We are just beyond the halfway point of the calendar year that has been 2017. Theaters across the US and the globe have been treated to some spectacular films. DC have finally made a superhero installment worthy of their Marvel peers, as famed Englishmen Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright venture forward with two very unique pieces of filmmaking. There has been plenty to get excited about with more terrific titles heading our way.
But for every smash hit that gives us something to talk about and re-watch over and over again, there are movies that bewilder and frustrate. Just as Adam Sandler continues to churn out Netflix features, somehow the biggest studios in Hollywood keep trying to convince the audience that their rebooted, regurgitated two-and-a-half hour installment is worth your money.
A number of pictures could not find a consensus from critics. Whether it was the MonsterVerse franchise addition Kong: Skull Island, Alien: Covenant, Ghost in the Shell or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the tone, narrative and general style split reviewers down the middle.
Not that there is anything wrong with a bit of healthy debate.
Here is a collection of the best and worst we have witnessed in 2017 so far. Fingers crossed for more of the former as we head into August.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Worst)
Sitting on a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 29%, this 5th installment in the ailing Pirates franchise is proof that Disney are milking this series for all it is worth and are contractually obliged to see finished. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales won over enough moviegoers to take home $767.3m at the box office, as a reckless Johnny Depp turned out his latest Jack Sparrow rendition alongside newcomer Javier Bardem. So long as the money keeps flowing through the Disney coffers, there is little doubt this adventure will stay afloat as a handful of rock star cameos distract from the fact Pirates lost its magic a long time ago.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Best)
Finally a Peter Parker movie that worked! Filmmaker Jon Watts succeeded where others failed to help Sony and Marvel fly around the city skyline with confidence in Tom Holland, an actor who looked and acted the part of the boy wonder. Critics gave glowing reviews to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming to champion the lighter tone, comedic timing and performances of the main cast and supporting acts. While his inclusion in the MCU beyond Avengers: Infinity War is in doubt, the intellectual property can rest assured knowing they have a big screen presence that can be a box office hit into the future.
The Mummy (Worst)
There is little love or admiration for Brendan Fraser’s Mummy franchise of the early 2000s, but what Universal would produce in 2017 to reboot the Dark Universe would make those movies look like a masterpiece. The Mummy brought forward action icon Tom Cruise as Sergeant Nick Morton and despite an admirable supporting cast in Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Courtney B. Vance and Annabelle Wallis, the title categorically flopped with critics. 15% was all that Rotten Tomatoes reviewers could muster, leaving others to label it a generic, corporate and limp blockbuster that fails to leave a lasting legacy. A slate of other features are set to follow, including Van Helsing, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein, Wolfman and The Invisible Man. Buckle up.
Wonder Woman (Best)
No wonder a sequel was given the green light. Wonder Woman sits as the best domestic performer in 2017 to give the DCEU a much-needed victory with critics, seeing it as a title that is warm, funny and incredibly entertaining. Patty Jenkins would convince Warner Brothers to give her a shot after Marvel gave the filmmaker the cold shoulder for The Punisher, portraying a heroine that was unashamedly heroic, bold and pure of heart. The World War II setting gave the picture a gravitas as Diana prepares to front the Justice League this November. A tick in almost every category for this installment.
Transformers: The Last Knight (Worst)
At this juncture, the audience is either in one of two camps – those that enjoy the mindless CGI action of a Michael Bay blockbusters, or those that don’t. This year’s latest offering from the filmmaker gave us Transformers: The Last Knight, a title that attempted to combine the old with the new. What we were left with was a convoluted monstrosity that created a lot of noise, but was another attack on the senses that acted as a glorified toy commercial than anything else. The studio has earmarked more franchise installments our way, but with Bay stepping aside, maybe a director could put some meat on the bone. Don’t hold your breath though.
War for the Planet of the Apes (Best)
It is difficult to recall a prequel series that has knocked it out of the park quite like Matt Reeves’ Planet of the Apes trilogy. 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes helps to bridge the gap between the original title and this modern incarnation that utilizes the best of Andy Serkis and CGI technology. Combined with a stellar cast that boasts the mercurial Woody Harrelson and it is easy to see why critics were swooning over a movie that is considered one of the best features of the year. With the likelihood of more Apes installments on the horizon, this is a franchise that understands their audience.
Scoring a pitiful 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is any wonder the star and director Dax Shepard begged Warner Brothers to create this forgettable “comedy” title. Adapted from the late 70s/early 80s television series of the same name, CHiPs showcased the worst of the buddy cop genre to pack in 101 minutes of juvenile jokes to mask a plot that has been portrayed a thousand times over. Created in poor taste and lambasted for a lack of originality, this movie was just an exercise in Shepard laying on his own style of witless banter as he leered at women. Waste of time and money.
Christopher Nolan has been criticized for creating films that are mechanical and cold, but none can doubt his credentials of developing pure masterpieces that are cinematically perfect. Dunkirk was a first for the British filmmaker in many respects, being a condensed PG-13 title that examined a real life historical event. The critics championed the feature for being a chaotic, fantastic and relentless picture that not only gave Harry Styles an acting debut, but pushed the boundaries for what can be achieved on an IMAX 70mm lens. Few directors are must-watch material, yet Nolan proved in 2017 yet again that his constructions are always worth the time to see at the theater.
All Eyez on Me (Worst)
There was a great amount of hope and optimism about All Eyez on Me, a biographical account of the late great rapper Tupac Shakur. His legacy would live on years after his murder in 1996 and with a cast that promised much, the reaction to the movie would be anything but as the bold choice of giving music video man Benny Boom the director’s reign severely backfired. It was viewed by critics as a Wikipedia-light version of Shakur’s life and times, being weighed down by issues that were not all that relevant before skimming over the serious matters he dealt with. The main star Demetrius Shipp Jr. acted and looked the part, but this was in spite of a screenplay that did not utilize his abilities.
Get Out (Best)
2017 was the year in which Jordan Peele transitioned from a one-dimensional comedy act to one of the boldest filmmakers in the business. Putting the issue of racial relations and the tensions that come with that right in the forefront of Get Out, the horror picture was viewed as a dark take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner meets The Stepford Wives. It is a movie that frights and provokes like few have done and while a sequel will be much talked about, Peele’s stock has risen while more offers float across his desk. If Get Out wasn’t big enough off its own accord, it inspired its own viral Internet challenge.
There is a growing concern in Hollywood that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson might be extending himself too far too soon with these reboots. With Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sexing up a 90s classic to ridiculous levels (if the trailer is any guide), then his attempt at modernizing Baywatch illustrated that the action star must become more selective with his creative choices from here on out. Written off as a lame, cheesy title that was anything but amusing, critics were longing for a witty comedy like 21 Jump Street or The Brady Bunch Movie. Throw in a dash of homophobia and a David Hasselhoff cameo, and this is a film that must contend for a Razzie.
The excitement was palpable months before the March 3 premiere arrived for Logan. Not only did it deliver on the promise, but it put a marker down for what a superhero movie can achieve. Stripped back was the CGI and large scale fighting sequences. Included by James Mangold was a modern R-rated Western tale that concluded Hugh Jackman’s time with Wolverine and Marvel. The feature could spawn an X-23 spinoff as Dafne Keen takes the mantle, yet whatever happens from this juncture, it was incredibly refreshing to see a blockbuster portrayed in this fashion. Ryan Reynolds is on the mark when he says that Logan should be getting serious Oscar buzz.
Power Rangers (Worst)
Of all the properties to develop into a darker, gritty modern reboot, Power Rangers was a genuine gamble. Aside from some viewers that went along to the theater to tune out and switch off for a couple of hours, those that actually paid attention were let down. Seen as a poor installment that was dripping with 90s nostalgia, not even a CGI cameo by Bryan Cranston could save this basic piece of superhero fodder. A handful of reviewers believed that the movie stayed true to the television series Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, yet once glance at that show would indicate that the characters and universe did not age well at all.
Baby Driver (Best)
There is a reason why Baby Driver scored a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Edgar Wright’s passion project delivered a heist musical for the ages, meshing a killer soundtrack with perfectly executed car chase sequences that made for a cinematic delight. The critics who are usually very seldom with their 5/5 star critiques were handing them out to Baby Driver like they were going out of fashion. Wright had planned this narrative out for a number of years as the Englishman is now considered one of the best artists in his field, joining the likes of David Fincher, Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino.
What do you think of the list? Did we miss anything?