There’s this thing in the movie world called the “dump months”. It’s the first part of the year when films that didn’t rate well just get dumped into theatres. But it seems while the first half of the year was getting dumped on, it just kept dumping and with the exception of a few it’s fair to say 2016 wasn’t an exciting year for film. However, it was an amazing year for indie film bringing some truly original and superb stories to the big screen.
The big films of the 2016 mostly revolve around the Marvel franchise, what with Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange and Deadpool in addition to the DC Comic franchise with Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad. Star Wars and the franchise that followed, Rogue One, were also at the top. But the top 5 highest grossing films for 2016 was actually children’s films. Finding Dori the sequel to Finding Nemo was the highest grossing in at number 1, followed by the Secret Life of Pets coming in at number 3. The Jungle Book, Zootopia and Moana all hold their place in amongst the top 15 grossing films of 2016.
So with that in mind you can see how aside from children’s film and the franchise films, there’s not much to remember of 2016. And even then some of those films, while they made a good return for the distributor, weren’t all that great. And that could be for any reason, be it the writing, the acting or the direction. Then you have little pockets of pure brilliance gracing the screens that sometimes get overlooked.
Some of the best films you might have missed this year, Swiss Army Man, Captain Fantastic and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Swiss Army Man is Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), though dead he is full of farts and helps a young man trapped on a deserted island get back to safety. While the subject might be a little risqué, it’s a hilariously original idea that sees everyone’s beloved Harry Potter play a corpse. While ultimately it’s a love story, it’s the ideas only a young child could dream and a very talented Director, or in this case Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, could bring to life.
Captain Fantastic is a beautiful look at a single parent family of 6 being home-schooled in the wilderness. It is a powerful look at family dynamics in a single parent family, a hilarious look at the differences between those that are home-schooled and those that aren’t and those that live in the wilderness and those that are city dwellers. Lead by the father played by Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings) who really shows his true natural talent as an actor. The film will easily make you laugh and cry because it’s sad and hilarious all at the same time.
And finally a little New Zealand film called Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It’s a film about a little boy who gets adopted and starts to trust the world again. But after a series of unfortunate events he ends up wandering through the wilderness with his adopted father who struggles to find common ground. It’s a beautiful look at the New Zealand countryside, a wonderful story and a brilliant journey. Starring Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), this film has that raw Kiwi humour that you can’t help but giggle at, even if they are being serious.
Aside from the little films no one saw, notable mentions that made the big screen include:
Sully – with an outstanding performance by Tom Hanks as Pilot of the US Airways flight that crashed in the Hudson River in New York.
Arrival – a truly unique approach to the alien invasion films.
Hacksaw Ridge – with brilliant direction from Mel Gibson tackling a gruesome World War 2 battle.
Deadpool – finally a hilarious take on the Super Hero films, an antihero.
Doctor Strange – a slightly different approach to the super powers of the Marvel world.
As with anything good, there must be some bad for balance. While all it takes is one good thing to make a film amazing, all it takes is one little bad part of a film to make it terrible. Here is a look at some of the worst films of 2016, excluding anything Adam Sandler had a hand in:
London Has Fallen – already a bad film made worse by Gerard Buttler’s acting. Or maybe he realised it was a dull film and then brought that to his character.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant – the first film had such potential, but while its fair to say the second in a trilogy is only filling in the gaps, this middle film just had nothing to give. And it seems there isn’t much hope for the final film, which is rumoured to not even make the big screen.
Batman vs Superman – this was never going to be easy after a stellar trilogy of Batman films by Christopher Nolan. The movie was dark and sad and didn’t bring any of the qualities that we have come to love of Batman or Superman.
And finally there was the film that had all the hype and never delivered, Independence Day. Sometimes there is just no need to have a sequel.
In addition to Independence Day, it was a year of sequels that suffered: Alice Through The Looking Glass, Zoolander 2, X-Men: Apocalypse, Now You See Me 2, The Huntsman: Winters War and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
With a dismal year of sequels and story lines that have no originality, 2016 oversold and under delivered. Yet it shined for independent film that here in Australia we need to invest in more. Not only because there are some amazing and wonderful stories to share to the world. But because there is so much talent in this country of ours that we owe it to the rest of the world to show them what we can do. Here’s to 2017.
Article by Jason “Ace” Cook