The summer movie slate of 2016 reveals an alarming observation: The only people studios trust to be open-minded to something they’ve never seen are small children — probably because they’ve never seen anything.
The only big blockbuster-style film I can find that isn’t a sequel, adaptation or remake is the animated “The Secret Life of Pets” (July 8), about talking dogs and cats that party when their owners go to work. And really, does that sound all that original or daring?
For the most part, bank on your summer movie season looking very familiar.
It gets an early start with “Captain America: Civil War” (May 6), the third in the series, starring Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, and, oh yeah, Captain America!
On its heels comes “X-Men: Apocalypse” (May 27), which sounds no less dire or less populated, with all the X-Men from “Days of Future Past” and more returning to do battle with an all-powerful, ancient being known as Apocalypse, who, the less-informed among us can only guess, coined the term.
Other sequels, highly anticipated and otherwise, include the Tim Burton-produced “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (May 27), “Independence Day: Resurgence” (June 24), “The Purge: Election Year” (July 1) and “Star Trek Beyond” (July 22) the third in the J.J. Abrams-led reboot and second with a goofy title that omits a colon.
Maybe the most mysterious, however, is “Jason Bourne” (July 29), whose namesake has not been seen in film for almost a decade, passing off the franchise to another super soldier in 2012 with “The Bourne Legacy.” Details are murky, but some theorists seem convinced that Matt Damon returned primarily to stealthily ferret out another humongous paycheck.
If it’s not a sequel it’s probably a remake, including Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” (Aug. 12) and a Paramount update of MGM’s “Ben-Hur” (Aug. 12). “Ghostbusters” (July 15) replaces the original series’ all-male ghost-busting crew with female comedians, which might have been the smartest decision of the season. But director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) will have his work cut out for him given the intense nostalgia for the original and the track record of remakes in general — set aside a day to Google “worst recent movie remakes” for examples.
When studios run out of sequels and remakes, they look far and wide for anything they can adapt that might aspire to a sequel or remake. In late summer, DC Comics gets in on the superhero-team concept with “Suicide Squad” (Aug. 5), about a group of super villains, who, in the comics’ lore, were given work release by the American government to perform black-ops missions. That’s right: In almost every superhero movie you’ve ever seen, big government hates the superhero. This time it wants to work with the super villains.
The adaptation lot also includes an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The BFG” (July 1), directed by Steven Spielberg, and “The Legend of Tarzan” (July 1), whose wonky trailer looks not only about Tarzan and his simian friends, but created by them.
Debatable computer-generated imagery also is at the heart of “Warcraft” (June 10), based on the hugely popular online multiplayer game and directed, kind of surprisingly, by David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones (“Moon”). Finally, “Absolutely Fabulous: the Movie” (July 22), follows boozing Brits getting into trouble, which seems much more inspired by Bowie.
Though they may be slightly obscured by all the hero and monster madness, movies that aren’t sequels or children’s literature adaptations also exist.
Fans of director Luca Guadagnino’s “I Am Love” (2009) are anticipating Tilda Swinton’s return in his follow-up, “A Bigger Splash” (May 13), a love quadrangle-slash-thriller set on a remote Italian island. Those into weirder, more surreal love stories await “The Lobster” (May 13), by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth”) with Colin Farrell at a resort that gives him a certain amount of time to fall in love before he’s turned into a small animal.
“Swiss Army Man” (June 17) casts Paul Dano adrift on an island with Daniel Radcliffe, in a story that can fairly be described, at least from the trailer, as a cross between “Cast Away” and “Weekend at Bernie’s” (not necessarily in the terrible way you might be thinking).
Blake Lively retreats to another kind of island to fend off a hungry great white shark in “The Shallows,” with anyone who saw Lively’s work in “Savages” (2012) and “The Age of Adaline” (2015) likely rooting for the shark.
And the idea that no man, or his family, is an island is explored in “Captain Fantastic” (July 8) with Viggo Mortensen forced to bring his separatist brood back to the grid in the latest take on the family-in-crisis genre.
Maybe the oddest summer release is “The Free State of Jones” (June 24); odd because it’s actually based, at least partly, on a real human endeavor — the exploits of a Civil War Confederate deserter (Matthew McConaughey) who incites a Southern Unionist rebellion. He’s a lone, small holdout amid a great campaign of fire and brimstone. Sounds like a metaphor for something. S
Release dates subject to change. Check local listings.