When we sit down at the end of the year and reflect back on 2016, it will probably be with an overwhelming sense of disappointment and anger. On the face of it, 2016 has been pretty much awful. There have been terrible natural disasters, questionable political decisions, so many celebrity deaths and a PowerPuff girls reboot. On the face of it, it seems that world has gone mad. But we have short memories. Our capacity for remembering negative things far outweighs our ability to recall positive things. So, I’m here to say that 2016 wasn’t all bad. I mean, yes, it was bad. Unspeakably bad. But, if you’re a television and movie geek like myself then 2016 has brought you some amazing gems.
Personally, I kicked off 2016 by binge-watching my way through the epic BBC drama War and Peace because, of course, none of us are going to read War and Peace so why not have it spoon-fed to us in handy little episodes? High-brow drama kept us feeling smug and with a sense of superior intellect throughout the year with Jenna Coleman ditching “Doctor Who” and staring as Victoria in the eponymously titled series. Towards the end of the year, Netflix treated us with ten one-hour-long episodes of “The Crown,” which saw Claire Foy star as a young Queen Elizabeth II and make us all immediately re-watch 2015’s Wolf Hall.
If historical drama wasn’t your thing, 2016 still brought us plenty more, especially if you love comic book culture. Both Marvel and DC lit up both big and not-so-big screens this year with what can only be described as a jackpot of superheroes. DC’s “Legends of Tomorrow” brought us not one but two seasons in 2016, being quickly picked up for a second season just halfway through the first. “Legends of Tomorrow” is a spin off from the popular “Arrow” and “The Flash” series and exists in the same universe and paved the way for the most epic crossover yet.
“Supergirl,” a surprise ratings winner on its new home on The CW network aired its second season in October 2016 and just two months later DC fans were treated to a crossover busting with action and in-jokes. Over the course of four days the series “Supergirl,” “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Legends” all came together as the CW showed why it has become the home of DC’s TV offerings.
Marvel wasn’t about to be outdone and treated us with a season of “Luke Cage,” announcing its own renewal for a second in December. Many of us first heard about Luke after watching the award-winning “Jessica Jones,” which has also been renewed for a second season as the battle between DC and Marvel continues to rage.
But it wasn’t just on our goggleboxes at home that we were spoiled. 2016 brought us the epic comic book hero battles that never was with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman v Superman was a good movie, but I couldn’t help but feel that we were kind of watching a lover’s spat that could have been solved by simply talking to one another. But if you just went to see things blowing up, a good dose of man pain and a glimpse at Wonder Woman, then you couldn’t really complain. In fact, the formula of two men having the most amazing quarrel over not much was repeated between Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and good old Cap (Chris Evans) in Captain America: Civil War just a couple of months later. Personally, I think Marvel won this battle with the tiff between Stark and Cap being slightly more believable. I can’t be alone in that assessment as Civil War was the highest grossing movie in 2016, taking over a billion dollars worldwide. And we got to see the beginning of a whole new back story for Peter Parker’s development into Spiderman, which will hit our screens in 2017.
But back to 2016 and comics! Two blockbuster hits just weren’t enough for DC and Marvel this year. We also had the unexpectedly hilarious Deadpool, the unexpectedly controversial Suicide Squad and the just plain unexpected Doctor Strange.
Out of the cinema and the networks brought us some amazing new shows. “Stranger Things” came to Netflix in July and received acclaim across the board for its characterization, pacing, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack, directing, writing and fantastic homages to 1980s genre films. And just a month later it was renewed for a second season. In fact, many of the networks felt like reminiscing in 2016. This was the year of the remake, the reboot, the second, or even third part of a series. Proving that Hollywood either doesn’t have an original bone left in its body or is just crazy about a revival, I’ll let you decide. We were treated to a few old classics being brought back to life with the likes of “Fuller House,” “MacGyver” and “Gilmore Girls” all returning.
With a cast list of Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, David Harewood and Tom Hollander, it was no surprise that “The Night Manager” was a runaway success when it hit our screens in February. It has been sold to over 180 countries and it continues to receive acclaim worldwide. And if you spent the last few years wondering when someone was going to make a show about a complicated and flawed woman with special abilities who just happened to be the heir to Wyatt Earp and spends her time battling demons, then 2016 was a winner for you. “Wynonna Earp” had a slightly rocky start, but soon found its feet and developed into one of the most enjoyable televisual escapes of the year. And, yes, it was renewed for a second season, too.
Disney was king of the rehash and it was certainly a profitable gamble for them with Finding Dory and The Jungle Book taking around two-billion-dollars between them. Finding Dory becoming the first Pixar film to cross the billion-dollar mark since 2010’s Toy Story 3. Proving that a tried and trusted franchise can be incredibly profitable. However, sometimes tried and trusted fails to deliver as with The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Zoolander 2 and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. These second time around movies received negative reviews and generally failed to deliver in terms of quality and profit.
2016 and controversy have been best pals for the last twelve months, but no more so than when Ghostbusters reappeared after a twenty-seven year disappearance only for all the lead characters to be women. Nowhere was it clearer that a reboot must live up to extraordinarily high expectations when the original was so well loved. In monetary terms, the film was a loss. But most critics were quick to point out that the film could have easily stood on its own as a supernatural comedy with a fantastic cast. The very fact that it was a remake of such a cult classic was what drew the criticism.
Another summer reboot that failed to deliver was Star Trek Beyond, which ultimately made more of a loss than Ghostbusters. However, many experts attributed the low ticket sales to the movie being released in the middle of an action-packed summer schedule rather than the movie quality. This is backed up by some solid reviews online and great feedback from the people who did manage to see it.
But 2016 wasn’t just about wringing a little more money out of an old franchise, there were some original ideas, too. Zootopia was one of Disney’s box office hits in 2016. It helped the studio to secure all three top places in the highest box office takings chart for the year. When Zootopia hit the $500 million just a few weeks after its release, it became Walt Disney Animation Studios’ third consecutive movie to do so. Of course, Zootopia wasn’t just your average animated movie. It was a powerhouse of thoughtful and inclusive messaging that came at just the right time. While the new live-action Cinderella prompts us to “have courage and be kind” and last year’s blockbuster Inside Out reminds us that it is okay to be sad, Zootopia tells us to never judge or stereotype others. Zootopia may be aimed at children, but it’s an important lesson for us all.
The Boss, Bad Moms, Central Intelligence and Office Party had us giggling and guffawing our way through the year with some surprisingly well-written comedy fun. Yet it was fantasy fans that were treated in the second half of the year with the enormously long titled duo Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Miss Peregrine was adapted from debut novel by Ransom Riggs, which spent an impressive seventy weeks on the New York Times best seller list. A collective coo could be heard around the world from Tim Burton fans when the news was announced that he would be directing the film version of the book. Burton was most certainly an excellent choice as the visual experience helped to compensate for a slightly anti-climactic script. Fantastic Beasts is based on the series created by J.K. Rowling and led us on a journey to New York in 1926 where a British wizard accidentally released several magical beasts and recruits help of some new friends to help him recapture them. Set in the Harry Potter universe, but without a sniff of Harry himself. Thankfully, Dumbledore is briefly mentioned. The movie smashed box office expectations and received generally high praise.
December saw the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a stand-alone film in the Star Wars series. In the movie, we follow the daughter of the designer of the infamous Death Star and her mission to find the plans in order to destroy it. Of course, most of us know how this story ends, but that didn’t make the story in anyway slow mainly thanks to the dark tone and amazing visual effects.
These have been some of my favorites and must-mentions of 2016. Yes, the year has been a hard one for many of us, but I believe that some of these productions have stood up and made it more bearable. When the world is as ugly and scary as it has been lately, it’s good to have some quality entertainment to lean on. What have been your highlights of 2016?
Article originally written for Starry Mag