Ranking Every Film I Saw In 2016, Starting With #35: Batman Vs. Superman

This is an inane complaint, but I don't like doing year-end movie lists at the actual end of the year.

You know, the only time that makes sense to do them.

I read heaps of official year-end lists for major publications, and they've already had the chance to see all the awards-bait movies, some of which are definites to be added to this list.* I'll have seen the rest of the 2016 nominees by the time we get to the Oscars, but it feels wrong to add Brooklyn or Bridge of Spies to this list just because I watched them this year, when they've already been feted at last year's Oscar ceremony.

*This list includes literally every theatrical release I saw this year, so I guess it would actually be impossible for them not to.

But, by the same notion, the odds that Damien Chazelle's La La Land ends up being one of my top-5 movies of the year seems extremely high, yet it won't be mentioned here, and if I find Martin Scorsese's Silence a complete boor (possible!), will I have no outlet for my complaints?*

*Since Silence is a film about Jesuit priests who have taken a vow of silence, this actually does seem appropriate.

But, wait, it turns out that I have no journalistic tendencies of any kind! I can go back and adjust this post however I see fit! All my opinions can flow in any direction I choose, following my varying moods and the whims of popular culture. Why, I've already deleted all evidence that I dug Crash when it came out! (I totally dug Crash when it came out) Anything is possible!

Well, that started out as a bummer of a way to start a “Best Of” series, but I think we're going in the right direction. Let's kick this up a notch!


I would write this whole series as Guy Fieri if I had enough familiarity with him and his oeuvre to manage it. You are spared my desperate attempts at trying.

29. Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

There was some jockeying at the top of the list to figure out exactly how the top-10 would land – it took some here-no-what-about-here-no-that's-too-low-maybe-this-one-should-be-higher mental bickering before things seemed to fall in place. But there was no question which movie would land at the bottom, and that's Zack Snyder's leaden, unhappy mess of a film, which felt like a chore to watch from the moment it started.

Ignoring the plot for a moment – which I have no problem doing, since the filmmakers seemed to do the same – there's simply the problem of each of the actors seemingly acting in their own separate movies, each of which might be relatively interesting in its own way but make no sense as a collection.

It's a pity, since I think there's an argument to be made that Ben Affleck is our best Batman to date (it's often hard to separate the actor from the film, but I think Affleck edges out Bale/Keaton despite having almost nothing to work with), and I thought Jeremy Irons' grizzled brother-in-arms was a nice counterpoint. Plus, Gal Godot's lively appearances as Wonder Woman sent enough shockwaves through the film to make me excited for Patty Jenkins' upcoming Wonder Woman feature. And if Jesse Eisenberg is bad (and believe me, he is terrible), it's in an interesting way, in the way a talented actor gets when he finds himself completely untethered from both direction and motivation.

Meanwhile, Henry Cavill continues to get by on the fact that he is a very handsome person indeed, and while he is perhaps not good at being expressive - or really any aspect of acting at all - it's tough to dislike the man.

But trying to discuss the movie as an actual movie – as a story that takes you from one place to another – there's absolutely no level on which the movie succeeds. Even trying to recall it now, I get only flashes, and all of it is the nonsense that seems impossible to have actually existed in a major motion picture: the jar of urine with tea bags in it Lex Luthor leaves on the desk of the senator Holly Hunter is playing, the massive terrorist explosion Superman simply stands in the middle of and then walks away sadly from, and of course, the entire movie turning on the fact that Superman and Batman's mothers both have the same name.

And that's without mentioning my favorite awful choice of the movie - Jimmy Olson being shot in the face by a terrorist at point-blank range in the first reel of the movie (I am not kidding, this is a real thing that happens in this movie, I would not make that up), because Snyder thought it would be "fun" for fans to get to see Olson in the movie. Zack Snyder and I have very different ideas about what makes for a good time at the movies.

Superhero movies occasionally have deeper themes, but by and large they are a genre whose only aim is to entertain. But Snyder wants to play around with murder-for-sport just for the rush of it, and he's the only one getting a rush. Even considering the attempt at a darker tone, BvS is not somber so much as sullen, like a sulking teenager giving you only the minimum information you ask of it, interspersed with unprovoked explosions.