2016 CBM Year in Review

Posted: February 22, 2017 in Year in Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3d994-colby
Look at that, it’s nearly March 2017 and we’re just now getting around to the “best/worst of” for 2016! What happened there? Too much to list, really. I apologize for the delay and take a majority of the responsibility for it. One person who is certainly not to blame, however, is Brian C. Baer. He is a writing machine. So, without wasting another second, here is Comic Book Media’s annual look at the best and worst of comic based movies and television by Colby and Brian, The Moderate Fanboys. Enjoy!

Best Movie
Colby: Captain America: Civil War.
The third movie centered on the Sentinel of Liberty has been described by many as, essentially, Avengers 3. While that’s not necessarily incorrect, it also kind of misses the core of what makes this movie so great. The entire Captain America trilogy is founded around the friendship of two guys. A friendship that survives a world war, brainwashing and time itself. What’s even more amazing is how well that friendship shines through. In a movie that is jam-packed with amazing action and huge set pieces, that’s no small feat.

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Brian: Captain America: Civil War.
For a year with plenty of quality comic movies, this is an easy decision. Civil War was a fulfilling and well-deserved payoff to the entirety (more or less) of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. We were given a broader view of these characters’ world and some very real ramifications to plot points like super-powered terrorists and alien invasions. Civil War tackled some tough issues in very human ways, but it was also full of humor and amazing action sequences. It’s what all superhero movies should strive to be.

Worst Movie
ssColby: Suicide Squad.
Ok, BvS is arguably a worse movie. But Suicide Squad could (and should) have been a really special little flick. Had it been a small, character driven genre picture it would’ve stood out against larger fare with its interesting mix characters that the comic series pulls from. Instead, the film is a mish-mash of styles and genres with little tonal connection. It literally feels like a visual mix-tape. It’s rife with plot holes major (why was the team assembled if their only enemy is a member of the team who strikes out after being manipulated into joining the team?) and minor (everyone’s just okay with Katana’s sword stealing souls?) and features the worst type of non-humor imaginable like the painfully unfunny “unicorn bit”.

Brian: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The flip side of Civil War is Batman V Superman. Much has been (and should be) written about its various plot holes, pacing issues, and questionable acting and directing, but the real reason BvS takes the Worst Movie spot is for the disappointment of it all. Fans waited for decades to get Batman and Superman on the screen together, and then another year of editing and post-production after a lengthy filming process, and this was the best Snyder and WB/DC could come up with?

Best TV Show
Colby: Supergirl.
More than any other show on TV, for me, Supergirl is the one that I am consistently excited to watch every week. It flawlessly marries high-concept comic book nonsense with melodramatic television character drama. That may sound like I’m being negative, but I’m honestly not. This show plays to all the strengths and trappings of the source material and expertly balances them against the CW’s formula for superhero television. It’s second season has proven that even with a lowered budget and changed network, the core of the show and the magnetism of its lead has not diminished. I also have entirely too much fun speculating which low-level DC hero or villain will pop up next.

super
Brian: Supergirl.
For comic fans watching TV in 2016, our cups runneth over. From the phenomenal second season of Agent Carter to a rejuvenated Arrow, a complex and unique Luke Cage, and an insanely promising pilot for The Tick, we’ve never had it better. Each of those shows occupied my Best TV spot at one point or another, but Supergirl is what I settled on. The show has been consistently sweet and fun, bright and optimistic. It’s better at juggling multiple plot lines than most of its competition, and the subtlety and sensitivity with which it explores the romance between Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer is simply beautiful. The show has touched on feminism, immigration, climate change, and queer issues over the past 12 months, making it the most progressive superhero TV show by far.

Worst TV Show
Colby: The Walking Dead.
What’s left to say about this show? It’s a joyless, soul-crushing experience to sit through. It’s usual biggest issue is its clear lack of forward momentum that causes characters to repeat mistakes and create implausibly dumb scenarios that derail any sense of realism the show so desperately clings to. This last season fared even worse, however. After “killing” long-surviving Glenn, he’s brought back only to be killed off for real in scene that is needlessly paced over two episodes. It’s trying to be shocking but just comes off as desperate. Based on this season’s ratings, it seems people are starting to notice.

preBrian: Preacher.
For me, no comic book inspired TV show got it worse than AMC’s adaptation of Preacher. After years of rumors and false starts, the series finally happened. It was brilliantly cast, but the story was beyond aimless. While the comic was known for constantly moving from town to town, the show trapped the characters in one location for ten episodes and simply spun its wheels. Plot points were tossed out haphazardly and motivations constantly shifted, even within single episodes. It ended with an out-of-nowhere bang, suddenly killing off the one-note characters it had forced the audience to endure all season. Preacher felt like a show that didn’t respect its characters, its actors, its source material, or even itself. It could’ve, and should’ve, been so much more.

Best Actor
Colby: Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo in Doctor Strange.
If you look back at last year’s list (or the one before) you’ll see I tend to favor actors in supporting roles. This year is no different. It’s inherently difficult to flesh out a supporting character which is why I think it’s important to point out when an actor succeeds. Mordo is the teacher who becomes jaded and angry with his position. He has a slow burn on his change and Ejiofor plays it perfectly. This character could have easily become Sinestro in Green Lantern (whose heel-turn was jarring and made little sense, narratively) but the writing and acting conveyed the weight of his choice and the reasoning behind it. Here’s to more Mordo in the future.

poolied.jpgBrian: Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in Deadpool.
I was surprised but beyond thrilled to see Ryan Reynolds nominated for a Golden Globe. Deadpool is a silly, stupid, violent little love story, and while it was always known that Reynolds would play Wade Wilson, I never realized he would be so invested in the role. The film sneaks in a quiet moment or two when you least expect it, and Reynolds proves himself every bit as adept at the drama as he is at comedic timing and ad-libbing. He makes Wade’s relationship with Vanessa (Mrs. Morena Baccarin-Baer) work. He completely sells the character’s torment and self-loathing after his disfigurement. He’s almost better than Deadpool deserved.

Worst Actor
jokerColby: Jared Leto as The Joker in Suicide Squad.
The Joker is a role with some pedigree, so it makes sense that an Oscar winning actor would be attracted to it. What doesn’t make sense is why said Oscar winner would make such weird and uninspired decisions. I don’t necessarily mind the growling or the imitating Ledger or (on some level) the garish, obvious tattoos. No, what really pushes this performance over the edge for me is the fact that that’s all it is: a performance. Every line and every twitch feels like an actor trying his damnedest to inhabit a character. Whenever you can see the actor through the performance (especially a bleached-skinned, green-haired, metal-grilled performance) then the actor has failed.

neganBrian: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in Walking Dead.
I want to make this clear upfront: the problems with The Walking Dead go far deeper than any individual actor. The series is only interested in prolonging its own life at this point, making each episode a grim, hopeless slog with the promise of one scene of gore or creature effects. Viewers are dragged back each week out of obligation, waiting for something (anything?) to happen, or due to insultingly exploitative cliffhangers. And then along comes Negan. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a talented and respectable actor, plays the post-apocalyptic dictator cartoonish and over-the-top enough to puncture the believability of the show. How could someone so useless ever come to power? Why would anyone follow someone so obnoxious? I can handle zombies and everyone having perfect aim for headshots, but Negan is a bridge too far.

Best Actress
Colby: Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard in Luke Cage.
This role could have very easily been one-note and cloyingly evil. However, the writing and casting elevate the character of Black Mariah into something stunningly more than a simple villain. Like Daredevil before, Luke Cage casts its villain in an almost sympathetic light. There are reasons that Mariah does what she does. If the circumstances were slightly shifted, she could have easily been seen as an anti-hero. It’s a stunning performance with a full range of emotions. Marvel gets flack for its broad and disaffecting villains, so it seems important to praise them when they get it so perfectly right.
mariah

Brian: Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers on Supergirl.
This was a very difficult category. Every actress on Luke Cage deserves awards for such brilliantly grounded performances, and Haley Atwell had never been better as Peggy Carter, but I kept coming back to Chyler Leigh. She’s been consistently great on Supergirl as Alex, the hardened DEO agent with a soft spot for her adoptive sister and very little else. All of the subtle moments of seeming uncomfortable or unsure of herself in season one came to a head in season two, as her attraction to Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) develops. Leigh’s take on her character’s self-discovery has been tender and real and staggeringly well-acted. She is the best part of the year’s best show.

Worst Actress
Colby: Maggie Geha as Poison Ivy in Gotham.
Ivy was initially played by Clare Foley in the first two seasons of this series but was recast in the third in a stoyline that rapidly aged her into being an adult. The showrunners have said that this was to capitalize on the character’s greatest strength: her sexuality. That’s fine, but she’s still a kid. She just looks older. It’s weird. And Maggie Geha doesn’t really sell the role. In her appearances so far, she’s kind of confused and doe-eyed. Which doesn’t mesh with the new “sexy” Ivy. Overall it’s a weird fit for an established character on the show and the actress doesn’t have the talent to make anything out of the new character trajectory.

enchBrian: Cara Delevingne in Suicide Squad.
Much like Jeffrey Dean Morgan and The Walking Dead, the many, many problems of Suicide Squad can’t be blamed on Cara Delevingne alone. The film was a soulless, micromanaged cinematic mistake, but it did have some highlights. Some talented actors, like Will Smith, were given some interesting things to do. But much of the film’s weight rested on Delevingne, who was tasked with playing multiple characters and never really managed to make any of them work. As June Moone, the cursed archeologist, she is curiously bland and her line readings are wooden. As the Enchantress, she is distracting as a perpetual gyration machine who never feels like a threat. And then she becomes a different version of the Enchantress who has an English accent for some reason. And then it ends.

Best Fight
giantColby: The airport brawl from Captain America: Civil War.
This scene is, literally, a comic book come to life. And I don’t just mean in the sense that we have costumed crime-fighters beating the snot out of each other. This battle captures the feel, look, tone and personality of what makes The Avengers (and Marvel on the whole) such a great property. Everyone is given a moment to shine plus new characters are quickly and effectively established before given a chance to have fun. If nothing else, this scene should get every comic fan excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Brian: The space station fight in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.
Despite the massive team-up of the “Invasion!” crossover and fun, trippy visuals of Doctor Strange, the fight scene that entertained me the most came from the animated Batman ’66 film, Return of the Caped Crusaders. In it, Batman has been infected by a virus which is slowly turning him evil. As he confronts his rogues gallery on an orbiting space station, the bright and chipper Adam West Batman becomes more dark and more, well, modern. West quotes the ’89 Batman film and Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” as the visual sound effects change from “Pow!” to “Cripple!” The entire fight was fun and surprisingly meta-textual.

Worst Fight
Colby: The Squad vs Enchantress’s Brother in Suicide Squad.
What good would a dude with boomerangs do against a literal god? For that matter, what about a woman with a sword or a guy with some pistols? The big finale of this film features some odd gaps in logic and inanely repetitive exposition (“cut her heart out!”) and a weird reveal that squad member El Diablo is also an Aztec God. I think? Like much of the rest of the movie, the ending makes no sense when even the slightest amount of scrutiny is applied to it.

bvsBrian: Batman vs Superman in Batman V Superman.
The titular fight between Batman and Superman may have been the most disappointing thing about Batman V Superman. Superman enters the fight looking to talk Batman out of it, but gives that up and is out for blood in about ten seconds. Batman is psychotically obsessed with murdering Superman for ill-defined reasons. The ensuing fight is long and slow and gray, like the rest of the film. The viewer is never really rooting for one person, or sad when the other does something bad. Instead, it’s just exhausting to watch. And don’t even get me started on the Deus Ex Martha that makes them break it up…

Best Trailer/Marketing
logan
Colby: Logan teaser.
The X-Men franchise has been exceedingly hit-and-miss ever since X-Men: The Last Stand. There have been some extraordinary additions as well as some pretty dour entries in Fox’s world of mutants. This swansong for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine sure seems like it’s going to land on the right side of things. The haunting trailer lays out the grim new status quo and is set to Johnny Cash’s haunting rendition of ‘Hurt’. If there’s a song that would fit Old Man Logan’s struggle more than that, I haven’t heard it.

Brian: The Luke Cage SDCC teaser.
Not only was this Luke Cage trailer the best thing to come out of this year’s San Diego Comic Con, it was also one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. Largely consisting of Luke’s bulletproof rampage through the Crispus Attucks building and set to Ol’ Dirty Bastard crooning “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”, the trailer establishes the tone and flavor of the show perfectly.

Worst Trailer/Marketing
wdColby: The Walking Dead.
The lead-up to the seventh season of The Walking Dead relied heavily on the audience being invested in the “cliffhanger” that was created at the end of the sixth season. Cliffhanger is in quotes because using a crappy angle to hide a character’s death does not a cliffhanger make. The obvious and obnoxious way that the reveal was dragged out is one of the worst marketing schemes I’ve ever seen in my life.  

Brian: Agents of SHIELD.
My problem with the advertisements for Agents of SHIELD is also my main problem with the show overall: Seemingly every week comes with the promise of something new, shocking, and revolutionary on the show. Lives will change! Nothing will ever be the same again! But in the end, it always is the same. AoS just putters along, leeching off of the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe in minor ways but never making the case for its own existence.

And with that, another year wraps up. 2016 certainly had some ups and downs for movies and television. Civil War and Doctor Strange reminded audiences why Marvel is the king of the multiplexes while BvS and Suicide Squad were met with decent box office returns but critical drubbings. On the small screen, CW’s shows continue strong as ever (despite not getting any recognition here outside of Supergirl, their mid-year addition) while Marvel’s strongest offerings continue to be their Netflix fare.

legionNext year sees a whole host of new releases. Marvel, for the first time, is set to have three films in theatres in the same year with Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. Meanwhile, DC is hoping to regain some goodwill with both Wonder Woman and Justice League. While shows like Legion, Powerless and Riverdale join the comic series’ already on the air (almost all of which are returning. Poor Agent Carter.) There’s a lot to look forward to in 2017, that’s for sure!

And finally, we come to The Chris Evans Award for Achievement in Comic Book Media. This year, its with a heavy heart that we award the first posthumous Golden Evans.

The award goes to Noel Neill.
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Ms. Neill has been associated with the character of Superman for longer than any other actor. She played Lois Lane opposite Kirk Alyn in Columbia’s Superman serials in the late 40’s and early 50’s. In 1958, she reprised the role of Lois in the television series The Adventures of Superman where she played the character for five seasons. After that, she had cameo roles in Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman and in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in 2006. In between the two, she even found time to guest star on an episode of Superboy in 1991. No other person has had such a career on screen associated with any single comic book property. Sadly, Noel Neill passed away in July of 2016. For all that she’s done in the medium, Comic Book Media salutes her.

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Comments
  1. Your mom says:

    Colby, your mom called, she said you suck.

    Liked by 1 person

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