The summer of 2016 was definitely not an eventful season for cinema, especially in terms of film ratings among critics. However, there were some highlights: here are some of the more notable films from Summer 2016.
To start things off, Pixar gave us some of their iconic magic in the long-anticipated sequel to their critically-acclaimed “Finding Nemo”. “Finding Dory” picks up where the original film left off, and this time, Dory takes the lead here and it’s amazing to watch. The plot centers around Dory (played by Ellen Degeneres), a . Due to the fact that she was separated from when water currents pushed her away from her home into the lonely ocean, the movie follows the lovable yet forgetful blue fish searching for her long-lost family. The characters added to the world in this movie are as memorable as the ones in it’s predecessor (notably Hank the Octopus, played by Ned O’Niell, who could honestly hold a movie with Dory by themselves). Late July gave us another special hit with “Nerve”, a film about two teens who get a little too involved in a virtual game of “truth or dare”. The film is based around the fictional app Nerve, which has players win money if they complete dares given to them by viewers, who pay to watch. The film is fun and the game is terrifyingly realistic (for the most part), and leaves you asking yourself: “Could this really happen in the real world?”
August gave us a film that blew everyone’s expectations right out of the water, that being “Sausage Party.” This film is an important film from this summer for many reasons, some more obvious than others. The first big point is that this has a hard R rating, and it uses this to its advantage to give raunchy, deadpan humor at a high caliber, although it still won’t shy away from a joke about things like genitalia and sex. Another thing to note is that critics thought this movie was going to bomb, and hard. The trailers made this look like a terrible movie that would go down in history as one of the worst animated movies of all time. However, it delivered. With a stellar cast featuring Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, James Franco and more, the writing was top-notch and the timing was spot on. So I guess you could say that this meal was expected to be a haphazardly thrown together mess, but turned out to be an amazing brunch with a bacon, egg and cheese with perfectly crisp bacon, wonderfully melted cheese, and scrambled eggs that brought more to the table than it needed to, and it pays off big time.
If you got hungry from the image of that breakfast sandwich earlier, then I really hate to turn your taste buds sour, but this summer definitely delivered more misses than hits, starting with “The Purge: Election Year”. With an election year on the rise, the third film in this horror franchise decided to take a political route, packing it with metaphors to the max, which simply weaken the whole package. Viewers knew going in this would try to be a big political metaphor, with the film’s ad campaign using Donald Trump’s famous quote “Make America Great Again.” The next America-related film didn’t fare much better, with “Independence Day: Resurgence” being a film that was made about a dozen years too late. Once again, we had an idea that this movie wouldn’t be amazing when we knew Will Smith wouldn’t be in it, and our suspicions were right. Director Roland Emmerich evidently made an attempt to even out his disappearance with adding a gargantuan cast: but truthfully, it makes the film too much to handle. 1996’s “Independence Day” gave us a feeling of America at it’s highest moment, and while it’s attempted to be recreated here, it’s not the same. Moving on, August delivered “Nine Lives”, which did nothing really but make us wish Kevin Spacey, the lead in the film, would stop production on all projects and just stick to House of Cards.
This category is the most important one here, mainly because of all the area it covers. To cover these in order of notoriety and effect it has on the industry and culture as a whole, the first film we’ll look at is Legendary Studio’s “Warcraft”, based off of Blizzard’s MMORPG “World of Warcraft”. This movie was one of the first major forays into the field of video game movies in the 21st century, and, to many gamers, it was absolutely vital that this movie succeeded. A lot of aspects of it did pay off: while there’s a lot going on in this movie, the central plot focuses on a war-driven species of Orcs who live in a dying land. In search of help, they seek the warlock Gul’dan (oh and by the way, get use to crazy names for characters). Gul’dan creates a portal to send the Orcs to the land of Azeroth, where they face conflicts against the humans who live there. One Orc, Durotan, believes that Gul’dan is evil, and attempts to join the humans. That’s a quick little summary, but trust me, this is a huge film with huge stories and so much going on at one that it’s hard to keep up if you’re not a fan of the lore in the World of Warcraft universe, fantasy or larger stories in general. On a positive note, a lot of CGI went into the creation of the Orcs, and it really, really pays off. Say what you want about the amount of characters, the fact that the Orcs are more interesting than the humans, confusing storylines and obvious sequel-bait, but the CGI shown here is amazing. In fact, it’s almost as groundbreaking as one of the most important movies in the digital world of CGI, “Jurassic Park.” It really is that outstanding.
So what’s the controversy here? Well, two things: “Is CGI going too far in films?” and “Should movies based on video games be made anymore?” For both these questions, the answer is that it depends on the film. For example, the Star Wars prequels were extremely CGI-heavy, but without it, how else would we get all those breath-taking shots of all the planets, like Mustafar, Corousant and Naboo? They were also based off of source material that never really had the need to be adapted or created, but without it, how would we get context to Anakin Skywalker’s rise and fall or Obi-wan Kenobi’s mastery of the force? Warcraft is a similar situation, just replace the breath-taking shots with Orcs and context to past events with the World of Warcraft video game. This topic will be better inspected in a separate article, but I’d keep these questions in mind.
Another controversial film, this time for superhero fans, was “Suicide Squad”, the DC superhero film about a ragtag group of fugitives brought together to save the world from being destroyed. If this sounds a lot like Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, don’t feel alone, because it very much is framed like a DC version of Marvel’s unexpected hit. The difference is, this wasn’t a hit, leading to our controversial question: Is there any hope for the DC Universe on the big screen? As of the start of the franchise, the best film is “Man of Steel”, unless you count the extended cut for “Batman v Superman”, which many probably wouldn’t as it wasn’t in theaters. I think the answer to this question is still “yes”, as San Diego Comic-Con gave us more than promising trailers for upcoming DC films “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League”. Could these films bring DC back from it’s bad reputation? Probably, as long as they’re both great. I still believe that the future is promising for DC, with a solo Batman film along the way, directed by Ben Affleck, who plays Batman, so that should be good. Besides, if anyone knows Batman better than anybody, it’s probably Batman.
The final controversial film that I’d like to discuss is the reboot to the 1984 sci-fi blockbuster, “Ghostbusters”. Unlike Suicide Squad, the controversy for this film was unleashed months even before initial screenings. The whole fiasco started when it was announced that the film would feature an all female crew of Ghostbusters. People were skeptical in the ability of women taking up the title of “Ghostbuster”, especially with the specific people given the role (many having been cast members of the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live). The tensions grew even higher when the first trailer released, with fans of the original responded to it with less than favorable thoughts. Feminists took to this in a very serious manner, and so began an intense social media crusade. If someone thought the film would turn out to be bad, you’d be known as a sexist pig who hates all women. If someone thought the film would be great, you were known as an ignorant moviegoer with bad tastes, not realizing what’s ruining the film industry. The issue was fully blown out of proportion, with everyone waiting for the film to come out to see what the result of all this would be. In the end, what it came down to was this: “Ghostbusters” had inconsistent reviews from large film media outlets, ranging from 5.5/10 on IMDb to 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Twitter war had ended there, mainly because of what critics said. While some were bigger fans of the film than others, most could agree on one thing: the Ghostbusters themselves weren’t all that bad. Notably, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones make the most of their performance as Jillian Holtzmann and Patty Tolan, respectively. What was particularly interesting about this was just the riot people stirred up over this film’s release. The film itself didn’t throw any punches at any particular group, feminists or film enthusiasts. It was just an okay film. It had some good elements, some bad elements, and it was just another movie. This is definitely something to think about for how you take situations and acceptance of something new.
Overall, this summer for movies was eventful at times, with hits surprising audiences every couple of weeks. However, there were some bombs along the way, and some films that brought out the worst in the internet crowd and certain audiences. Autumn brings a lot of promising films, like Doctor Strange, The Girl on the Train, The Magnificent Seven, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Trolls? We’ll see where the remainder of 2016 takes us, and I guarantee it will be very interesting.