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Film highlights in 2016: superheroes with a twist in the tale
Batman and his colleagues, belated sequels and the return of the western should be a smash at the box office
Bad company: Jared Leto in chilling form as the Joker in Suicide SquadPhoto: Rex
By Tim Robey Telegraph film critic
11:09AM GMT 04 Jan 2016
Arguably, 2015 will go down as the year when one epic film chapter ended – the Hunger Games franchise – and another opened: a new generation ofStar Wars pictures.
Between these two tentpoles and the record-breaking opening ofSPECTRE, the final months of last year were nervous ones for any smaller release: cinemas across the country rolled out the red carpets for these guaranteed smash hits, and distributors waited for the dust to settle.
First on the agenda this year will be a tense drumroll for awards season. January brings David O Russell’s Joy – with Jennifer Lawrence as a gun-totin housewife – and The Revenant, a biographical kill-or-be-killed revenge western from Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Can Leonardo DiCaprio, as its fur-trapper hero, break his Oscar-losing streak? The film is itself pitted mano a mano against Quentin Tarantino’s latest, The Hateful Eight, starring Kurt Russell, Samuel L Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh in post-Civil War Wyoming.
The bookies have Best Picture as a neck-and-neck race between The Revenant and Spotlight
The return of the western, a frequently dormant genre that used to be American cinema’s bread and butter, is a particularly exciting feature of the year ahead.
Beyond the two aforementioned productions, we get more Kurt Russell in the brilliantly acted Bone Tomahawk in February, which takes the classic formula of a white woman’s abduction into some astonishing and grisly new places. And there’s even a reboot of The Magnificent Seven (September), starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.
The bookies have Best Picture as a neck-and-neck race between The Revenant and Spotlight, also out in January – Tom McCarthy’s shrewd docudrama about the Boston Globe investigation into Catholic church sex abuse in the early Noughties.
It’s an interestingly open field, though. Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, which stars the hotly tipped Brie Larson as an abductee who has raised her son in her captor’s soundproofed shed, became a talking point when it won the People’s Choice award in Toronto, previously awarded to eventual Oscar winners Slumdog Millionaire and 12 Years a Slave.
The year will see the return to big-franchise business, with a twist: the superhero blockbusters are ringing the changes. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March) will pit DC Comics’ two most famous crusaders head to head for the first time on film, while the same studio’s Suicide Squad (August) aligns a motley crew of antiheroes against Jared Leto’s Joker.
This will also be a year of unexpected, or belated, sequels, such asIndependence Day: Resurgence (June), Pixar’s Finding Dory (July), Matt Damon’s return to the role of Jason Bourne, and the fairly self-explanatoryBridget Jones’s Baby (September).
By the time December rolls back around, and before Episode VIII the following May, the stand-alone Star Wars: Rogue One will be capping the year off and keeping the Force alive.