Talking bears, big-eared giants and foul-mouthed mercs; 2016 has had plenty for film fans from all walks of life to enjoy.
It certainly hasn't been without its fair share of talking points, success stories and controversies either - and with the curtain closing on another season of big-budget blockbusters, I thought now would be a good time to sit back and assess the varying winners and losers from what has been an intriguing year thus far.
Which films, stars and studios have seen their stocks rise? Who has had a nightmare summer season? Give my conclusions a quick read and let me know what you think in the comments section down below!
Zootopia was the first cab off the rank, earning rave reviews and making some serious moolah. It was an intelligent and mature movie that didn't treat kids like idiots or forget that adults sit through animated films also. Just a few weeks later it was followed by Jon Faverau's live-action adaptation of the The Jungle Book and Marvel's Captain America: Civil War. The latter surprised no-one by skyrocketing straight to the top of the pile, but Faverau's Jungle Book is perhaps one of the more surprising success stories of the year so far.
The fourth Disney film to come within touching distance of the billion dollar benchmark this year was Finding Dory; the highly-anticipated sequel to Pixar's beloved 2003 film Finding Nemo broke opening weekend records for animated films and sat atop the box office for weeks. A staggered worldwide release (it opened in the UK only recently) also means it could have the legs to catch and pass The Jungle Book and Zootopia.
That being said, they haven't been faultless; how could I forget Alice Through the Looking Glass or The BFG? More on those losers a little later...
Deadpool opened in February so I don't know if it really falls into the conventional 'summer blockbuster' category; after all, February gets pretty darn chilly for anyone not fortunate enough to reside here in Australia where it gets shit hot and thongs can literally melt onto the sidewalk.
Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, Deadpool. Let's be honest, what can be said about Deadpool that hasn't already been said? Fantastic marketing and some absolutely devilish humour saw the modestly budgeted R-rated superhero flick dominate the box office for weeks, making in excess of $700 million worldwide from a reported production budget of just $60 million.
That's crazy money! Sizzling reviews would've had a big hand in propelling Deadpool forwards, but it was mainly word-of-mouth and inescapable marketing that turned the movie into a foul-mouthed phenomenon full of nude fight scenes, Hugh Jackman masks and pegging. Hats off to everyone involved - they saw an opening and they went for it.
There are plenty of talented Aussies doing us proud in Hollywood at the moment but Margot Robbie has been everywhere this year. From fronting Suicide Squad and The Legend of Tarzan to supporting roles and cute cameos in Whisky Tango Foxtrot and The Big Short, the blonde beauty has been on billboards and box-office tickets everywhere you turn.
Her highly-anticipated portrayal of fan favourite DC villain Harley Quinn was arguably the biggest draw with Suicide Squad and, overall quality of the finished product aside, Robbie was clearly the best part of the movie. If the best thing to come out of Suicide Squad is the prospect of a madcap Harley solo movie, you can count me in.
It certainly helps that Robbie has a fantastic off-screen persona that makes her popular with guys and girls alike. Her numerous press tour pitstops to talk show staples like The Tonight Show in the US and The Project here in Australia have certainly helped turn her into an A-list household name this year - and not even an incredibly seedy, stomach-churning Vanity Fair profile could derail the Robbie train.
Let's face it, blockbuster season has been a bit of a bust this year - we've had more tentpole movies than ever, but it feels as though they've all, barring a couple of exceptions, fallen somewhere in the middle or towards the bottom of the quality spectrum. Which is bad news for film, but good news for TV as audiences turn to the gogglebox and streaming apps for quality entertainment, of which there has been plenty this year.
Game of Thrones may have dominated the headlines but shows such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, The Americans, Better Call Saul, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Daredevil have all served up their juiciest slice of pie yet. The list doesn't stop there; The Walking Dead, Veep, Preacher, Penny Dreadful, American Crime Story and The Night Manager have all been huge drawcards for TV junkies also - and they're just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest surprise for me has been Netflix's new Original Series Stranger Things - eight episodes simply wasn't enough, I need more injected straight into my veins ASAP!
Essentially, TV is a glistening treasure trove of quality that goes on and on and on and on. Given the choice, a lot of people are turning towards a cosy night on the sofa with Netflix instead of an overpriced, bombastic blockbuster that comes with an extra helping of rowdy crowds, blurry 3D and sticky seats. The message this year from audiences has been loud and clear; up your game, Hollywood or continue to watch your stock slide.
2016 was the make or break year for DC's burgeoning cinematic universe - and at this point, it's not easy to pinpoint which end of the spectrum we've reached. Both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad have been hugely divisive; audiences flocked to both movies, scoring record openings and raking in the dough, but their less than favourable critical reception has been a huge sticking point.
It's fair to say that critics haven't been kind to either movie, with numerous publications highlighting the disjointed editing, uneven pacing and jumbled narratives of both films. Frankly, the chasm separating Joe Bloggs and some regular old Joe who blogs could not be starker.
The poor response to Dawn of Justice earlier in the year triggered a couple of changes in the DC hierarchy, but the bad news for those of us still trying to salvage something from the film, is that Zack Snyder is still sitting in the directorial chair for 2017's Justice League. Already weeks into filming, Snyder is already faced with an uphill battle of recapturing the faith of fans as he works to retrofit the next movie into a new template. Sound familiar? Suicide Squad also suffered with drastic alterations midway though production, and look how that turned out. They've had a rocky start and the road ahead doesn't look any smoother for DC - but at least they're ploughing ahead with their vision. Hopefully 2017 will see a stark improvement.
Incoming director Justin Lin delivered an entertaining film that ensured the series still has legs well into the future. Plus, with Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek television series celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, what better way to mark the date than a rousing time at the movies in Star Trek Beyond, the 13th Trek film and arguably the greatest since the reboot button was pressed back in 2009.
However, the box office receipts haven't been the greatest on Star Trek Beyond. A worldwide gross (at the time of writing) that sits somewhere in the region of $220 million is the lowest in the rebooted series to date. It's also only a smidgen above what Paramount paid (the budget was $185 million) so the question remains, can we expect a fourth entry in the series? Or is this the final frontier for young, sexy Kirk and co?
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema have quietly been racking up the mid-budget hits this year; Me Before You might have made headlines for its controversial handling of a tricky topic, but it took home a respectable $138 million. The Conjuring 2 defied the curse of crap horror sequels to the tune of $275 million worldwide whilst How To Be Single (although kinda crap) still converted its modest budget into a tidy sum of cash. Central Intelligence was a modest success too, carried by the likability of its wisecracking lead duo. Lastly, Lights Out crept into cinemas this July to positive reviews and a tasty profit.
It's been a questionable year for Sony and Columbia Pictures; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was an early clunker whilst Sasha Baron Cohen's Grimsby also struggled. The Shallows has turned a tidy profit - $70 million and counting from a $17 million budget. With the shark thriller opening here in Australia today, that total is only going to rise. Sausage Party has been a modest success financially as well.
However, it was their reboot of Ghostbusters upon which their year hinged - and the film hasn't exactly set the world alight. The reviews were better than expected but, outside the US, the film hasn't pulled in a huge amount of money. Maybe Melissa McCarthy, Thor and 3 Saturday Night Live alumni weren't enough to convince international filmgoers that this 2016 version of Ghostbusters actually ain't that bad? Whichever way you cut it, it's appearing increasingly unlikely that Ghostbusters will be back for a sequel, making the whole endeavour a little disappointing for the studio.
The only ray of light for Sony is The Angry Birds Movie, which weathered mixed reviews to pluck $334 million out of the pockets of audiences globally. Things could potentially pick up in the months leading towards Christmas; The Magnificent Seven remake arrives in September (driven by Chris Pratt power) before Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (again!) headline an original sci-fi film called Passengers in December.
With superhero films lining the schedule from here to heaven, it was only a matter of time before one major franchise failed to drum up interest from audiences and flunked at the box office. In stark contrast to its R-rated cousin, Fox's X-Men sequel Apocalypse found itself taking that rather unfortunate bullet this year.
Despite its predecessor Days of Future Past scaling new heights, Apocalypse faded from theatres with only a meagre domestic total of approximately $160 million to its name. Its worldwide total rests just above half a billion, but it's a far cry from what Fox would've hoped the gargantuan sequel could've achieved. Tepid reviews that cited a nonsensical timeline, a gluttony of underwritten characters and a lack of Hugh Jackman meant that Apocalypse performed well below expectations, perhaps casting some doubt over the future of the franchise. Will Singer, Jackman, Lawrence and the rest return for a fourth outing, potentially this time set in the '90s? At this point, does anyone really care? I know I don't.
Another conclusion that we can draw from 2016 so far is that audiences are growing increasingly tired of lazy, uninspired sequels. And boy, there have been a lot this year. Zoolander 2, Bad Neighbours 2, Now You See Me 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, London Has Fallen, The Huntsman: Winter's War, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Independence Day: Resurgence have all struggled to garner the love and affection of cinemagoers the world over.
Spielberg's credentials are unsurpassed and his talent as a director is undeniable - but the legendary filmmaker hasn't set the world on fire with his 2016 directorial effort, The BFG. An adaptation of a classic Roald Dahl novel, The BFG proved too kooky and strange for domestic audiences, flunking on its opening weekend behind Finding Dory and The Legend of Tarzan.
Its technical prowess and talented performances are unmistakable, but the delightfully thin source material didn't stretch far enough in the final product. The BFG is an endearing, second-tier Spielberg just waiting to be discovered by the right audience - but unfortunately, that audience simply didn't make the trip to the theatre on this occasion. A worldwide total of $90 million (at the time of writing) is a meagre taking, especially when Disney footed a $140 million budget.
Do you think Johnny Depp breaks out the Jack Sparrow costume at Tim Burton's kid's birthday party to make any extra buck? He might have to if his career continues along its current trajectory; even if you discount the publicised personal issues (which we're not going to get into here), Depp's mass appeal has certainly taken a hefty knock this year following the cataclysmic bomb that was Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Worldwide it racked up $250 million against its estimated $170 million budget, which might sound decent but it's a far cry from the $1 billion that Alice in Wonderland made back in 2010.
When grouped with The Lone Ranger, Transcendence and Mortedeci, 2016 has been another bruising year at the box office for Depp. Maybe Dead Men Tell No Tales, another adventure as Jack Sparrow set to arrive next year, will steer his ship back into calmer waters?
What films rocked your world this blockbuster season? And which big-budget bombs stank up one of your trips to the cinema? Let me know your thoughts on my picks in the comments down below! Thanks for reading.