Last year was an enormous year for genre cinema, with franchise favourites such as Mad Max and Jurassic World making a return to screens, and stand-alone projects such as The Martian continuing a recent tradition of successful hard science films. It all culminated in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which made most of us weep with joy because it was the first decent Star Wars film in decades.
2016 is shaping up to be even bigger. The year is dominated by an overwhelming number of superhero films, as Marvel and DC compete against each other for the most successful franchise. And the year ends with another Star Wars film, as well as a return to the Harry Potter universe.
Continuing last year’s tradition, here’s a list of films I’ll be watching in 2016…
Deadpool (Feb 12)
Just a few short years ago, it seemed like this film was never going to get off the ground. Now we’re just a few short weeks away from seeing Deadpool, the X-Men’s most popular antihero, in his own big screen adaptation. The Merc with a Mouth is famous for breaking the fourth wall, and this should translate really well to screen. I say should, because…
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Deadpool on screen. The depiction of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) was universally hated by fans, but there seems to be unanimous agreement that Ryan Reynolds is, in fact, perfect for the role. It’s not often that an actor gets to reprise a role in a reboot after being so unpopular the first time around. Hopefully they won’t make the same mistakes again.
Midnight Special (Mar 18)
Writer and director Jeff Nichols’s first studio production is apparently inspired by the 1980’s films of John Carpenter, particularly Starman. This fact alone has me intrigued about the project, but it’s also assisted by a good cast.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Mar 25)
In a year full of superhero films, this promises to be the biggest. We finally get to see the much-awaited smackdown between the two most famous superheroes of all time.
Whilst 2013’s Man of Steel was designed to test the water and gauge the audience’s receptivity to further films, DC are using this film as the foundation for their entire future Extended Universe. It’s an ambitious plan, one that seems to be relying on the popularity of Batman and Superman alone to kickstart their franchise. Let’s hope that this film delivers what it promises.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
Civil War has long been one of my favourite storylines from the comics (sorry, haters), so I’m excited to see how this plays out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s hard to find a perfect balance between characters in these ensemble superhero films – Age of Ultron certainly suffered from an inbalance. Civil War has the rather unenviable task of completing the Steve/Bucky storyline that was started in The Winter Soldier, as well as focusing on the disintegration of the friendship between Steve/Tony Stark. Hopefully, the writers will have the good sense to tie these two storylines together… Perhaps Bucky’s background could cause friction between Steve and Tony (after all, Bucky is implicated in the deaths of Tony’s parents). It also introduces some guy called Spider-man into the MCU. A lot seems to be happening in this film, so finding balance will be the key to a successful narrative.
This is Marvel’s biggest film for 2016, and their main rival against DC’s Batman v Superman.
X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
The new cast of the X-Men series, coupled with the Cold War backdrop, has thoroughly reinvigorated this franchise. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence are excellent in their roles, and although Days of Future Past certainly suffered from having too many characters, watching these characters as they mature towards their older versions has certainly been a highlight.
Apocalypse will focus on the world’s first mutant, the titular antagonist, as he tries to do the same thing that all bad guys do – destroy the world, etc. Fun times ahead.
Independence Day: Resurgence (Jun 24)
I include this film on the list not because I am particularly excited for it, but because I’m morbidly curious to see how director Roland Emmerich will try to stretch the same tired idea into a new film. This strikes me as another example of an unnecessary sequel, a franchise resuscitated for the sole purpose of making money. And with it lacking the star power of Will Smith, I don’t have high hopes for this film.
The BFG (Jul 1)
This is going to be a real treat. Steven Spielberg and Roald Dahl have each had an enormous influence on the childhood of multiple generations; it feels right that Spielberg is adapting one of Dahl’s most beloved books.
As usual, there’s the danger that a film adaptation will fail to capture the magic of the novel. Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) absolutely butchered another of Dahl’s best novels. Yet Spielberg has always been known for his respect of the source material, so I have high hopes for this film. The teaser looks perfect…
The Legend of Tarzan (Jul 1)
July 1st is going to be an enjoyable day at the movies. As soon as I walk out of The BFG, I’ll be going straight into David Yates’s The Legend of Tarzan.
Apparently the plot of this film follows Tarzan as he returns to the jungle after living a civilised life in London. Hopefully it will give Yates the chance to explore that civilised/savage dialectic that drove Edgar Rice Burrough’s original stories. Tarzan seems to have bigger cultural appeal and fame than Burrough’s Barsoom series, so this movie hopefully won’t suffer the same fate as Disney’s John Carter (2012).
Ghostbusters (Jul 15)
Putting aside my natural cynicism about reboots, I am really excited for this film. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are two of the best comedians of their generation from SNL, and they feel like the natural choice to take over from Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd.
There’s so much to love about the original Ghostbusters film. Every single line of Bill Murray’s deadpan dialogue cracks me up, and Dan Ackroyd’s comical exuberance is perfectly countered by Harold Ramis’s serious-scientist routine. It is, without exaggeration, one of the best comedies ever made. So the 2016 reboot has a big task ahead of it, and I worry that it won’t be able to compare to the audience’s nostalgia for the original. But I’m willing to believe.
So much has already been written about the choice to reboot this film with a female cast. I’m surprised at the vitriol the news received from some fans, but I think it’s a progressive move towards gender equality by a Hollywood that is still male-dominated. For those interested, there’s an excellent article in the Independent about gender equality in films in 2016.
Star Trek Beyond (Jul 22)
As much as I love Star Trek, the first trailer for this film didn’t fill me with a lot of optimism. Director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) brought us a preview that felt more like a high-octane, low-intelligence car chase than the measured scientific intrigue of Star Trek. Sadly, that seems to be where this franchise is heading. Let’s hope the trailer was designed to pique interest, rather than being a true reflection of the film.
Suicide Squad (Aug 5)
DC’s film starring an ensemble cast of supervillains promises to be a refreshing break from all the other superhero movies this year. Jared Leto looks suitably manic as the Joker.
Gambit (Oct 7)
Another X-Men spin-off, but I’m not entirely convinced that this film will meet its October release date. Filming is due to begin in spring 2016 (autumn for us antipodeans), which doesn’t give it long for post-production.
Doctor Strange (Nov 4)
This has been one of my most anticipated Marvel films for a few years. Introducing Doctor Stephen Strange to the MCU signals a new direction for the franchise, adding a supernatural dimension to their shared universe. Benedict Cumberbatch is the perfect choice for Stephen Strange, an amalgamation of ethereal and regal, whilst remaining overwhelmingly British. The origins of the character – a gifted neurosurgeon who seeks spiritual enlightenment after a career-ending car accident – is a classic tale of hubris coming before a fall.
Civil War might be the biggest Marvel film of the year, but Doctor Strange will certainly be the most unique.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Nov 18)
This Harry Potter spin-off reeks of an unnecessary cash grab, but it’s supported by a fairly respectable cast and crew. Eddie Redmayne looks promising as Newt Scamander, and Colin Farrell has been known to deliver a decent performance on occasion. It is written by the incomparable J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates, who made the last four Harry Potter films and was responsible for wand duels becoming hyper-kinetic action pieces, rather than children waving sticks at each other like in the previous films. (This is the second film by Yates on this list, so it’s a big year for the director.)
Here’s the real question: will the world of Harry Potter still seem magical without Harry, Ron, and Hermione?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dec 16)
Of course, nothing compares to Star Wars. Rogue One is the first stand-alone Star Wars film, an ambitious move by Disney to expand the series beyond the core saga. Set just before the events of A New Hope, the story will follow a small group of Rebel spies on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star.
In terms of Star Wars lore, this ought to be an epic story. The sole existing teaser image (see below) looks gritty and dark. Director Gareth Edwards has proven adept at producing monster films with Monsters (2010) and Godzilla (2014), and now he takes a turn with the most famous space opera of all time. The cast looks promising, led by Felicity Jones and including Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, and Alan Tudyk. It is also the first Star Wars film to be scored by someone other than John Williams, with award-winning conductor Alexandre Desplat taking over the coveted position.
The film promises to be a welcome distraction from the interminably long wait to find out Rey’s parentage in Episode VIII, due out in May 2017. WHO IS SHE????
Looking back on this list, I can’t help feeling fairly cynical about the sheer number of franchise films, sequels, or reboots. Perhaps it says something about my taste in movies. Perhaps the marketing for these films is more aggressive than others, so that although I can look forward to the end of the year and know when the next Star Wars film will be released, I am unaware (yes, perhaps ignorant) of all the original genre films that will be released before then. Franchises make big money – it makes sense for film studios to prioritise them over original works. I’ve written about this subject previously, about Western culture’s obsession with nostalgia and the way Hollywood translates this into profit. It’s a sad trend for the film industry, with ideas/plots/series being endlessly recycled at the detriment of original ideas. The end of the year in particular seems heavy in spin-offs, with films such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One representing the first time that those two franchises are branching out into spin-offs. Let’s hope we get some quality genre films along the way.