2016: Blockbuster Beatdown
Millions rallying behind a man who crudely tells it like it is…or at least his skewed version of the truth. Openly misogynistic rhetoric flooding social media; some of which lamenting the loss of the good ole days. Hordes of people rejecting that which was once considered a sure bet. In a strange way, it can be argued that the blockbusters of 2016 were very reminiscent of the recent, and historic, United States presidential election.
It was a year where audiences wanted change from the cookie cutter films that studios had been feeding them for the last few years. So it should come as no surprise that one of the biggest hits this year came from the Merc with a Mouth better known as Deadpool. While studios have spent years doing everything in their power to avoid an “R” rating, once considered an automatic revenue killer for any would-be franchises, Deadpool gleefully embraced its crude humor and bloody action. Grossing over 782 million dollars worldwide, the film was a revelation for studios looking to find new ways to revitalize their superhero franchises.
Like Olympic runners slow out of the starting blocks, several studios are now sprinting to catch up to Twentieth Century Fox’s lead in hopes of getting their share of the potentially lucrative R-rated pie. The upcoming Wolverine film, simply titled Logan, looks to be the next film to covet a more adult-centric audience.
This is not to say that PG-13 superhero films are on their way out. Marvel proved once again with both Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange that they still have the market cornered when it comes to family friendly superhero entertainment. Civil War not only had audiences raving, but left them salivating for both the Spider-Man: Homecoming and the Black Panther films, which will be debuting in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Despite controversy surrounding the whitewashing of traditional Asian characters, Doctor Strange succeeded in giving viewers the world-bending thrill ride they desperately craved. Similar to Deadpool, Doctor Strange truly felt innovative compared to other films within its genre.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to thrive, the DC Extended Universe is still struggling to find its footing. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad opened in the number one spot in their respective weekends, but both were plagued by poor reviews from critics and less than stellar word of mouth from audiences. While the DC Extended Universe still has hotly anticipated titles such as Wonder Woman and Justice League coming down the pipe, one wonders when their franchise will have that universally beloved hit on par with Marvel’s The Avengers or Iron Man?
The DC Extended Universe was not the only franchise to hit a rough patch in 2016. In fact they were riding high compared to many other well-known franchises whose sequels were dead on arrival. If there was one lesson to learn from the blockbusters of 2016, it is that fans are tired of eating lukewarm leftovers of films they already love. Movies like Independence Day: Resurgence, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, all failed to recapture viewers’ imagination this time around.
Even the titles that made their money back, when factoring in the worldwide box office, had problems connecting with domestic audiences. Star driven vehicles such as Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, X-Men: Apocalypse, Star Trek Beyond and Ghostbusters seemed to divide longtime fans of those properties.
In regards to the latter, Ghostbusters had a particularly rough time as it endured months of sexist fueled hatred on social media prior to anyone even seeing a single frame of the film. As progressive as we would like to think society has become, the venom and personal attacks spewed at the all-female cast was disheartening to witness. Despite the success of reboots like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both of which featured strong kick-ass female characters, it seems there are some who are still reluctant to give up that old boys club mentality.
Fortunately, if the success of films like Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – films that along with The Jungle Book continued Disney’s box office dominance in 2016 – are any indication, then the trend of female driven narratives and diverse casts will, thankfully, continue. Rogue One also gets the honor of being the most important of all the blockbusters to be released this year. Collecting mostly rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, the film not only proved that audiences have an insatiable appetite for all things Star Wars, but it also allowed the franchise to expand its possibilities from a cinematic storytelling standpoint.
2016 may not have been a stellar year for blockbusters, but it was a strong year for those who enjoy films that have more substance than the regular popcorn fare. Plus, as history has shown, most people will only remember the good stuff anyways. Honestly, unless you are a hardcore cinefile you probably have already forgotten that films like Gods of Egypt even came out in the same year as the latest Star Wars film. When it comes to big budget movies, the force of the good ones will always overshadow the dark side.