The new Star Wars movie is casting a long, money-green shadow over the start of another year. But even juggernauts get displaced eventually. Here are some trends we can expect from 2016’s crop of films.
Winter will be good, bad and ugly
January and February have traditionally been seen as dumping grounds for movies that have no awards potential and limited box-office appeal. But it’s also the time when many of the Oscar contenders that opened in limited release in late December start to spread to cities smaller than New York and Los Angeles. So on the one hand we will see such potential stinkers as the animated Norm of the North (Rob Schneider as a sassy polar bear), Robert De Niro slumming in Dirty Grandpa, and Gerard Butler reprising his costume and acting style from 300 for Gods of Egypt. But on the bright side: Leonardo Di Caprio attacked by a bear in The Revenant; Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay in the excellent marital drama 45 Years; and foreign-language Oscar hopefuls Rams (from Iceland) and Mustang (France).
Sequels will have to prove themselves
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fine film that has also benefited from pent-up fan desire. But what of the next Star Wars film, Rogue One, due out in a year’s time and set just before Episode 4? Will it live up to the hype? Similarly, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot has been a critical and box-office success, but its first two chapters were an origin story and a retelling of The Wrath of Khan. Star Trek Beyond looks to be a wholly original tale, and has to distinguish itself as more than just a nostalgic echo of the 1960s TV series. Other sequels with high hurdles to clear: Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo; and Independence Day: Resurgence, a followup to the top-grossing film of 1996. Also, Underworld 5, which brings us to …
There will be sequels we didn’t think we needed
Kate Beckinsale has been starring in the original vampires v. werewolves franchise since 2003. But like Wolverine in the X-Men movies — and yes, there’s another of those this year too — Underworld’s supposedly immortal Selene is going to start showing her actual human age eventually. Similarly, the release of Ice Age (5): Collision Course raises the question of how long an ice age can last. And while fans of Ben Stiller’s dopey Derek Zoolander are pumped for this February’s sequel, the intervening 15 years has us wondering if Stiller, now 50, can pull it off. Also in the mix: Alice Through the Looking Glass, a sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 film, but without Burton directing; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, following the critical bomb but box-office success from 2014.
Remakes will come from a long time ago
Remakes of successful movie properties come hard on the heels of the originals these days — the 10-year gap between bad Fantastic Four reboots seemed an eternity. But 2016 will bring back some very old stories indeed. Ben-Hur was a Biblical epic first made in the silent era, then remade in 1959, becoming one of the most expensive films ever but also a runaway success. Now, a mere 57 years later it’s getting a third lap of the chariot track. From the same era comes The Magnificent Seven, which started as the 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai, and was remade in 1960 by John Sturges. Also coming soon, The Legend of Tarzan. Filmed versions of the ape-man have been appearing regularly since Edgar Rice Burroughs created the character in 1912; the newest stars Alexander Skarsgard. Relative newcomers include an all-female Ghostbusters, based on the 1984 comedy, and a new Friday the 13th; the original hails from 1980.
Kids will hang with beasts
These could also count as remakes. Steven Spielberg is working on an new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book The BFG (short for big friendly giant), in which a little girl orphan makes friends with an outcast giant. Meanwhile, Disney is preparing live-action remakes of two of its animated titles: 1977’s Pete’s Dragon, about an orphan boy and his pet; and 1967’s The Jungle Book, in which a boy (did we mention he’s an orphan?) is raised by wild animals. Finally there’s a reimagining of Jumanji, the 1995 Robin Williams film in which two kids play a board game that comes to life, releasing all manner of beasts.
Superheroes will be back
OK, to be fair they never really left. But 2016 features a bumper crop of titles, including new chapters in the X-Men and Captain America franchises (the latter will set up Spider-Man for a new standalone movie in 2017); and Batman v Superman, with a cameo by Wonder Woman. Among the anti-superheroes: Suicide Sqaud will feature The Joker and others being recruited by the government to do good deeds in exchange for clemency; Deadpool is about a Special Forces operative who becomes a mercenary after being endowed with super-healing powers; and Doctor Strange will star Benedict Cumberbatch as a neurosurgeon-turned-hero.
You can’t pigeonhole everything
There are unknowns in every movie season, and this year is no exception. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, directed by Harry Potter helmer David Yates and starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, takes place in the same universe as the Harry Potter stories but is set 70 years before the boy wizard’s adventures. Warcraft is based on the video game, which seldom bodes well, but it was also co-written and directed by Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), which bodes very well indeed.
I’m most looking forward to next December’s Passengers, a science-fiction story about a man in cryogenic sleep on a spacecraft who find himself alone when he wakes up decades too soon, so he decides to rouse another passenger. The script by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Van Helsing) landed on the black list of best unproduced screenplays almost a decade ago, and for a long while was attached to Keanu Reeves. It will now feature Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, with Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) directing. It’s not easy to categorize this movie, but it’s worth noting that the best films don’t always fit the trends. Sometimes they make them.