesthetic looks really ace to me) and the cues given to aid their reintroduction were very nice – and it had another classic Quicksilver scene, those must be mandatory from now on. Particularly the attention given to Scott and the other younger ones, I think I ended the film rather positively about where this franchise was going, which is something I really like saying about films that are part of one.