It may have been the year of Sully and Leo’s big Oscar win, but 2016 was undoubtedly the year that overdosed on sequels. Though, most of them didn’t quite cause the happy high that you’d have liked.
Truth be told, if I were to pick the only sequels that really worked for me from the glut that hit screens this past year, you’d be surprised. Ice Age: Collision Course, Kung Fu Panda 3 and Finding Dory — every single one of them not even warranting a PG rating — were easily the most enjoyable. Sure, none of them figured in the list of highest grossing films, but hey, it takes a lot more than a great story and some cutting-edge animation to ease Marvel and DC out of their BO bounty. I’d have to say, Jon Favreau’s splendid, childhood memory-laden take on Mowgli in The Jungle Book came awfully close.
I’m not going to win too many brownie points for this call, but I’m going to say it anyway — I thought that Sully and the Mark Ruffalo-Kevin Costner starrer Spotlight were way more entertaining than Leonardo DiCaprio’s brutal trapper tale The Revenant. Maybe I’m just too metropolitan in my outlook in cinema or maybe I just like shorter films, but I’m firmly behind the Academy on this one. Especially if they give it to Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) next year. Hint hint, much?
This year, the scare quotient was abysmally low. The sequel to The Conjuring was fun, but ran more on retrograde nostalgia than anything else. One movie that did succeed in scaring the living daylights out of me without needing a single ghost, ghoul or spirit of any sort was Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe. Moral of that story? Don’t ever diss a blind man. Like ever. Jokes apart, it was also a victory of sorts for filmmakers who depend on sheer technique and good old-fashioned scare tactics like light and shade over VFX generated in Bengaluru and Iran.
Two other original scripts that I thought slipped past sans much fanfare were Chris Pine’s Coast Guard drama The Finest Hours and George Clooney’s slick Money Monster. The former could well end up being one of Pine’s finest but the latter isn’t anywhere close to being in Clooney’s ‘Best Of…’ cabinet. But they’re still a far sight more entertaining than overrated budget-bloats like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’d normally wonder what Zack Snyder was thinking, except I sort of got where his attention was after watching the Wonder Woman trailer. Like, duh.
Up, up and away
The only superhero movie, notwithstanding the whole big bash between superheroes that we got to see in Captain America Civil War, that was truly worth it’s salt was Doctor Strange. Driven primarily by Benedict Cumberbatch and not so much by a cult following, it was one of those rare movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that didn’t need a special appearance by Iron Man to get those cheers rolling. By the way, Deadpool was infinitely as cool as Ryan Reynolds was foul-mouthed, but it was so lame-ducked on the story front that I wondered if they knew they weren’t making a spoof. The absolute worst of the lot was a toss-up between Independence Day: Resurgence and X:Men Apocalypse, which only made we wonder ‘Why, why and Why?’ in varying degrees of exasperation.
A lot of people have been calling 2016 the Year of the Reaper. No offence to the faithful Wham! fans out there, but as far as Hollywood’s concerned, it was well and truly the Year of the Saturated Sequel. My math will never quite match the standards set by the on-screen Ramanujan in The Man Who Knew Infinity, but it’s easy enough to see that more than half of Hollywood’s releases that actually made it to India were — you guessed it — sequels.
Here’s a fun fact. 2016 had a Captain America movie, a Star Trek sequel, a Star Wars movie, one more Ice Age and Kung Fu Panda respectively, and the inevitable X:Men flick. I watched them all. Duly. Consciously. Mostly awake. Looking back though, I wouldn’t lose sleep trying to get them on VoD or even scour torrent sites trying to download and re-watch any of them. Why? Because they simply weren’t the films that stood out the whole of this year.And believe me, I’m not panning any of these big ticket franchise flicks, because I think they’re overloaded with cheap thrills and inflated box-office returns. Heck, I love the cheap thrills. It’s just that I thought Tom Hanks’ Sully and Eddie Redmayne’s gender-bending The Danish Girl were a lot more fun. Besides making for much better cinema, naturally.
To cap it off, there were a few redeeming bright spots this year, but they were still too far and few between to withstand the onslaught of the insipid sequel.
I can only pray, on both knees if it warrants it, that the gazillion more that are to come in the next few years aren’t quite as grating on the central nervous system. And there are more movies like Spotlight.
Movies that you need to catch on DVD
■ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Will work wonders for both Harry Potter fans and muggles. Insanely fun storyline and some great magic to boot
■ Queen of Katwe
One of those rare biopics that can move you and make you laugh in equal measure. Story of a young girl from Africa who dreams of becoming a grandmaster at chess
The gripping, dramatic
retelling of how a pilot made a forced water landing on the Hudson River and didn’t lose a single life in the bargain. Tom Hanks’ best in a while
■ Don’t Breathe
Three young burglars go from hunters to being the hunted when their mark — a blind, old man — knows his dark, isolated house better than them
■ Money Monster
George Clooney is a smooth-talking money advisor on a TV show when a man who lost his savings after punting on his investment advice holds him up with a gun, on air
■ The Jungle Book
Everyone’s favourite jungle tale, in an animated, rebooted, larger-than-life version. Watch it for the kid who plays Mowgli and the rejigged song and dance sequences
Based on the investigative team of a newspaper which unearthed the sex scandal that the Catholic Church had been hiding for ages. An ode to journalism
■ The Danish Girl
Eddie Redmayne’s breakthrough role as a man who is transitioning into a woman, with the help of the woman who loves him. Drama, much
■ The Magnificent Seven
A remake of the old western with a star-studded cast that includes Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. Plenty of shooting and talking. Great entertainment value
The superhero film with more beeped out than was left in. You’ve a much better shot watching this on DVD or in a language like Tamil or Hindi
Sequels that rocked
Ice Age: Collision Course
Captain America: Civil War
The Conjuring 2
Sequels that bombed
Underworld: Blood Wars
Bridget Jones’s Baby
By Daniel Thimmayya.