It’s a good time to be Franchise Fred because Hollywood keeps making franchise movies. Of course, only some of the franchise movies are Franchise Fred approved. While I liked X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass, and didn’t mind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’ve narrowed it down to the 12 best franchise movies of 2016.
12. The 5th Wave – The first movie adaptation of Rick Yancey’s YA alien invasion series was actually quite good. It got into the political morality of questioning authority in a way that’s digestible for its audience, and addressed the sexualizing of female heroes in these YA stories. Alas, it looks like the movie franchise won’t continue and that’s why we can’t have nice things.
11. Ouija: Origin of Evil – Considering the first Ouija movie was terrible even by the standards of generic ouija based occult horror, it’s amazing that the sequel was great. Actually, it was a prequel and even bucked my rule about not liking prequels, although if the original is bad perhaps inverse rules apply. I’m just waiting for the third film to finally tell us the true story of Mario’s brother Lou Ouija. My full review.
10. Finding Dory – Pixar’s franchise movies have been spotty. Toy Story 2 is one of the greatest movies of all time but I find Toy Story 3 an overrated retread of 2. Cars 2 is even worse than the original and invalidates its theme of slowing down with a loud noisy violent action movie. Monsters University was a prequel… But making Dory the lead character gave the film new heart and it’s a compassionate take on mental illness. It’s cute to say Dory has short term memory loss, but it’s effectively dementia, and she proves worthy of love even though caring for her is high maintenance.
9. Hard Target 2 – I watch all the straight to video sequels made to cash in on a forgotten name brand anyway and sometimes you get good franchise movies like the Universal Soldiers or Undisputeds. Really, they could have made any generic Most Dangerous Game adaptation with Scott Adkins and Roel Reine directing and it would be awesome. All the better that it was Hard Target 2. My full review.
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – The CGI turtles are still big and ugly, but the second movie actually made them endearing characters like the original cartoons and turtle suit movies. Too bad they already burned their bridge so we probably won’t see the Turtles for a while. Maybe they can get a gritty Netflix series instead. Surely Dave Green can go on to make more great childhood franchise properties.
7. Blair Witch – My perspective on the Blair Witch films is admittedly skewed. I didn’t like the original, so I thought Blair Witch 2 was a brilliant riff on the hype of the phenomenon. Blair Witch had it both ways, showing how to do a found footage horror movie in the woods right, and exploring the mythology of the characters further. Alas, original Blair Witch fans like bundles of sticks and piles of rocks, or they’ve just outgrown the franchise. My full review.
6. Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds got to make the movie he’d been talking about any time a fan or journalist asked him about Deadpool, and it proved to be exactly what the comic book genre needed. It also proved to be what R-rated movies needed (the ability to make Marvel money without a PG-13).
5. Rogue One – It may surprise people that Franchise Fred is ambivalent about Star Wars. It wasn’t my childhood, but I can appreciate a good action movie and Rogue One proved Star Wars could still be a great space action movie. In fact, just making a solid genre piece allowed Rogue One to take more risks like not setting up its characters for a sequel and being really effing dark. The so-called member berries are still there, but far fewer than The Force Awakens. If you’re wondering what the right amount of nostalgia in a franchise is, it’s Rogue One, exactly Rogue One. My full review.
4. Captain America: Civil War – Despite feeling a little Marvel fatigue, Civil War proved they can still put on a big show for their fans. Even with a more expansive cast than the Avengers movies, Civil War gave everyone something to do and introduced new characters brilliantly.
3. Neighbors 2- Sometimes the premise for a sequel proves even more fruitful than the original. Having a sorority next store to a suburban couple was even funnier than a fraternity, and brought up empowering women’s issues. I’m also just thrilled for women that they have a college party movie now. Growing up I had Revenge of the Nerds and the generation before me had Animal House to show them college was fun and make them look forward to going. Hopefully this encourages more women to go to college for the social experience, if not sororities.
2. Doctor Strange – Speaking of Marvel fatigue, this year they also gave us their greatest origin story yet. Doctor Strange is full of imaginative metaphysical ideas, each of which could have been their own movie, and perhaps will be explored further in sequels. This will be on my Best Movies of 2016 list also. My full review.
1. Ghostbusters – Not only is a Ghostbusters with four women instead of four men a great idea, someone should have thought of this way sooner. But, the group of four comediennes we got now made Ghostbusters the reboot we need. This will also be on my not exclusively franchise movies Best of 2016 list. With great jokes and badass ghost busting, I still hope we get Ghostbusters 2016 sequels. My full review.