Given how slowly time seems to move in the Trump era — the past two months have flown by like a couple of years back in the 1800s — it can be difficult to remember all the way back to 2016. But allow me to guide you through the sands of time way back to September, when Ty Burr of the Boston Globe mused about the end of cinema at the close of one of the worst summers for blockbusters in recent memory.
“Someday we may look back on 2016 as the year the movies died,” Burr wrote. “There were blockbuster hits, and a couple of them were even good, but by far the majority were soulless, noisy, and dull — pure product from an industry that has lost the ability to speak in any meaningful way to a mass audience.”
Consider some of the films that Burr and other critics were forced to sit through in the months before he wrote that: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Warcraft, Independence Day: Resurgence, Suicide Squad. Perhaps Burr was being a touch dramatic, but those truly are soulless, noisy, and dull films. If it was your job to sit through one terrible blockbuster after another, week after week, you might wonder if cinema was over, too.
I bring this up because I want to make sure we appreciate how different things have been so far in 2017. Almost every week lately, there’s been a pretty good-to-great new blockbuster opening at the local Cineplex: John Wick 2, The LEGO Batman Movie, Get Out, Logan, and most recently, Kong: Skull Island. These films have been popular at the box office, generally well-reviewed, and seem to be genuinely liked by viewers. Contrast that with the toxicity that clouded the response to last year’s tentpole fare like Ghostbusters and Suicide Squad, when politicized pissing matches between critics and aggrieved online constituencies became the new normal. So far in 2017, we’ve been blessedly free of such nonsense. For the first time in a while, going to the movies and talking about them afterward has actually been … fun.