We know what you saw last summer

Following the monumental success of both Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War earlier in the year, the summer blockbuster season promised much and was met with high expectations. Unfortunately, these were not met and it would be fair to say that 2016 has been far from a vintage year, especially for studio filmmaking. Despite some exceptions, the summer months saw a succession of utter disasters.

Of the large-scale studio films, the much-maligned Warcraft became the latest addition to the long line of underwhelming films based on video games, while the long-awaited Independence Day: Resurgence and the latest remake of Ben-Hur were both resounding critical and commercial failures. Likewise, Now You See Me 2 was a sequel that nobody asked for, David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan was an adventure film that lacked any sense of adventure and X-Men: Apocalypse’s dull villain, recycled plot and a weak third act made it a forgettable entry in the long-running series.

Yet, the title of the summer’s biggest disappointment must go to Suicide Squad – a considerable achievement, considering the wealth of competition. Despite Margot Robbie’s superb portrayal of Harley Quinn, the film suffered from an incoherent plot, Jared Leto’s shortage of screen time and none of the of anarchic excitement promised from the trailers.

Nevertheless, not every blockbuster released this summer was a disappointment. Jason Bourne, Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon’s return to the acclaimed franchise, was fortunately more inventive than its title and a worthy successor to the original trilogy. Its stunning opening action sequence, which takes place during an austerity riot in Athens, is one of the year’s best and sets the film’s electric pace. Pixar also succeeded with their return to a beloved amnesiac character with Finding Dory. Funny and touching, the sequel ranks amongst the animation studio’s best. Star Trek Beyond and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic The BFG were also well-received, despite the latter being a rare box-office flop for the great director.

“Warcraft became the latest underwhelming film based on a video game”

As an antidote to the inundation of sequels and franchise films, the summer saw the release of some excellent small and independent films. Café Society was a welcome return to form for Woody Allen; charming, witty and beautifully-shot, the film is the director’s funniest in years and featured a fantastic performance from Kristen Stewart. Sing Street, the third film from John Carney, tells the tale of Dublin teenager who forms a rock band in the hope of winning a girl’s heart. The film’s young cast, its soundtrack and Carney’s use of the 1980s setting are all superb; making it one of the best films of the year so far.

Another film that would challenge for that title is Hell or High Water, a tense, taut and character-driven thriller, which stars Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine, whose excellent, understated performance is comfortably his career best. 

Overall, the summer season must be viewed as a significant disappointment – there were too few shining lights amongst the inundation of sub-standard blockbusters. However, the early release and success of Deadpool, Civil War and The Jungle Book as well as the fact that Doctor Strange and Rogue One are yet to come is encouraging and shows that the summer blockbuster season may be a thing of the past. 

Dan Haygarth

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