Since the seventies when Jaws basically invented the summer blockbuster we have had a thirst for big thrills from our films, something that exceeds all we’ve seen before – bigger, better, bolder. Each year filmmakers look for new ways to create something even more exciting. A lot of the time they will try this by recycling something old, and there is plenty of that this year. Like with any blockbuster season there is a mix of good and bad.
Last summer wasn’t great for blockbusters, and that’s an understatement. There would have been a long list of releases to avoid, or maybe in the run up to them. There are a few releases this year which could go either way – must-watch films can become ones you should have avoided and vice versa. The roll call of disappointments of last year included the long-awaited Independence Day sequel, that became quickly forgotten, much like the big screen adaptation of Warcraft. There was the overstuffed X-Men: Apocalypse, the controversial Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, and Suicide Squad. I’m sure some of those would have been on the must-watch list of 2016.
This list takes into account films released between May until the end of August, so it doesn’t take into account Fast and the Furious 8, Guardian of the Galaxy Volume 2 as they are both released in May, or the new version of Stephen King’s It as it’s released in September. There are other omissions too, most notably War of the Planet of the Apes and Atomic Blonde, but there are so many films this blockbuster season the focus was whittled down to the cream of the crop, and the opposite of that. As with everything, opinions can differ, so if there is something that you’re really passionate about on the ‘avoid’ list – don’t get mad, go and waste your time watching it.
15. WATCH – Alien Covenant
This one teetered between watch and avoid. Memories of Prometheus edged it towards the avoid section, but some eclectic and exciting casting and a winning trailer saved the day for the ongoing Alien franchise. OK, so we’re stuck in prequel territory again, but this one seems to have more focus upon the horror element instead of over-the-top, prog-rock-esque visuals. The casting of Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, James Franco, Guy Pearce makes this feel like a worthwhile endeavour, as does the creepy, forest planet setting and what will hopefully be a return for the slow building tension of Ridley Scott‘s original Alien. It’d be great to have this franchise back on track.
14. AVOID – King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie films can be hit or miss. For every Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch there is a Swept Away or Revolver. I was a fan of his version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E, it seemed a return to form, but then his adaptation of the King Arthur story kept getting delayed and the trailer makes it look like it is riddled with misguided 90s machismo. The performances look pretty hammy, and it all looks pretty dated and unnecessary. Saying that, Charlie Hunnam is always reliable, and the story is crying out to be told properly on the big screen. This one could be a surprise, but I’d advise approaching with caution.
13. WATCH – Wonder Woman
There is a thin line between what makes a film unmissable and what makes it one to avoid. So far the evidence would suggest that the next film in the DCEU would be one to miss. Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad were both brooding, dark and boring. The first of those had one saving grace though, and that was the performance of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Now, she gets to headline her own film, and it feels like the time is right. An origin story that the character demands sees Diana, princess of the Amazons discovering her powers and true destiny. Directed by Patty Jenkins, who brought a terrifying performance out of Charlize Theron in Monster, and with a stellar cast including Robin Wright, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Ewen Bremner and Danny Huston, this will hopefully be the moment the DCEU turns itself onto the right path.
12. AVOID – Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge
When was the last time anybody actually looked forward to a new Pirates of the Caribbean film? Everyone loved the first film and remembered Johnny Depp‘s boozy, Keith Richards, rum-soaked Captain Jack. After the bloated sequel, we all wished we could forget the franchise. In fact I have forgotten everything about the previous installment in this franchise. This one features some new cast members; Kaya Scodelario and Javier Bardem may inject the franchise with some life. It’s had a bit of a rest, and might come back reinvigorated, but with the return of plenty of faces from the franchise’s past, expect more of the same from the film based on a Disney theme park ride which just won’t go away.
11. WATCH – Baby Driver
Edgar Wright is a director with a great track record, with hit after hit to his name. From Spaced, through Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, you know what you’re in for when Edgar Wright is behind the wheel. Even if Scott Pilgrim didn’t strike the box office alight, it was still a brilliant, innovative and eye-popping film. After the wrangling over Ant-Man, which Edgar Wright left after years of development, he picked himself up and began work on a high energy, car chase/heist movie. An attention-grabbing trailer was released recently which contained high octane thrills typical of Wright’s hyperactive style, but it also looks to have a romantic edge, too, and as always with Wright, expect plenty of laughs.
10. AVOID – Baywatch
I really wanted to look forward to this. Baywatch was a huge part of growing up, even if I was too young to appreciate it properly at first. Everyone remembers Pamela Anderson, the slo-mo running, the tight swimsuits and even The Hoff. But what was so great was how it was presented in an unironic way. It was of its time I guess. This remake/reimagining/reboot/ (don’t know what it is), will shroud Baywatch in irony, which could have been a good idea. But looking at the footage seen so far – it hasn’t really worked. What do you expect when you cast Zac Efron who seems to be becoming a magnet for comedic roles where there is zero comedy. The Rock has been a great addition to the Fast & Furious franchise, though he can handle comedy..
9. WATCH – Spiderman -Homecoming
Do we need another version of Spider-Man so soon after the last one? It feels like a question we were all asking in 2012 when Andrew Garfield took over Spidey duties from Tobey Maguire. Yet we’re only 5 years down the line and we have an all new Spider-Man with the casting of Tom Holland. Luckily, he was one of the best things in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. The movie is directed by Jon Watts, whose filmography so far contains two stripped-back indie hits with the brilliant Clown and Cop Car. As an added bonus, Robert Downey Jr. seems to be a big part of this Spider-Man film – the advantages of having Spider-Man being part of the MCU reaping rewards. If that doesn’t grab your attention, surely the excellent Michael Keaton as the film’s bad guy will seal the deal.
8. AVOID – The Mummy
When this was announced it was quite thrilling: a reboot of The Mummy franchise which would take it back to its Universal horror roots. It looks like something has gone wrong in the development of the film as so far this looks like your bog standard summer blockbuster disappointment. It’s like 2016 all over again. Maybe Tom Cruise is the off-putting factor, an actor who seems to be coasting on a cycle of franchises with Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher, who now seems to want to add another to that roster. While those franchises are still entertaining, it’s hard to remember that he used to make some brave and interesting choices of films. This doesn’t look like one of those.
7. WATCH – The Beguiled
Not a blockbuster by definition, but released during blockbuster season with a stunning cast that will ensure it competes on the same level field. It also sees the return of director Sofia Coppola, remaking a Clint Eastwood-starring film from 1971. It looks dark,enticing and weirdly sexy as hell. How could it fail being sexy with a cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. Colin Farrell plays the wounded soldier who is taken in by the women and the plot promises plenty of twists, turns and surprises. We all require something a little bit different when the bangs, crashes and action gets a bit stale, but this could be just what everyone needs. It could be the sleeper hit of the summer.
6. AVOID – Transformers: The Last Knight
It’s the year 2042 and Michael Bay is still churning out Transformers movies. Finishing off his 14 films he promised us in 2017. Still critically reviled, still scorned by all audiences, still overlong, plotless messes, but still audiences flock to see them. The only way to save yourself is to start avoiding these films. We can all see this franchise has outstayed its welcome. In fact, I think we all knew that about 3 films ago. The only way we can stop this horrific monolith of a franchise is to stop going to see it. If you only avoid one terrible summer blockbuster this summer – make it this one.
5. WATCH – Dunkirk
The pinnacle of the summer blockbusters. The return of Christopher Nolan. We’ve seen what he can do with the superhero genre, with a mind-bending thriller, and with a sci-fi epic. Now it’s the turn of the epic war film, and you don’t get much bigger than Dunkirk. The images from the teaser trailer looks mind blowing. Little is known of the details of the film, but expect something that will appeal across the board and be all those things blockbusters can sometimes forget to be. Amongst the epic scale, the bombs, the carnage and the action there will be plenty of emotion. This is going to be filmmaking on a massive scale and a film to rival the great war movies. Who’d have thought we’d be saying that about a film which contains the acting debut of One Direction’s Harry Styles?
4. AVOID – Despicable Me 3
Minions! I hate Minions. They are so punchable, annoying, and they’d look great roasting on top of a fire. I’ll admit at first I thought they were a funny distraction in their minor role in the first installment of this franchise. But by the second film they had overtaken everything and then they even got their own movie spin-off. How? Why? In small doses, fair enough, but who wants something as annoying as the Minions hanging around all the time. Obviously, plenty of people do, but I feel if they’re too much a part of this film they will overpower it and ruin the fun. Hopefully the focus will be once again on Steve Carell‘s Gru, or some Minions will suffer a cruel death. Only then can Despicable Me 3 be saved.
3. WATCH – The Dark Tower
Stephen King books are not really known for being short in length. Titles like It, The Stand and Under the Dome are so big even the paperback editions could be used as an offensive weapon, but his Dark Tower series is on another scale. This series of books took King seven volumes to complete his story, and even then there was a prequel later on. That’s a hell of a lot of story to get through, and it’s been a long wait for it to come to the big screen. This summer it’s here and it stars two of the biggest names possible with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey facing off. This could be the start of a new epic fantasy series to rival some of the big hitters out there. Let’s hope the film version does the books justice, as there are so many people looking forward to Roland’s adventure that this cannot disappoint.
2. AVOID – The Emoji Movie
OK, Patrick Stewart voices the poo emoji; that might make this worth seeing for that alone, but really, an emoji movie? What is the point in that. It’s fair enough sending people emojis to get a point across quickly or for a joke, and it’s great that emoji is becoming a language all of its own, but a film about emoji? As you can tell, I can’t quite believe it’s happening. It seems like the most pointless of ideas to ever come to fruition. It also has James Corden voicing a character. It’s the first film to take place within the inside of a smartphone though. No, I still can’t find a point for its existence.
1. WATCH – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
And the winner of the longest title of the summer is… an actual original film, not a franchise, or a remake. It is an adaptation of a French comic, but not one widely known to the blockbuster crowd. It comes from Luc Besson who seems to be playing in the fun genre of a big space opera sci-fi world. For fans of The Fifth Element, you will be in your element with this film which looks even more colourful and fun. It features Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevingne as the leads in an adventure taking place in the 28th Century where a dark force threatens the peace of the entire universe. Joining our leads is the best cast list of the summer with Clive Owen, John Goodman, Rihanna and Rutger Hauer all along for the adventure. This will hopefully be the eye-popping, exhilarating hit that makes the wait for The Last Jedi in December that little bit more bearable. We can all shorten the title to just Valerian as well, that makes things a bit easier.