2016 is in full swing and the big films are on their way to our local cinemas. 2015 wasn't a great year for film. Star Wars returned to a big box office via the path of heavy self plagiarism. Marvel rolled in the cash with lacklustre efforts. Universal scored a massive hit with Jurassic World, which wasn't nearly as good as people made out. The fact is that 2015 wasn't vitally important, in the sense that films that could change the movie landscape weren't coming out. That's this year, as franchises, fledgling and long standing, go toe-to-toe. So which film will be the most important in 2016?
The cynics are already crawling out of the woodwork about Warner Bros big gamble. And it is huge. $400 million has been dumped on the clash of DC's two most iconic characters. As much as Man of Steel was touted as act one of the DC Cinematic Universe, Batman v Superman is the rock on which the entire franchise rests. Warner Bros needs it to come off because it is out of franchises. If you don't know, every major studio needs a franchise to effectively keep the lights on. With Harry Potter gone, this is it for Warner Bros. A studio could rise or fall based on this one film.
Marvel may be sat atop the crest of a wave but 2015 didn't go to plan. Age of Ultron was not well received and Ant-Man, while fun, was nothing special. Now DC has come knocking and wants the comic book crown. So Marvel has gone all in with an expanded Phase Three, starting with Civil War, which is akin to Avengers 2.5. Not only does it pit two of the MCU's favourite characters against each other, it also introduces Black Panther and the new Spider-Man. Marvel needs to get back on track. Cinemas are no longer a battle of films but a war of franchises. With Marvel wanting to broaden its releases, it needs to be on top.
Video games and films don't mix. While there has been a smattering of box office successes from video games, generally they are a disappointment. That was because video games weren't compatible to the story telling method of movies. Now, they are a bigger industry than Hollywood. More importantly, they heavily trade on story and cinematic experiences. Assassin's Creed and Warcraft paves the way to the possibility of Hollywood exploiting that rich seam of stories. If these films get it right, a wealth of options become genuine possibilities. Call of Duty is already being considered for a potential cinematic universe and others are getting looked at too. Not a slavish retelling of the video game but using the material in the games to inspire interesting and exciting stories to put on the cinema screens.
The Force Awakens made mega money and was heralded as a return to form for the Star Wars franchise. When The Phantom Menace came out, the box office was decent and, at first, it was marked as a good film. This is where people's memory gets hazy. Then the criticisms came and they started to stick. Mainly because the second film didn't hold up. The Star Wars franchise is back on familiar ground. If the criticism that is, in my opinion, fairly sticking to The Force Awakens is to be swept aside and keep the sci-fi juggernaut rolling, Rogue One has to be good. If it fails, Episode VIII will have a heavy weight to bear.
So which will be the most important film of 2016? The one that succeeds the most. Ultimately, that will put the respective franchise and studio on top. Based on the fact that Disney is throwing two major efforts in, topped up with Finding Dory from Pixar, makes me think they are the most likely winners from this. I fully expect Warner Bros's DC Universe to work but still sit in the shadow of Marvel. Universal will get a hit out of the Bourne franchise to add to their Jurassic and Fast & Furious slate. But if I had to place a bet, I have a feeling that Assassin's Creed will be the film that makes us sit up. Comic book heroes have had their moment in the sun. 2016 may very well be the year that marks the rise of the video game film. Time, as it always does, will tell.