Well, at least it’s over now. Yes, 2016 is finally at an end and to put it diplomatically it’s been an interesting year, or to put it undiplomatically it’s been the silently screaming prologue to the apocalypse. And before you start swanning into the new year thinking that 2017’s going to be any better, let’s just remember that we’re going to have to deal with Trump actually becoming President, and it’s not like there’s even a chance of a new Bowie album anymore. Thankfully, until the nukes start hitting at least, the cinema lives on to distract us from reality, so lets have a look at what the year ahead has in store for us.
Right out of the gate January and February promise some great stuff hitting UK screens as the awards season contenders make their way over to us, with acclaimed dramas Fences, The Birth of a Nation and Moonlight some of the particular highlights of the early months. After a year in which racial issues in America were brought to the forefront, all three tackle these questions head on in varying ways. If nothing else, it’s refreshing to see three films with black directors and stars be at the forefront of awards buzz after accusations of ‘whitewashing’ hitting the Oscars in particular over the past few years. Leading the awards chatter at the moment however is La La Land, Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s chirpy musical about actors and musicians in Los Angeles. To my horror, this inherently positive-looking romance enamoured with the wonder and glamour of Old Hollywood seems to have bypassed all my usual cynicism and hatred of enthusiasm and joy by looking undeniably wonderful, and I cannot wait to see it.
2017 sees a raft of other great directors returning to our screens, perhaps most excitingly with Martin Scorsese’s Silence, a historical religious epic grappling with ideas of faith and sin against the backdrop of 17th century Japan. As a passion project Scorsese’s been trying to get onto the screen for 20 years, we can only hope it’s worth the wait. Christopher Nolan also returns after the visually stunning but also slightly nonsensical Interstellar with Dunkirk, which I assume will be much like watching Saving Private Ryan’s opening in reverse. Far more important than Nolan’s direction, however, is the long awaited acting debut of One Direction singer and 2014 Teen Choice Award winner for Best Smile Harry Styles, though I somehow doubt we’ll be seeing too much of that winning grin amongst the sand and corpses of Dunkirk.
Blockbuster wise, 2017 promises the usual raft of superhero films from Marvel and DC, with highlights including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, sequel to James Gunn’s entertaining 2014 original that’ll hopefully continue its predecessors example of substituting generic orchestrated soundtracks with a selection of 70’s bangers. On the DC front, Zac Snyder has the unenviable job of trying to draw together the dumpster fire that’s been their attempt at a ‘cinematic universe’ into some sort of coherent whole with November’s Justice League. Try as he might however, it’s unfortunately doomed to be a film attempting to compete with The Avengers in a fight they already won half a decade ago. Still, you’ve got to give DC some props for Wonder Woman, releasing in June, as we’ll finally get to see a major super heroine film as they take their first tentative steps into a brave new world where not every character is a jacked white guy. Imagine.
All these superhero movies pale in comparison, however, with what is undoubtedly going to be the best film of any kind of 2017, The Lego Batman Movie. As any self respecting film fan knows, The Lego Movie proved to be the greatest piece of cinema ever released back in 2014, despite being robbed of the Best Animated Feature Oscar by the offensively bland Big Hero 6 in a move that makes me physically angry to this day. 2017 sees the best part of that movie, Will Arnett’s gravelly voiced mockery of Batman, spun off into his own feature, and based on the trailers at any rate it looks to be a worthy and hilarious successor. On the subject of animated sequels I’m excited for despite allegedly being an adult, 2014’s Paddington, a film so aggressively charming it almost made me feel something, is getting a follow up as well this year as well with the innovatively titled Paddington 2.
As any self respecting film fan knows, The Lego Movie proved to be the greatest piece of cinema ever released back in 2014
You can’t reasonably expect me to get excited about everything coming out next year though, and 2017 also looks to be bringing us a slate of sequels to tired and/or generally crap franchises as well. Michael Bay’s epic saga of big robots hitting each other whilst the camera fixates on ladies’ bums continues with Transformers: The Last Knight, as Paramount look to squeeze as many pennies as possible from a franchise that ran out of ideas about 15 minutes into the first film. Also returning to our screens is the increasingly annoying Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, because we don’t deserve any better after making all the previous terrible films successes. Most inexplicably of all, we’re getting a third xXx film 12 years after the last one with xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which absolutely nobody asked for but at least has the one redeeming feature of starring Neymar as himself, just to make this entire mess even more baffling. Also out this year is a Smurfs sequel to take your kids to if you hate them, Fifty Shades Darker to take your kids to if you want to scar them for life and most importantly of all The Emoji Movie, which will no doubt one day be a landmark film in marking the death of western culture.
Apart from that though, 2017 looks to be a good year for the screen, and that’s not even beginning to scratch the surface of the independent film scene, foreign film and the hidden gems which studios are failing to promote. So have a happy, film-filled new year, and lets hope this one goes a bit better than last year, yeah?