Some pretty bad movies came out in 2016, some involving talking cats, others involving dirty grandpas. But the most disappointing releases, by far, were “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad,” each of which adapted a DC Comics property with its own dreary mix of frenetic action, lackluster characterisation and cold-hearted cynicism.
But there was a bright spot in all the gloom, a tether of hope for DC fans still awaiting the kind of stellar big-screen experience their Marvel-loyalist rivals boast about every time a new “Avengers” movie comes out. Even in the midst of the mindless carnage and nonsensical plotting of “Bats-Vee-Supes,” Wonder Woman quite literally saved the day as the film’s strongest, most alluring character.
Portrayed by Israeli actress Gal Gadot with a superb blend of athleticism, glamour and ultracool self-possession, Wonder Woman casually stole the show while laying waste to a mini-universe of bad guys (and showing up the good guys with similar aplomb). Whereas it seemed like we’d seen it all before when it came to grimacing men in tights engaging in CGI’ed derring-do, Wonder Woman burst on the scene as something genuinely novel, subversive and exhilaratingly modern.
While Disney dithers about giving Scarlett Johansson a much-deserved “Black Widow” movie of her own, Warner Bros. quickly recognized what a treasure it has in Gadot and commissioned “Wonder Woman,” a stand-alone Justice League installment that will arrive in theaters June 2. Directed by Patty Jenkins, who helped Charlize Theron earn her Oscar for “Monster,” and featuring a potent supporting lineup that includes the redoubtable Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and – oh, yeah – Chris Pine, “Wonder Woman” still isn’t necessarily a guaranteed hit. But it possesses all the right elements to right a badly listing DC ship, while proving that women-led action pictures aren’t an oxymoron and that, our current glut of comic-book spectacles notwithstanding, we can always use another she-ro.
“Wonder Woman” isn’t the only encouraging news for women on-screen this spring: On Feb. 17, “XX,” an anthology of horror films by directors Karyn Kusama, Annie Clark (also known as St. Vincent), Roxanne Benjamin and Jovanka Vuckovic, will open in theaters. No less a towering figure than Octavia Spencer will play God in “The Shack” on March 3. And Shirley MacLaine will bring her trademark brand of acerbic adorability to “The Last Word,” an intergenerational comedy co-starring Amanda Seyfried, on March 10.
Add a clutch of movies toplined by the likes of Johansson (“Ghost in the Shell”), Jessica Chastain (“The Zookeeper’s Wife”), Emma Watson (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Circle”) and Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn (“Snatched”), and what you get isn’t exactly a revolution, but a pretty good start.
A United Kingdom
The story of the forbidden love of King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, during the apartheid.
Fifty Shades Darker
Part two of the erotic thriller about lovers Christian and Anastasia. With Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.
John Wick: Chapter Two
Keanu Reeves stars in the action-thriller sequel with Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Common.
The Lego Batman Movie
Chris McKay’s Lego animation adventure voiced by Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes.
A Cure for Wellness
An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a mysterious wellness center in the Swiss Alps.
Ice Cube and Charlie Day star as high school teachers who solve their differences in a throwdown after school.
The Great Wall
Zhang Yimou presents Matt Damon in a story about the iconic Chinese landmark. With Jing Tian, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau.
An all-female-helmed horror anthology featuring stories by Annie Clark (St. Vincent), Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic and Sofia Carrillo.
A pair of young lovers are caught in the ravages of Joseph Stalin’s genocidal policies in the 1930s Ukraine.
A young black man visits his white girlfriend’s family estate, and finds himself ensnared into a sinister family plot. Directed by Jordan Peele.
Land of Mine
Writer and director Martin Zandvliet examines the days following the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945, when German POWs were held in Denmark.
A Tibetan mastiff leader (J.K. Simmons) forbids his pack from listening to music. His son Bodi (Luke Wilson) defies his father and seeks to become a rock ‘n’ roll star.
A married woman (Alicia Vikander) begins a love affair with an artist (Dane DeHaan) in 17th-century Amsterdam. The duo plot to sell tulip bulbs on the market and run away together.
Before I Fall
Samantha Kingston wakes up trapped and reliving the same day over and over. With Zoey Deutch and Jennifer Beals.
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Boyd Holbrook star in this action film by James Mangold.
Ex-maid of honour Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is relieved of her duties after being dumped by the best man by text. She finds herself seated in the back of the ballroom with a group of strangers.
Based on the best-selling novel, the film follows Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) as he journeys to an abandoned shack in the Oregon wilderness with an enigmatic trio of strangers. With Octavia Spencer.
Kong: Skull Island
A reimagining of the King Kong origin story set in an uncharted island in the Pacific.
My Scientology Movie
Louis Theroux’s collaboration with director John Dower and producer Simon Chinn explores the history and mystery behind the Church of Scientology.
Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns home and old friends Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) all line up to welcome him.
The Last Word
Shirley MacLaine is Harriet Lauler, an uptight businesswoman who’s hired a young local writer, Anne Sherman (Amanda Seyfried), to write her life’s story.
The Sense of an Ending
Reclusive Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) leads a quiet life until long-buried secrets rear their ugly head, and he must face the truth about his first love (Charlotte Rampling).
A psychological thriller that follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and WWE star John Cena.
Beauty and the Beast
A live-action retelling of the Disney favorite with Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts.
A bomb explodes behind the Fuhrer’s lectern during Hitler’s anniversary speech, killing eight people. Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) is arrested on the Swiss border for having a map of the assault site.
Pro motorbiker Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and undercover agent Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Pena) clash as they work together for the California Highway Patrol.
A six-member crew of the International Space Station discovers the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. With Jake Gyllenhaal.
Five teens take on an alien that threatens their small town of Angel Grove. Featuring Becky G, Bill Hader and Bryan Cranston.
Song To Song
Two couples – songwriters (Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling) and a music mogul (Michael Fassbender) and a waitress (Natalie Portman) – chase success and love to the backdrop of rock ‘n’ roll.
Seven-year-old Tim narrates the arrival of his family’s new baby in this animated comedy voiced by Alec Baldwin and Steve Buscemi.
Cézanne and I
A look at the decade-long friendship between post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne and novelist Emile Zola.
Ghost in the Shell
A special ops human-cyborg hybrid leads an elite task force against their enemy. Directed by Rupert Sanders and starring Scarlett Johansson.
The Zookeeper’s Wife
The real-life story of a working wife, mother and World War II hero (Jessica Chastain) who saved lives in what became the Warsaw Ghetto.
Going In Style
Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin star as lifelong buddies who embark on a bid to knock off a bank that did away with their pension funds.
Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock
A look at the life and work of photographer Mick Rock, who worked with legendary artists David Bowie and Lou Reed.
Smurfs: The Lost Village
Smurfette and her best friends set off on a race through the Forbidden Forest before evil wizard Gargamel arrives.
The story of August Pullman, a boy born with facial differences, who struggles to find acceptance with his new fifth-grade classmates.
Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising his young niece, who’s also a math prodigy, Mary, in Florida. Frank’s mother threatens to separate them when she soon learns of Mary’s great talent.
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
Richard Gere stars as a would-be operator with financial schemes. He reaches out to a lonely Israeli politician (Lior Ashkenazi), who later becomes prime minister.
Teenage monkey Spark and his friends, a fighting fox and a tech-savvy pig, take on evil overlord General Zhong.
The Fate of the Furious”
The action-thriller sequel of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise with Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Michelle Rodriguez.
The story of the relationship between old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) and young Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden), the father-son team credited for introducing the modern game of golf.
Born in China
A wildlife documentary by Lu Chuan about endangered animals in China.
Ben Wheatley presents a comedy-thriller about an arms deal that goes wrong. With Oscar winner Brie Larson and Armie Hammer.
Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson star in this thriller by Denise Di Novi about a newly divorced mother seeking revenge on her ex-husband.
Based on the bestseller by Dave Eggers, the film stars Emma Watson as a young woman rising through the ranks of the world’s largest tech and social-media company.
The Lost City of Z
British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) journeys into the Amazon in this film based on the non-fiction bestseller by David Grann.
A historical romantic drama set at the beginning of the Armenian genocide. With Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon.