2016 was a pretty awful year in every respect, but there were still some awesome geek movies. Here are our choices for the best geek movies of 2016.
1Captain America: Civil War
by Head Geek Nicholas Yong
In a year where both Marvel and DC had movies about superhero conflicts, it was the former that came out on top again with arguably its best movie yet – Captain America: Civil War (see our review). The culmination of a storyline that had been building and building for eight years, Civil War managed to please fanboys, be a pretty damn good movie AND introduce the new Spider-Man too.
With a multitude of characters in play, audiences could easily have gotten lost in the narrative. But the Russo brothers took the varying threads of the story that had been seeded by numerous Marvel movies, and drew them all together in a manner that made sense. That Ant-Man/Giant Man airport sequence alone is worth the price of admission. The Russos even managed something that seems beyond most MCU movies: a compelling villain with complicated motivations. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of Zemo.
We even got to see some of the stars up close and personal in Singapore, despite the fiasco that was the Civil War blue carpet and some very questionable blue carpet packages that were hawked by the organisers. Now, all we need is for Infinity War to get here sharpish.
Not convinced that this was the best geek movie of the year? I’ll just remind you that Deadpool garnered not one, but two Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), as well as Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) for Reynolds. Yes, a comic book movie finally got an acting nomination at a major awards show. Now all we gotta do is hope that the Oscars recognise the genius of other comic book movies too.
3Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
by Cinemaniac Diana Othman
To those who question if we really need another Star Wars movie when The Force Awakens was released just a year ago, I’m here to tell you: HELLZ YEAH! Do we say no when our bosses offer us a bonus?
Rogue One (see our review) has gifted the fandom in many ways, but it serves two major purposes that more than justify its place in this sprawling space saga. It’s a significant tonal shift from the main story arc, and the film really puts the war in Star Wars.
The franchise has always focused on political struggle and it’s already filled with epic battles, breathtaking aerial dogfights, and beloved characters whom we’ve lost along the way. But tonally, they felt more like swashbuckling adventures, and Rogue One is the first installment that unfolds like an actual combat film.
It’s already evident in the arresting, grittier cinematography and set designs: Jedha resembles war-torn Kabul and the climatic clash between the Empire and the Rebels on the beaches of Scarif is reminiscent of the Pacific War. The remarkable third act on Scarif also features more in-depth tactical executions and the deeply moving ending – while a tad overkill (pun intended) – is an effective reminder of the real-world consequences of war.
Rogue One’s value also stems from what it adds to the series and how it supplements those plot points in Episode IV that are important but way too convenient. The Death Star blueprints suddenly manifest to give the Rebels that much-needed edge with a simplistic explanation that rebel spies stole them. The pretty absurd fact that the gargantuan and sophisticated planet-killing weapon has a flaw that makes it so vulnerable is, let’s face it, a little contrived.
But by telling the story of the selfless courage and sacrifices made by Jyn and her group of Rebels to get those blueprints as well as turning the Death Star flaw into a heartbreaking backstory about a father’s revenge for being taken away from his family, Rogue One has smoothed over what was previously problematic with Episode IV, making the franchise stronger than ever.
4Star Trek Beyond
by Grumpy Geek Bryan Huang
Star Trek Beyond (see our review), the third instalment of the rebooted series, finally brings the crew of the Enterprise to the outer regions of space. After blowing up Vulcan in the first movie and bringing in Benedict Cumberkhan in the second, it was always going to take something a little extra to give fans something new instead of reusing familiar characters and settings.
At the end of the day, Star Trek as a franchise has always been about the bonds between the crew and how they overcome adversity, and Beyond definitely sticks to this. The reveal of the main antagonist’s origins (played by a growly Idris Elba) is a bit of a letdown, both in being way too obvious and not using Elba’s commanding presence better, but it’s one of the few flaws in the movie and definitely not a dealbreaker. What’s the deal with British villains anyway? I guess Tom Hiddleston will be the bad guy in the next one?
In between that, the action scenes are well-paced and the plot is the stuff that makes Star Trek Star Trek (and not some galactic soap opera about a certain space magic family with loads of issues). Of course, it’s easy to say more could’ve been done to make the film better, but it could just have easily been the other way around and we’d be arguing about whether Star Trek Beyond deserves to make this list.
It’s no First Contact, but Star Trek Beyond has enough in it to please both the fans and the newcomers, and avoids pandering to the former without being overwhelming for the latter. In a year when superhero movies have jumped the shark while riding a robotic raptor on rocket boosters, it’s nice to see the space front still on the inspiring end.
Just when you thought Marvel couldn’t do any better, they throw Doctor Strange (see our review) at you. Sure, there was that whole whitewashing controversy with Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of the Ancient One. But let’s not forget that the first issue of Doctor Strange came out in 1967, when policemen still wore shorts and the stereotype for a monk was a squinty-eyed Asian man. Who says Ancient Ones can’t be white women with shaved heads now? All in all, it was a refreshing, modern take on the comic.
Who can deny the caustic charm Benny Cumberbatch brings to any of his films? While we all know he excels as brilliant but flawed men, it was his portrayal of Strange’s willingness to change that won my attention and approval. Like Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, this is a character you slowly fall in love with.
The genre and plot are nothing new, but like all Marvel films, it is the characters, the Easter eggs and the million little things that build around the narrative that make it exciting. We now know that the Living Tribunal exists in the MCU, have had a closer look at the infinity Time stone (Eye of Agamotto) and that Rachel McAdams has been relegated to shitty “love-of-his-life” side roles of time travellers. Thanks to the usual after-credits scenes, we also realise just how big a role Doctor Strange will play in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. Just talking about it makes me excited.
6Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
by Jasmine Ong
Watching Fantastic Beasts (see our review) felt like I was coming home. Having grown up with the Potter Films, being introduced to this new era of characters on-screen was like making connections with distant relatives – different but familiar. And just like the magical trio, Newt, Tina, Queenie and Jacob became my new ultimate squad goal.
Even though it’s Rowling’s first time penning a script, I loved how she manages to keep the role of Credence a mystery throughout, only piecing the reveal together when the plot calls for it. I even love how she throws little Easter eggs here and there for Potterheads to smile at – like the Albus Dumbledore name drop or the extremely witty exchange about Quidditch positions between Mary Lou Barebone and Newt Scamander.
Don’t even get me started on the incredible visualization of the magical creatures. Much of what I knew about the creatures came from the HP books and the companion book, which made it hard to envision. I was blown away by the CGI team, who did a wonderful job in bringing these creatures to life with such realistic characteristics (i.e. the mischievous Niffler) that it was hard to forget that they don’t exist in our Muggle world.
I’m excited for the upcoming films in this franchise and simply cannot thank J.K. Rowling enough for welcoming us back to her Wizarding World. 2016 has been a rather horrid year, and it’s comforting to know that there are still movies like these that offer us an escape for a few hours.
by Commando Geek Wong Jun Heng
Midnight Special (see our review) is the story of a boy with gifted powers and his father’s dogged determination to keep him safe from the authorities and those who are bent on using his ‘gift’ for themselves.
In a world of franchises, it is the smaller films like these with great acting and tight storytelling that stand out for me. The true essence of Midnight Special is not that it is a science fiction thriller that gets you from the get go. Instead, it’s about a father’s love for his son and the faith that will carry him through.
It plays out like a “chase” movie where the main protagonists are constantly on the move and must overcome obstacles at every turn, some with very dire consequences. The pacing is spot on and the story exposition is meted out very carefully.
One thing that Midnight Special has going for it is the ensemble of actors that director Jeff Nichols is able to draw to his films. We have Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Sheperd and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher. The cast grounds the film in reality, preventing the film from turning into by-the-numbers sci-fi drivel.
That is why I really adore this movie, because science fiction is not just about the bangs and the whistles and epic space battles – it is about the characters and the challenges that humanity must overcome. Science fiction should poke and prod our psyche, which is exactly what Midnight Special does.
What was your best geek movie of 2016? Tell us!