There are usually two rules to follow when trying to predict each summer’s box office results: superhero movies do exceedingly well and romantic comedies do not. But this isn’t a proven formula. Highly anticipated films can get poor ratings or might not perform as well at the box office as their corporate overlords might have hoped, while the summer box office has seen its share of dark horses over the years (Maleficent in 2014, Pitch Perfect 2 in 2015). And although the 2016 summer box office held many of these characteristics, this summer’s box office will be noted by cinema nerds of the future for one quality: there weren’t many good films to be found in it.
To be fair, let’s give credit where credit is due. There were a few standout films and performances that both did and did not garner the critical reception and box office results that they deserved. Disney and Pixar’s Finding Dory, the first animated film to hold the top slot in the box office since Pixar’s Toy Story 3, brought audiences a new adventure with Disney’s most famous fish that didn’t rely too heavily on Finding Nemo and brought an even more pressing emotional weight to the tragedy that is Dory’s short-term memory loss.
Found just below Finding Dory in the summer box office results, Captain America: Civil War saw some of Marvel’s most beloved heroes clash over their right to perform their heroics independent from the U.S. government. Even if it is another superhero sequel, the third Captain America entry introduced a few new faces to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a few new facets to some of the franchise’s most beloved characters. It’s nice to know, at least when it comes to these films (and a few other big league blockbusters) that audiences’ money went toward substantive films.
Also, much farther down the box office list, a few diamonds could be found among the slew of lower-budget films that hit theaters this summer. A24’s The Lobster depicted a complex and dystopian society where people are forced into couples by the government or are otherwise turned into animals. While The Lobster requires a viewing to be accurately and quickly explained, the film’s implications of what modern love really is and what modernity has turned love into are staggering.
Of special note is Matt Ross’s Captain Fantastic. Starring The Lord of the Rings’s Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic finds Ben Cash bringing his children, whom he raised deep in the forest of Oregon, back to New Mexico in the wake of his bipolar wife’s suicide. While Captain Fantastic does have some strange tonal turns, it provides a unique take on dysfunctional families that is sure to ingrain itself in the minds of viewers of all ages. These films might not have had the financial backing of, say, Finding Dory or Captain America, but they did possess enough oddity and character to stand apart from the batch of this summer’s lower-budget movies.
Aside from these films, this summer’s box office list was a mess. 2016 will now be forever known as the year The Angry Birds Movie, a film based on the wildly popular app, was released. The 1996 sci-fi thriller Independence Day, 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, and 2013’s Now You See Me all got sequels that no one had ever asked for, wanted, or even thought about. And while the Ghostbusters remake did receive a lot of unwarranted prejudice from misogynists who didn’t like seeing women fill the shoes of the original cast, it was still a bad movie plagued by a lackluster plot and almost laughable (and not in a good way) CGI ghosts.
It’s sort of difficult to think of what to suggest to Hollywood these days. We’re all quite aware that the American film industry churns out sequels by the boatloads, but while critics and audiences chastise production companies and Hollywood writers for creating these movies, a lot of the time we still go and see them. If the 2016 summer box office suggests anything, it’s that we as audiences need to take the Hollywood sequel problem into our own hands. We need to stop giving money to movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and X-Men: Apocalypse, as hard as it may be for some people to resist.
This call for audiences to overlook the onslaught of sequels hitting theaters over the next few years is sort of ridiculous. It’d be impossible to convince everyone across the country not to watch these films, but even then it’s worth a shot. Convincing people not to see or give money to these sequels is the only way to end their domination. Hollywood executives are only seeing dollar signs when they put out The Purge: Election Year or Ice Age: Collision Course, and until those dollars aren’t there, they have no reason to change a damn thing about tinsel town.
Featured Image By Bleecker Street