It’s been a pretty great year at the cineplex—review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reportedly logged a record-breaking number of positive reviews in 2016—but that doesn’t mean we didn’t see a few clunkers hit the big screen. It might be too late to save you from watching some of these flops; after all, a handful ended up being among the highest-grossing movies of the year. But the next time you’re looking for something to watch, take our advice and keep everything on this list far, far away from your queue. You can thank us later.
Independence Day: Resurgence
For most people, the original Independence Day strikes chords of nostalgia, even 20 years later. It wasn’t a movie with a deep message; it was big, goofy, and fun—and that’s why we loved it so much. But for fans who hoped that the sequel would be just as good as the original, Independence Day: Resurgence was a major disappointment. While the original was a box-office sensation—grossing a massive $817,000,000 worldwide—the uninspired sequel was a resounding flop with critics and returned only a lukewarm box-office performance, earning just 389 million dollars against a $165 million budget.
Fans of the 1996 blockbuster will find that Resurgence’s plot is essentially nothing but a recycled version of the original, picked up and transported 20 years into the future. The jokes are the same, the returning actors lazily fall back on the same lame schticks without adding anything new to their characters, and the new faces in the cast are less than impressive. Because Will Smith turned down a return for the sequel, the charismatic Captain Steven Hiller dies a convenient death off-screen, to be replaced with pilot Jake Morrison—played by Liam Hemsworth. Unlike Smith’s character, Jake Morrison has all the charisma of a testosterone-filled potato, mostly due to Hemsworth’s uninspired and stilted performance. If you want to see a poorly done rehash of the original Independence Day, dressed up with flashier special effects, you might enjoy Resurgence. Otherwise, stay away from this dud—far, far away.
While The Mechanic was an average-to-good remake of the original 1972 Charles Bronson film, it mainly stood out because of the top-notch performances of stars Jason Statham and Ben Foster. And although it boasted a fairly solid script and a pretty standard share of suitably entertaining action and violence, its sequel manages to fail on all accounts. For Statham fans of the original, Resurrection was an extreme disappointment. Throughout the movie, the writers think up more and more preposterous situations for Statham’s character Arthur Bishop to wrangle his way out of, which come paired with equally preposterous death scenes and usually some low-budget explosions.
At some point, it seems like the writers decided, “when in doubt, blow up a boat,” because several yachts and even a German U-Boat bite the dust during the course of the movie—and we’re not exactly sure why. The love connection between Statham and female lead Jessica Alba is weak, which leads to a predictable timeline that could have come from any B-movie James Bond knockoff. All in all, the original Mechanic was a generic but enjoyable entry that solidified Statham’s status as a leading man. Unfortunately, the sequel Mechanic: Resurrection is so phoned-in that only the most diehard Statham fanatics will be able to sit through it.
For many devotees of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft MMORPG or the earlier Warcraft games, the Warcraft movie may have been their most-anticipated movie of 2016. Unfortunately, the fantasy action adaptation for the big screen fell completely flat for most viewers. While hardcore WoW or Warcraft players largely enjoyed the movie—especially in China, which accounted for a large amount of the box office—casual viewers and people new to Warcraft lore were mostly left scratching their heads, wondering what they’d just watched and who half the characters were.
Here’s the thing about Warcraft: as a vehicle for fan service and translating the lore of the games to film, it did a great job. The events of the movie largely reflect the story from Blizzard’s games. But as an accessible—and successful—movie, Warcraft leaves much to be desired. The problem with adapting video game narratives to movies is that frequently the source material is over the top with “drama,” without depth and emotional punch to back it up. Additionally, assuming your audience has a strong knowledge of character and faction backstories is setting yourself up for failure.
Most casual watchers don’t know who the Kirin Tor are, or why Medivh does the things he does, or even why most of the human characters all wear armor with massively oversized pauldrons. For that audience, all that remains is a visually gorgeous but utterly confusing film with a depressing and unsatisfying ending. That being said, the success of the movie with gamers—and in China—means a sequel is probably in the works, and that leaves us with hope that the filmmakers can learn from their mistakes.
Now You See Me 2
While not a particularly deep movie, the original Now You See Me was still a pretty enjoyable little heist caper with a magical Robin Hood twist. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and doesn’t expect the audiences to. But with many plot points left unresolved, fans were hopeful that a sequel would continue the magic. Now You See Me 2 was the disappointing result, a movie which suffers from “too much” syndrome—too much plot, too much wasted dialogue, too much CGI, and too much needless explanation. Movies themselves are “magic” by their very nature, and a creative director and cinematographer can create mind-boggling illusions and sleight of hand through misdirection. Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 abandoned those techniques in favor of flashy special effects, which are then excruciatingly explained to the audience. Apparently, director Jon Chu and the screenwriters of this sequel don’t subscribe to the “show, don’t tell” method of storytelling.
While many comic-book movies—such as X-Men: Days of Future Past—suffer from an over-complicated and convoluted plot, X-Men: Apocalypse goes too far in the other direction. The story is simple and streamlined—which is good. But it’s also generic and revisits many of the same themes we’ve seen in every other X-Men movie. The team must figure out how to work together against a gigantic threat. Magneto is conflicted and does stuff as a result. Popular characters are introduced then promptly forgotten in the next scene. A major character dies and we’re given pretty much no reason to care.
One major problem with Apocalypse lies with Apocalypse himself. The directors and writers didn’t stay true to the appearance or abilities of this villain, which make him extremely underwhelming for comic book fans. Despite actor Oscar Isaac’s best efforts, Apocalypse is just not scary enough—he’s too small, his motivations are confusing, and his powers are seriously nerfed for the film. Determining life on Earth deserves extermination after watching a history montage on television? The Fifth Element did it better. Let’s face it—X-Men: Apocalypse is entertaining at times, but wildly off the mark in many others. When you pair a watered-down villain with a formulaic plot and cookie-cutter set pieces, all you get is major disappointment.
The Legend of Tarzan
If you’re looking for a clichéd, phoned-in movie that resembles a million other action movies, The Legend of Tarzan might keep you satisfied. If, on the other hand, you were hoping for a movie that actually brought something new or exciting to Tarzan lore, you’re in for a dreadful disappointment. From its opening minutes, The Legend of Tarzan lets you know what’s in store: “I’m going to be a boring and clunky movie that takes a legendary literary character and reduces him to chiseled abs and superhero sensibilities, while giving him a fiery and independent woman to love—who ends up being just another damsel in distress. But hey, at least Samuel L. Jackson is here to make things somewhat interesting.”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
This was supposed to be the live-action TNMT adaptation we were waiting for. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics were finally going to be faithfully represented on the big screen—at least as faithfully as you can in a family-friendly movie. Bebop and Rocksteady, Casey Jones, Baxter Stockman, Krang—all these new faces were making appearances, and it was going to be awesome! Unfortunately, the reality was totally not rad, dude. Comic book fans will be disappointed, and the rest of the audience will be bored by the constant turtle bickering and the “climax”—which is a battle scene which strangely resembles the one at the end of 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Bebop and Rocksteady were pretty good, although they seem a little too obsessed with what their mutated junk looks like. Casey Jones’ tragic backstory was completely dropped for the movie—now he’s a cop who just likes using hockey equipment to beat up bad guys, for unspecified reasons. Krang was barely in the movie, and while Baxter Stockman was never a really important TMNT villain, couldn’t they have cast someone other than Tyler Perry in the role? Anyone other than Tyler Perry? Please?
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice could have been a good movie, but it was crippled by sloppy editing. Some storylines are woefully underserved, while others could benefit from some extensive trimming. For example, in a movie calling itself Batman v Superman, there sure isn’t very much Man of Steel action. Henry Cavill makes a wonderful Superman, but he just doesn’t get enough screentime to explore his character’s arc. Similarly, Lex Luthor is brilliantly performed by Jesse Eisenberg, but the writing fails to explain his motivations and we’re left with a generic angry supervillain.
Ever hear of “too much of a good thing?” Well, too much of a bad thing is bad too.Take, for example, the 45-minute climax. That’s right, for nearly an hour, we suffer through an extended action battle sequence. By time the film grinds to its inevitable conclusion, audiences are too fatigued to even care about the result. Honestly, we hope that for the Blu-ray release, the studio takes another shot at editing Batman v Superman—perhaps for a director’s cut. It might go a long way toward fixing the movie’s many problems.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
For a long time, superhero and comic book movies have dominated the box office. Now a strange new trend in movie franchises has emerged: live-action fairy tale adaptations. Jumping on the bandwagon, The Huntsman: Winter’s War was a totally unnecessary prequel/sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman. With gorgeous visual effects and an extremely strong cast, Winter’s War had a lot going for it—even America’s obsession with anything related to Disney’s Frozen. What could go wrong? A lot, apparently. Ultimately, Winter’s War is saddled with a confusing, convoluted, and derivative script, which pins too much on leading man Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, and not enough on Freya and Ravenna. The whole thing reeks of a Hollywood cash grab, and no amount of stunning CGI can save it.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
If you’ve been waiting for a gripping conclusion to Tris Pryor’s story in this third act of the Divergent films, brace yourself for disappointment. While we’re pretty sure the directors were going for a gripping allegory of the modern world set in a nightmarish dystopian landscape, Allegiant too frequently comes off as unintentionally cheesy. Nothing makes sense—the wheels fall off the script somewhere in the first 30 minutes, and the movie just goes where it pleases after that. Even some entertaining action sequences can’t make up for the horrible plot, which takes itself way too seriously. A lesson to Hollywood producers can be found here, if they care to learn it: sometimes, splitting a finale into two movies is NOT the best idea.
Gods of Egypt
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you may have been excited to take a gander at some of the series’ biggest stars at the box office over the last year or so. Unfortunately, none of them managed to score a huge hit. Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) turned in a passable performance in the underwhelming X-Men movie we previously mentioned, Rose Leslie (Ygritte) appeared as Chloe in The Last Witch Hunter, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) hit the screen as Horus in the disappointing Gods of Egypt. This movie had a lot going for it—including director Alex Proyas, who gave us awesome film gems like The Crow and Dark City. Unfortunately, not even Proyas and Coster-Waldau could save Gods of Egypt from mediocrity.
The movie takes itself extremely seriously, which is why you shouldn’t be surprised that many of Gods of Egypt’s most serious moments come off as unintentionally silly. The CGI is not very impressive, and many of the actor’s performances ring hollow. We’re not going to wade into the Hollywood diversity debate, but it should be pointed out that this is a movie about Egyptian gods with a nearly all-white cast. For crying out loud, the main antagonist—the god Set—is played by Gerard Butler, who doesn’t even bother to change his almost comically thick Scottish accent. Yes, really. Gods of Egypt may be one of the worst films of 2016, but we think that in the future, it’ll end up as one of those “so tragically bad it’s good” cult classics. It just needs to age for awhile.
Talented cast, horrible plot. That should tell you pretty much all you need to know about Dirty Grandpa. With Robert DeNiro, Aubrey Plaza, and Zac Efron on board, and direction by the often-hilarious Dan Mazer—who brought us Borat and Brüno—you might have expected Dirty Grandpa to be an irreverent and silly road trip movie, with plenty of over-the-top moments to talk about the next day around the water cooler. Unfortunately, what we got was a romp through the fields of depravity, with essentially every gross dick joke and racist, misogynistic, and homophobic insult known to man crammed into 100 minutes. If the legendary John Waters had directed, he could have managed to make it funny—while providing sharp social commentary at the same time. Even DeNiro’s masturbation scene might have had a point. Instead, we’re stuck with a juvenile, crass comedy that completely fails to deliver the funny. Even Adam Sandler could have done better, and that’s saying a lot—did you see Jack and Jill?
When we first saw the previews for Zoolander 2, we knew the film was in trouble. It struck us as one of those trailers with all the best moments crammed into that 90 seconds, and boy, were we right. If you were hoping for a funny follow-up to 2001’s Zoolander, you’re going to be really, really, really, ridiculously disappointed. Fifteen years have passed since the original was released, and the phoned-in performances of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson make it apparent they could care less about this rehashed script. Celebrity cameos abound, and the whole plot reads like a conversation between drunk Zoolander fans: a painful retreading of the original movie’s gags and one-liners, embellished to the point that they become offensively unfunny. Honestly, it would have been better if the script had died tragically in a freak gasoline fight accident long before this project was greenlit.
London Has Fallen
It’s hard to imagine anyone was really crying out for a sequel to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, but in today’s franchise-hungry market, if a movie makes $160 million, you’re probably going to get a follow-up. Ergo London Has Fallen, which sees Gerard Butler returning to the role of ex-Army Ranger turned Secret Service hotshot Mike Banning, pressed into duty again to protect the President (Aaron Eckhart) from a terrorist conspiracy in Europe. The first installment was the kind of resolutely dunderheaded action thriller you might not mind watching on a plane; with the second, the law of diminishing returns hit hard, leaving viewers with muddled fight scenes and limp, low-budget production values. Of course, it still ended up making $200 million worldwide, and you know what that means—another sequel, Angel Has Fallen, is due to start filming in 2017.
We know we might get some flak for putting Suicide Squad on our “Worst of 2016” list, but it deserves to be there. For months before release, the hype train for Suicide Squad hurtled along at top speed, generating all manner of unrealistic expectations. It shouldn’t be surprising that the reality didn’t come close—in fact, it suffered from many of the foibles that often come with this type of movie, including an overlarge ensemble cast trying to do too much, resulting in shallow characterizations and wildly varying tone from scene to scene.
Don’t get us wrong, some of the characters were expertly portrayed—like Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot—but others (like Jared Leto as the Joker) were underwhelming. Killer Croc and Slipknot could have been left out of the movie altogether, and the film probably would have been better for it. Similarly, there’s some great humor in Suicide Squad, but it’s so broken up with action sequences, character introductions and morose, nihilistic scenes that the entire movie comes off as a big, disjointed mess. We really wish the studio had thought this one over more carefully, because paring down the cast and sticking to a consistent tone throughout could really have made Suicide Squad a winner.