2016 Summer Blockbuster Season: Theatrical Edition (collaboration with Quickfire Reviews)

Welcome to my first collaboration! I’ve teamed up with QuickFire Reviews to share out thoughts on the summer 2016 blockbuster season. To say its been an interesting one is an understatement and it has been filled to the brim with interesting lessons for all to learn. We’ve created a new ‘awards’, as such, and tried to include a real array of the films released over the summer period (March 2016 to August 2016, with a few extra additions from films that thrived in the summer but were released before). We'll have some agreements and some pretty big disagreements, so be sure to share your own thoughts too! Hope its an enjoyable read!

Take this as our 'theatrical edition' - who knows, a few other ideas were left on the cutting room floor - maybe we'll release the 'extended edition' soon!

1. Favourite film of the summer?

Nathan: Easy for me - Captain America: Civil War. I promise I won’t use too many cliches, but it really ticks all the boxes - it has a solid cast, intriguing storyline and central concept and brilliant action, while managing to balance the darker moments with some light and humour. It was crafted very effectively, changing the course of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe while impacting the wider superhero genre too. Its success was further highlighted by the failure of some of the season’s other genre offerings. Contenders for the runner-up positions are Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Ghostbusters and Zootopia!

QF: My favourite movie of summer 2016 is Captain America: Civil War. The action in this Russo Brothers directed installment is honestly some of the best I've ever seen, not to mention the amazing stunts. The cast all boast typically brilliant acting chops, and, as a whole, this thirteenth-entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, elevates the franchise – and comic book films in general - to greater heights, with an appropriate amount of sophistication and depth injected into a thrilling, high-energy 147 minute comic-book romp.

2. Least favourite film of the summer?

Nathan: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is easily my least favourite film of the summer. I hate comparing films, as each are crafted in their own right, but the similarities with Civil War (concept, genre and 'event' status) only emphasises how bad a film Dawn of Justice really is. It was all style over substance and tried to run before it could walk - I felt no investment in the two main characters because the film spent so little time establishing them beyond their basic character traits and what could have been an intriguing moral question is wasted by a poor script, structuring and editing. Everyone loses with Dawn of Justice - Batman, Superman, the DCEU and the audience. I also agree that Independence Day: Resurgence is pretty low on the summer list, as well as War Dogs.

QF: With all style and no substance, Independence Day: Resurgence is my least favourite movie of the summer. It's certainly enjoyable for those who desire nothing more than mindless action and it does has strong visuals. However, there is no heart to the picture, the smaller moments are terribly-bland not to mention the frustrating lack of urgency. I was also found it laughable to see how similar Resurgence is to the original Independence Day flick. I understand and accept franchises tend to follow a certain formula, but this installment didn't take the franchise to the places it should have. And, with a really terrible ending the sets up a third adventure, one can only hope it improves on this mess.

3. Biggest disappointment of the summer?

Nathan: Before the DC warriors come out with their pitchforks, I really, really wanted to like Suicide Squad, but after such an incredible marketing campaign, starry ensemble cast and killer soundtrack, they became a victim of their own success and heightened expectations with Suicide Squad. The final product was a bitter disappointment, with only a few redeeming features (namely Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn), and managed to squander so much potential with a letdown of a final product.

QF: The BFG was the biggest disappointment of the summer for me – now that's not to say it's a bad movie - because it's not. But as a fan of the original novel and 1989 animated TV movie, it lacked the darker aspects of the story that I so loved and appreciated – which I believe could have made for a stronger movie. The various locations on display are beautiful, the movie is full of charm, but I was overall let-down.

4. Most overrated film of the summer?

Nathan: I didn't love Deadpool as much as everyone else did. The impressive critical reception (84% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) was a little excessive for what is a pretty average film. It wasn’t nearly as subversive and progressive as it thought it was and was more formulaic than most admit it to being. I don’t think its a bad film and, somehow, its still one of the better superhero films of the year, despite it being underwhelming on the whole and rather overrated, but that says more about its cohorts than itself. I do admire the film, however, for the risks it took and I am glad they paid off for Fox.

QF: The Shallows is my pick for most overrated movie of the summer. Blake Lively literally carries the film brilliantly, but the movie in my opinion is undeserving of the positive critical reviews it has received (77% on Rotten Tomatoes). I found this thriller to be an enjoyable time at the movies, but like I said, overrated. My reasoning for this are due to scenes, that took themselves seriously, coming off unintentionally humourous, a horribly fake CGI shark and a ridiculously non-sensical ending. I found it to be nothing more, than an enjoyable rental.

5. Most underrated film of the summer?

QF: My pick for most underrated? X-Men: Apocalypse. I thought Apocalypse was a great villian, the cast once again have great chemistry and I loved the realism that comes with these movies, all the while never being dull. I fail to understand the less than stellar reviews. I does not push boundaries for comic-book films, the way Civil War did, but it still remains a thoroughly engaging entry in the long-running series.

Nathan: Time to move on from the superhero films (for now at least!). I absolutely loved Nerve - in a summer that felt the opposite, Nerve felt very original and inspired, standing out for all the right reasons. It didn't set the box office alight and the reviews (from both critics and general audiences) were mixed. I can nit-pick the film for its faults and flaws, particularly the moralising and melodramatic ending, but Lionsgate crafted an entertaining popcorn flick with some brain behind it that felt new, refreshing and under appreciated. it's exactly the type of film Lionsgate should be making in their post-Hunger Games future and the sort of small, original and exciting films that we need among the tentpoles. I also enjoyed The Boss, Now You See Me 2 and The Huntsman: Winter's War more than most, although I'll probably lose any shred of credibility for admitting that out loud!

6. Standout performance of the summer?

Nathan: Margot Robbie takes the crown for me, and is an absolute delight as Quinn, working so desperately hard to save the film. I appreciate how dedicated to the role she appeared to be, how much fun she brought to it and how she can flit between beautiful subtle acting and the bravado that otherwise defines her character - she truly is the reason I will give a proverbial Suicide Squad 2 the time of day (although, preferably, we’ll fast forward to a solo series and all be on our way).

QF: For me as well, the standout performances of the summer is Margot Robbie's energetic turn as the complicated Harley Quinn. In my opinion, she is the best thing about Suicide Squad. Jared Leto's Joker also showed hints of greatness, but that's all there was due to his much-discussed little screen time.

7. Biggest surprise of the summer?

Nathan: I was very worried about Finding Dory before it came out - as stellar and almost flawless as Pixar are, their sequels tend to be more hit and miss and I feared that Finding Dory would be a Cars 2 rather than a Toy Story 2. I had no reason to doubt them at all, as Pixar served up another heart-warming and entertaining film, following on from Finding Nemo all those years ago, and has turned out to be one of my favourite of their solid filmography. It’s a beautiful treat, both in terms of visuals and what it has to say about family, disability and ocean life, and an unforgettable journey all round. Also of note, Eye in The Sky and Money Monster were a welcome change of pace, surprising by simply being different to the usual mammoth-budgeted affair.

QF: Now for the movie which I deem the biggest surprise of the summer – the delightful Pete's Dragon, which has all the elements of a Disney classic. A great family movie with a terrific performance from Bryce Dallas Howard. In a summer of big blockbusters, I found this charming tale to be refreshing. I had no expectations or any real desire to see Pete's Dragon, but I'm whole-heartedly glad I did.

8. Biggest franchise misfire of the summer?

QF: As for biggest misfire, I'm going back to March with Allegiant. I adore the escapism that comes with this movie, and I am a big fan of the series. I was not however a fan of the high-tech, sci-fi direction they took with this third chapter, and splitting the novel into two unfortunately hurt the movie. Also, Suicide Squad's poor critical reviews is not a good sign for Warner Brother's DC Extended Universe. Every release in this comic-book franchise has received worse and worse reviews, and while they are making money for now, it's essential they start making better movies before even the most loyal fans lose interest.

Nathan: I'll have to agree - Suicide Squad was supposed to put the DCEU on the right track, but it instead added insult to injury and pushed (general) audience's patience a little more. If they don't get out of this rut of poor films and start building a stronger foundation, the franchise will be beyond saving. X-Men: Apocalypse really let me down too, and seemed to do the X-Men franchise more harm than good in the long run. After the rather fantastic Days of Future Past and refreshing the series with the off-kilter Deadpool, Apocalypse felt like a discouraging step back. It felt very rushed, recycled and, in places, rather boring. It did have its redeeming features - some exciting sequences and the three main leads - but it felt like a step back, rather than several steps forward.

9. Winning genre of the summer?

QF: Family films are the winning genre of the summer, for me. Movies like The Jungle Book, Zootopia, Pete's Dragon and Finding Dory were all fantastic all-ages entertainment. Family films were also the most consistent this year in terms of quality and had the perfect balance of style and substance. I only watched Zootopia for the first time ahead of this written-discussion, and I regret not seeing it earlier, as it now ranks high-up on my list of my favourite films of the year.

Nathan: As well as family films and animation, and at completely the other end of the scale, horror has really succeeded this year. Although I haven’t seen them all, The Purge: Election Year, The Shallows, Don’t Breathe, The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out have all very successfully waved the banner for horror this year, with most of them becoming critical success and all of them performing very commercially.

10. The film that deserves multiple viewings?

Nathan: Ghostbusters! I’ve personally seen the film three times in theatres and I'm not nearly bored with it. I have championed the film since the very beginning because of the phenomenal cast and I was so concerned about not enjoying the film the first time that, after my first watch, I let that fear leave me and so consecutive viewings were much more enjoyable. It's a very enjoyable popcorn summer flick that improved with more viewings.

QF: The film I think deserves multiple views is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was mixed on the film when I first saw it and while I still think it's flawed and problematic, it's a film I continuously enjoy and appreciate the more I watch it. I'm now interested in seeing will this the same-case scenario for Suicide Squad.

11. Best franchise next step of the summer? 

Nathan: Jason Bourne, while not a perfect film, definitely but the whole franchise back on the right foot after a serious misstep with The Bourne Legacy, in which the main protagonist does not appear! Reuniting Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass was definitely the smartest move the franchise could make in going forward and while the film did feel like a rehash of earlier instalments, it successfully reminded audiences of the grit and realism the franchise was ground in and set itself out from other spy films. 

QF: My pick for the best franchise-next-step is The Conjuring 2. I enjoy horror films – when they are done right – which unfortunately, in my opinion they rarely are. The Conjuring 2 did what is rare for sequels is be better than the first, which is absolutely fantastic to see. It not only had me in complete suspense, but told a wonderful story, with great characters. This franchise is now full-steam ahead, and if they continue to make Conjuring films with this level of quality, this could very well become a classic horror franchise.

12. Biggest game-changer of the summer?

QF: As I've said, Captain America: Civil War, in my opinion, elevated the Marvel Cinematic Universe to greater heights and is a game changer for the comic-book genre. Another undeniable game-changer is Deadpool – a crude, R-rated feature, with a character lesser-known to  mainstream audiences, that still managed to be a critical and box office success  Now, because of Deadpool, there is more and more discussion about releasing R-rated superhero films, which is a testament to it's success.

Nathan: I'll play Devil's Advocate here and say that Allegiant has been the biggest game-changer, but for all the wrong reasons. The Divergent series always paled in comparison to The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, for example, but to see it crash and burn on the penultimate hurdle - in terms of ticket sales, critic reception and general audience interest - is a real shame and Lionsgate are in a lose-lose situation going forward: they can either stand to lose money with the final instalment (as this third has already done) or disappoint fans by continuing down the rumoured television (without the main cast!). This could have been avoided had they not had tried to cash in and unnecessarily split the final novel into two, where the demand did just not exist. It will be interesting but rather uncomfortable seeing how they continue with this franchise. I do not envy them at all. on the flipped of the question, I would agree that Civil War has changed everything moving forward with the MCU.

13. "Against all odds" success of the summer?

Nathan: The Purge: Election Year really thrived in a commercial sense - interestingly, it is one of the only franchises to come out of the summer in a stronger position than it was going in, regarding box office receipts. It defied the odds of the summer (dying sequels) and crafted another thought-provoking and insightful entry into the horror-thriller dystopian series. It feels fresh and it still stands out in the horror landscape, three films in.

QF: Against all odds, Ghostbusters made for a really fun, entertaining movie that gave me what I wanted and expected out of it. Despite underwhelming promotion and mostly unwarranted backlash, the Paul Feig directed flick made for a feel-good, perfectly silly and fun summer popcorn film that doesn’t takes itself too seriously.

14. "Dead on arrival" film of the summer?

Nathan: Alice Through The Looking Glass was dead before it even arrived in cinemas at the beginning of the season. Essentially, it was a sequel that no one asked for, to a film that no one, really, liked. I can see why Disney were tempted, given the fact that Alice In Wonderland became one of the first films to clear $1 billion (before it became a regular thing), but it stood out for all the right reasons 2010 (star names with Tim burton and Johnny Depp on board, the first ‘big’ use of 3D after Avatar, an exciting marketing campaign) but fast forward six years and it simply became another ‘tentpole of the week’ that quickly burned out. It has just finished its domestic run, earning way less in its entire run than the original’s opening weekend confirming my suspicions that it was dead on arrival.

QF: Alice Through the Looking Glass is the film of summer 2016 that I deem dead on arrival. Perhaps if it was released one or two years after the 2010 Tim Burton directed picture, Through the Looking Glass would have been more sucessful. However general audiences have moved on, there seemed too be no hype or excitement surrounding this release, so I predicted it wouldn't do well financially, and alas, this undeniably unnecessary release didn't.

Round Up & Looking Forward:

Nathan: Summer 2016 for cinema has been a very mixed one, to say the very least. Feeling very uninspired in places, mainly due to a saturation of tentpoles and franchises and sequels, it did have its bright moments and the better films were all the more appreciated. 

I am beyond excited for Passengers starring Chris Pratt and, my absolute favourite, Jennifer Lawrence, as well as Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train. As the Oscar season kick starts in the coming week, it will be interesting to see the Best Picture contenders step into the spotlight.

I am already excited for summer 2017, with Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Dunkirk, Homecoming and Fast 8 already my standouts.

QF: The 2016 summer movie season is over – overall there wasn't as much great movies this summer, as a whole it was a let down, but still had some gems in there.

We can still expect some hopefully great entertainment before the year is out. I am particularly excited for Passengers starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. My most anticipate movie would have to be Fantastic Beast and Where To Find Them. 

Next summer has many films I'm very much looking forward to, namely Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man Tells No Tales, Wonder Woman, Spiderman: Homecoming and Dunkirk.

From both myself and QuickFire reviews, thank you for dropping by and be sure to check out the rest of our content. We may look into updating this post with extended and new answers, so be on the look out for that too. Thanks again and enjoy the movies!