Monday, January 2, 2017

The Most Overrated Films of 2016

Each and every year, there are a few films that are beloved by critics and audiences that just don't click with me. It's always bound to happen, but it's still mildly disappointing when it does. The more films I see, the more this tends to occur, and in 2016, there were so many that I had to cut a few off the list. I guess you could spin that to say that 2016 was a lackluster year for movies, but I think it's just an inevitability when you see over 100 movies in a short span. As I have noted in years past, these aren't exactly bad films, and they aren't necessarily the most disappointing of the year either. I just simply believe that the critical reception and the quality don't quite match up. So with all that in mind, here are the five most overrated films of 2016.

5. DOCTOR STRANGE


Image Credits: Coming Soon/Joblo

There's no denying that there are some great visuals in this Marvel origin story, maybe some of the most impressive in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. The surreal direction of Scott Derrickson is a blast of kinetic energy, and the lead performance from Benedict Cumberbatch is very solid. But somehow, I walked away from Doctor Strange feeling surprisingly empty. In a year where Marvel delivered their most complex, daring film yet, the first solo adventure for the Sorcerer Supreme feels oddly safe. There is nothing really at stake, characters feel totally pointless, and the villain (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is one of the weakest in the MCU so far- and that's saying something. Doctor Strange is far from a bad film, but considering the general audience reception, as well as the stunning 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this has to go down as one of the most overrated of the year.


4. THE JUNGLE BOOK


Few movies in 2016 received quite as much hype as Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book. It was highly anticipated by many going into the year, but the buzz exploded in April when the film was first shown to critics. It was hailed immediately as a visionary masterpiece, a film that utilized technology to create a jaw-dropping cinematic spectacle. I went into my IMAX 3D showing of the film with high expectations, and I walked out thinking it was......fine? The Jungle Book is incredibly impressive on a visual level, and it features some sweet performances from Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, and especially young Neel Sethi. But it feels stuck between being a re-imagining of the story and a glorified remake of the 1967 animated classic, with bizarre musical numbers that don't fit the dark tone. It's a cool movie to look at, but if you peer beyond the surface, this thing is kind of a mess.


3. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY


Image Credits: Coming Soon/Joblo

I've already angered plenty of people by giving Rogue One: A Star Wars Story such a negative review, but I stand by it all the way. There's much to be said about the direction of the Star Wars Universe, the trends of fan reaction culture, and audience complacency with blockbusters, but for me, it all boils down to the fact that I don't think Rogue One is a very good movie at all. It features a cast of characters that range from uninteresting to unlikable, it has a plot that doesn't matter in the grand scheme of the Star Wars universe, and it suffers from a patchwork quality that may or may not have been the result of reshoots. There are worse Star Wars movies than Rogue One, but it is an astonishingly tedious film, one that doesn't deliver the goods in any effective way. Sure, it has the fan service- blue milk, R2D2 and C3PO, Leia, etc. But on a basic storytelling level, Rogue One is a slog.


2. EYE IN THE SKY


Eye in the Sky barely made a dent at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, but it sure did take a lot of people by surprise when it hit theaters in March. Critics hailed the drone drama, which stars Helen Mirren, Barkhad Abdi, Aaron Paul, and the late Alan Rickman, as a tense, timely thriller, a film that tackled the ambiguity of the drug war with a surprising emotional grit. But where many saw an intense cinematic experience, I saw a relatively flat drama, one that didn't have any significant stakes or fascinating characters. The cyber battlefield of the drone war will be the next great landscape for war movies, but if you're looking for something that tackles the emotional and moral toll of this fight, check out Good Kill. Gavin Hood's Eye in the Sky may have the prestige, but it's a forgettable thriller.


1. PETE'S DRAGON


Image Credits: Coming Soon/Joblo

It feels sorta cynical and cruel to put two Disney films, both relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things, on my list of the most overrated films of the year. But I can't deny how I felt about either film, and for that reason, both The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon have made it on this list. I discussed the former already, but I was perhaps more surprised by my reaction to the latter. Pete's Dragon looked really great, and I was dazzled by the trailers that promised a Spielbergian adventure with a young boy and his dragon. I was shocked to find a cutesy and lackluster flick, one that felt like it was forcing emotional sentimentality that it hadn't earned. The characters are weak, the action beats aren't all that engaging, and it all amounts to a whole bunch of "Who cares?" Even more surprisingly, I was clearly in the minority regarding this film. Critics went head over heels for Pete's Dragon, labeling it as the best film of the summer. I think David Lowery's film was trying to pull off something that it just couldn't accomplish, and the end result was a stagnant, disposable family flick.


Well, that's all for this list. My Worst of 2016 list is ready to go for tomorrow morning, and I'm currently putting the final touches on my Top 25 list!

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