Can we all agree 2016 was a very mediocre year at the movies?
The blockbusters were a bust (everything bar Marvel and Disney), big name directors like Steven Spielberg stumbled (The BFG) and potential awards winners struck out: Nate Parker’s hackneyed Birth Of A Nation was DOA at the box office and if there’s a duller movie this decade than Martin Scorsese’s Silence I’ll eat my rosary.
Only animation provided a guaranteed good time with the likes of Zootopia, Moana and The Secret Life Of Pets. Oh, and Dwayne Johnson. Central Intelligence was a hoot.
So how is 2017 shaping up? Is Hollywood on an irreversible slide towards tedious spectacle geared at the international marketplace (thank you China) or are there slivers of hope?
The good news is that this year the blockbusters should be much better.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk promises to be that rare thing: an original blockbuster about a weighty subject. The evacuation of Allied forces from the beaches of France in 1940 “is one of the greatest stories in human history, untold in modern cinema” says the Brit. You can’t fault the man’s ambition. He’s even trying to launch Harry ‘One Direction’ Styles’ movie career, casting him alongside heavyweights Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Nolan regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.
War For The Planet Of The Apes should also be a blockbuster with a brain, continuing the smart reboot of the franchise, this time with Woody Harrelson as a Colonel Kurtz-like elite commando.
Writer/director Matt Reeves cites Paths of Glory and The Bridge On The River Kwai as inspirations. No harm in that.
The jury’s still out, however, on Kong: Skull Island, a questionable King Kong reboot set at the tail end of the Vietnam War with Tom Hiddleston mixing it up with Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly. The latter looks like he’s over-acting while ropey special effects and cheesy tone suggest it’s a contender for the so-bad-it’s-good category.
Is there a more flogged to death franchise than Alien? After 2012’s damp squib prequel Prometheus director Ridley Scott is promising a much more terrifying follow up in the form of Alien: Covenant and there is plenty of gore in the trailer. But why does Michael Fassbender have to star in everything these days?
Ridley Scott is also behind Blade Runner 2049, sequel to his 1979 sci-fi classic but with Arrival’s Denis Villeneuve directing and Ryan Gosling joining Harrison Ford as another Replicant hunter. Does the world need it? We’ll find out in June.
Of the superhero movies, we can count on Marvel with Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 which introduces Kurt Russell as the long lost father of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord.
The super fresh-faced new Spider-Man played by 20-year-old Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming should also deliver, boosted by the mentoring presence of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man.
Sony is co-producing with Marvel Studios for the first time after reaching a shared “joint custody” arrangement.
Warner Bros is hoping Wonder Woman can restore some lustre to DC Comics after the panned Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad. Fanboys have already fallen for Gal Gadot’s heroine. But the First World War setting doesn’t suggest many laughs.
In the ‘who cares?’ category file Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, Wolverine flick Logan and The Mummy in which Tom Cruise goes all Mission Impossible against some ancient Egyptians.
Most intriguing sequel of the year is Trainspotting 2—oddly being marketed as T2. Danny Boyle has finally buried the hatchet with Ewan McGregor (they fell out after Boyle cast Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach nearly two decades ago) and reassembled the original cast.
Only very loosely based on Irvine Welsh’s 2002 follow up novel Porno, it has the potential to be a cracking mix of nostalgia and acid contemporary commentary. Robert Carlyle says John Hodges’s script made him blub: “I’ve never cried when I read a screenplay before. Ever.”
Pixar promises to have another monster hit with the Dia De Muertos-inspired Coco from Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich about a 12-year-old Mexican village boy who enters the Land Of The Dead and solves a centuries old family mystery.
But personally, I’m most looking forward to The Lego Batman Movie. The wisecracking Caped Crusader, voiced by Will Arnett, might just banish memories of The Batfleck.
What more could you ask for in 2017?