BEST: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD
One of the underrated DreamWorks Animation somehow gets bypassed when talking about film franchises. It all started with a young (yet odd) boy named Hiccup meeting a dragon, Toothless, after he shot him down. From there, it unraveled a gentle and touching series with how people can learn to cope and respect the presence of dragons. Friendships grew between them, but the enemies were the ones willing to use dragons to assert their power and dominance over others. It goes out of its way to make humans question how we should live with other species thanks to striking visuals, enjoyable sequences and an unbelievable amount of depth.
WORST: FIFTY SHADES FREED
It pains this writer to include this one on the list, but it does go to indicate something. No matter how much coitus or foreplay goes into a single film (or series), it must be done to engage us further into the storytelling or character arcs. In this franchise, it’s a baffling disappointment of clumsy performances, poorly-written screenplays, and a lack of central focus. If the Fifty Shades films are trying to pull us into a story of love, they are floundering in this objective and somehow making it tormenting to view its sadomasochistic affair. Dakota Johnson did her best here to give a noteworthy performance, but she deserved better. Jamie Dornan’s character has all the charisma and muscles but is a stale representation of the male side in any relationship. This series is lifeless, and the actors and production team seem to be on board with that sentiment.
BEST: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Christopher Nolan created a Batman trilogy that will rank amongst the most talked series in superhero (and general) film history. Yes, The Dark Knight Rises ends the franchise with some bold storytelling, compelling character arcs, and beautiful final touches in the last act. This was arguably the first superhero franchise finale to leave such an impact that many filmmakers will aspire to look up to in the future. Its predecessor, The Dark Knight, left much more of a bang with the phenomenal work of Heath Ledger’s Joker and the film’s thriller tone. But having Rises push the fallibility of Bruce Wayne even further and creating a new, unexpected hero make it one hell of a consolidation prize.
WORST: STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
After the incredible performance of J.J. Abrams’s The Force Awakens and the controversiality of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, the Star Wars Saga was ready to bring itself to a 42-year conclusion with The Rise of Skywalker. And boy, oh boy, did it fall completely short of expectations. A convoluted mess of a film that spends way too much time retconning its predecessors, and adding absurd plot twists and reversals just to remind one of the first three films in the saga (or the backlash The Last Jedi endured in 2017).
Then it gets even more preposterous when this film spends WAY too much time focusing on plot than character, stealing ideas from other films and lousily reintroducing us back to Emperor Palpatine (in which it is still not explained how he is still alive). Add in what we believe was a deliberate rip-off of a scene from the final act of Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame (which coincidentally released in the same year) and you have a movie that spends excessive time absorbing the past and not crowning its future. So many tricks and secrets pulled out in an over two-hour feature that it becomes an atrocious mediocrity of a finale.
The film enjoys this narrative of getting to a destination, so the audience can then get bombarded with new details. Kind of reminds this writer of other films that fell in that same trope and also failed (aka Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald). The Rise of Skywalker may satisfy fans of nostalgia, but it crumbles in the territory of being something worthwhile and is a definitive disappointment.
BEST: AVENGERS: ENDGAME
Marvel Studios delivered big time after the heartbreaking cliffhanger in Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos won, our heroes lost and half of the universe’s population vanished from existence. Endgame built off this and pushed above and beyond in a jaw-dropping finale that concluded Marvel’s Infinity Saga. It was exciting, hilarious, touching and a sensational three-hour feature that forced people to hold their bladders and rejoice in the beautiful third act when all the heroes banded together to fight. The characters, action, visuals, music, direction, and storytelling were off the charts thanks to an emotional vibrance and valiancy of the production team.
This is a rare feature that will always yield some type of catharsis no matter how many times one watches it. From the iconic action to the touching call-backs, this finale properly rewards fans that have watched all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films preceding it and then some. A generation passed, and Endgame will continue to live in our hearts as one of the best superhero films of all time. We love it 3000.
WORST: JAWS 4: THE REVENGE
This is the epitome of how you make a film bad in every manner possible. After the successful launch of Jaws in 1975, we somehow get three unnecessary sequels. The fourth and final film was despicable, painful and makes no sense. The fact that a shark can swim from a Massachusetts Islands to the Bahamas in less than three days is implausible. It is simply a bad film and a terrible ending to this franchise. Heck, they shouldn’t have even made another sequel after the 2nd one.
(Part 3 will be available for reading soon)