Feature: Review of 2016
2016 was a fascinating year for me. I enjoyed watching a wide range of films, some that were more pleasing than others. As a quick overview here are some lessons that should be learned for 2017.
Animation isn’t just for kids
I am yet to see Kubo And The Two Strings or Moana (I know, shameful) but for me Zootopia/Zootropolis was my favourite film of the year. On the one hand it could be enjoyed as a funny story with anthromorphic animals, on the other there was a deeper and sadly all too relevant message about tolerance and society that is likely to resonate beyond 2016.
The superhero formula needs shaking up
As someone who writes a superhero comic I personally love a good superhero film and contrary to popular belief there are a lot of ways to utilise these characters. The Dark Knight was a mature thriller while Mystery Men was a deceptively smart pastiche of the more day-glo blockbusters of its time.
This year saw a decidedly mixed bag. I for one enjoyed X-Men Apocalypse even though it did feel like a scaled down version of the ’90s cartoon version of the story (while I respect Bryan Singer we need Norwich City colour uniform Southern Belle Rogue on screen for the next reboot!)
Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were divisive and in my case I had a Two-Face style reaction to them; on the one hand there were moments of silliness that reeked of studio meddling but then there were character moments and cool sequences that suggested DC could yet pull it out of the bag.
Of course Marvel turned up to the party with their cocksure strut however I don’t think Captain America: Civil War is the perfect product that some lavish praise on. I feel that the villain was a bit underwhelming (for better examples of Daniel Bruhl I recommend Goodbye Lenin and Rush) and its ending was a bit too neat. However the airport scene was brilliant, Black Panther and Spiderman were introduced/re-introduced superbly and it mostly delivered.
And then they turned up with Doctor Strange, a delightfully trippy twist on the genre that suggests there may still be some surprises to come.
The curious case of Quentin Tarantino
Pulp Fiction is rightly revered in scriptwriting books, all-time lists and student dorm room walls. However for me his work since has never quite matched up. I personally find Inglorious Basterds to be overrated, while Django Unchained was also uneven though in both cases Christophe Waltz’s charisma went a long way!
The Hateful Eight was something I saw at the start of the year and was hyped for. At the time I enjoyed it but the more I looked back elements bothered me. There is a difference between being a bit un-PC and going almost all out to offend for no real reason. Furthermore Tarantino is a master of dialogue so falling back on these words reduces the shock value they’re supposed to have.
Of course Tarantino has earned the right to do what he wants and I respect his craft. With his desire to retire after the next few films (we’ll see!) I really hope he can find a project that highlights his strengths, both in terms of his gifts with plot structure and dialogue.
Ghostbusters 2016: Sony’s Big Mistake
It’s impossible to look at this year without mentioning the awkward elephant in the room that was Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot. What annoys me about this is the fact that this was condemned while similar tin-earred reboots like Ben Hur or Annie sank without trace.
Personally I don’t think it’s as bad as people make out. Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth in particular provide enough laughs to compensate for the awkward tone and there is a neat upgrading of the technology that allow for some inventive action sequences.
Where I feel Sony missed a trick was by not following the Extreme Ghostbusters route. For those who don’t know this came out around the time of the Men In Black cartoon and essentially was a passing of the torch from one generation of ghostbusters to the next. At the time people bemonaed its PC crew of a hispanic ghostbuster, a female goth ghostbuster, a ghostbuster in a wheelchair and an african-american ghostbuster who looked a bit like Carlton from The Fresh Prince.
This would also allow for Sony’s bizarre obsession with “universes”, essentially making Ghostbusters a franchise and a legacy that can be passed on. Sadly what we got with the film was a mishmash of new elements and references to the old franchise.
Essentially the lesson for Sony is this; don’t get overly defensive, don’t try to establish spinoffs before the film is complete and don’t anatagonise the people buying the tickets (while I don’t defend some of the more vitriolic responses it clearly didn’t work!)