Last year, we took a look ahead at some of the biggest films planned for 2016. Now we’ve reached the New Year, and we have a better idea not just of which films we’ll be seeing but when to expect specific releases. Specifically, we’ve also gained a clear picture of the summer blockbuster season ahead, and there are some fascinating aspects to it.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that the summer of 2016 at the cinema is set up to mirror what we saw in 2015 fairly closely. Last year the summer was headlined by an impressive mix of long-awaited sequels, superhero sagas, ordinary action films and charming animated projects. The schedule for the 2016 summer (beginning in May, when the top films released will likely carry into the summer season) could be described quite similarly. So now the question becomes whether or not this year’s blockbuster season can top the last.

Let’s take a look…

Sequels & Reboots


There are sequels that I’ll discuss outside of this category, but we’re talking about films that are popular in part because they’re reviving particularly old franchises or concepts.

In 2015, this category was highlighted by two films in particular: Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World. That’s a pretty difficult pairing for 2016 to overcome. The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Mad Max: Fury Road just received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture (a strong indication of a similar nomination at the Academy Awards), after successfully rebooting George Miller’s iconic dystopian adventure saga. Meanwhile, Business Insider declared Jurassic World to be the third highest-grossing film of all time (though Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now in the midst of pushing it down to number four).

One of 2016’s answers to these films will be Star Trek Beyond, which will be the third film in the series since J.J. Abrams initially rebooted it with 2009’s Star Trek. But the real heavyweight with potential to reach Jurassic World levels of attention (though almost certainly not Mad Max: Fury Road levels of acclaim) is Independence Day: Resurgence, a sequel to 1996’s Independence Day. There’s no Will Smith this time around, which could hurt the box office performance, but this film (set, of course, for a July 4 release) ought to be a big one.

Superhero Sagas


This is the one category in which 2016 looks to have a decided advantage. There were three major superhero projects stretched out across the summer of 2015: Avengers: Age Of UltronAnt-Man, and Fantastic Four. But really, only Age Of Ultron was particularly successful. Ant-Man did well, but not so much by Marvel standards, and Fantastic Four bombed both at the box office and with critics. Really, it was a pretty forgettable summer for superheroes.

The two “lesser” superhero films of 2016 should outperform Ant-Man and Fantastic Four with relative ease. X-Men: Apocalypse will look to build on the strong popularity of X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and will be aided by the addition of Oscar Isaac (fresh off a tremendous performance in Star Wars) as the titular villain. Meanwhile, DC and Warner Bros. will be rolling out Suicide Squad, a curious project based on comics about DC villains being spun into a special-ops force.

But it’s Captain America: Civil War that should really push 2016 over the top. In fact, this film could even top Age Of Ultron to become the most popular Marvel film since The Avengers. Why? Well, for one thing its direct predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was one of the best reviewed superhero films we’ve seen. But the film will also benefit from a specific focus on Iron Man and Captain America, undoubtedly the two most iconic characters among the Avengers. These are the most famous characters of the bunch and have also come to most clearly represent modern Marvel. Five films have been made for them specifically; they have the most recognisable costumes; and they even have the strongest representation in gaming. Known for inventive video poker and slot gaming themes, Betfair’s casino carries numerous superhero titles including all of the Avengers, but it has several titles specifically devoted to Iron Man and Captain America. They’re quite simply the two most important superheroes out there right now, and this film will see them square off one-on-one.

Animated Films


This should come down to a pretty straight-up battle, and it’s really difficult to predict a winner, so to speak. In 2015, Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out was something of a surprise hit, and is now viewed as the studios’ best collaboration in years. But 2016 will respond with a sequel to another of Disney/Pixar’s best projects: Finding Dory will revisit the world of Finding Nemo in a project that ought to draw a pretty massive crowd. In fact, it was recently suggested by Forbes that Finding Dory could have a shot at winning the box office this year.

Action Films


Naturally, anything in the superhero category could fit here as well. But for the purposes of comparing 2015 and 2016 summer releases, it’s interesting to note that each year will have included an addition to a major action franchise that doesn’t operate within the superhero genre.

In 2015 it was Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the fifth installment in Tom Cruise’s larger-than-life spy series that began back in 1996. The film earned just slightly less than its immediate predecessor (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) at the box office, and according to Variety set Cruise up for yet another go as super-spy Ethan Hunt. Cruise always draws a crowd, and this series has always had a certain brand of cleverness. It’s the closest thing to an American James Bond.

2016’s answer will be Bourne 5, which will seek to revive the Bourne series on Matt Damon’s shoulders after the actor declined to participate in the fourth film. Naturally that film (The Bourne Legacy) took a hit in terms of popularity, but Damon’s return could set the fifth film up to be the biggest one yet. This one, as with the animated film face-off, feels like a toss-up.

So, can 2016’s summer blockbusters be even bigger than what we saw in 2015? It kind of looks like a dead heat, but if Independence Day: Resurgence is as big as expected and Captain America: Civil War outperforms Age Of Ultron, 2016 just might win out.