This week, Neil Calloway argues that 1996 was a hugely influential year in cinema…
This month sees the release of the long awaited Independence Day sequel. In many ways it seems like a long time since the original came out; the film industry has moved on a lot, and there is no way that a film that successful would go without a sequel for that long in the current climate.
The release of the film also affords the opportunity to look back at 1996, which in hindsight is arguably the most important year in Hollywood in the past thirty or so years.
It might not like seem it, but it began trends that continue to this day. Independence Day itself secured Will Smith’s transition from a TV actor and rapper into a bankable action star. Another actor saw a turn in his career in 1996; Nicolas Cage starred in The Rock, beginning a trajectory that went from Oscar winner with comic potential to starring in forgettable action movies. The Rock also marks Don Simpson’s last film as producer with Jerry Bruckheimer. Since Simpson’s death, Bruckheimer’s fare has gone from smart action with good dialogue to the Transformers movies.
1996 also saw the release of the first Mission: Impossible, giving Tom Cruise’s career a boost just at the point when it could have been running out of steam. Though it had happened before, it also turned the TV rebooted as film into a viable prospect, and proved that the international espionage thriller could exist in the post Cold War world without James Bond present.
Scream was released in 1996, revitalising the horror genre, and also helping spawn the Scary Movie series; a parody of a film that’s already a pastiche of a genre, and I turn leading to a series of increasingly badly received parody movies.
In Britain, Trainspotting was released, introducing Ewan McGregor to the world, and cementing Danny Boyle’s reputation as a director. It would only be a few years before McGregor would be appearing in Star Wars.
Star Trek: First Contact was released, being the first Star Trek film not to star the cast of the original series; proving that Star Trek can be a success on the big screen without William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, paving the way for the current franchise.
Bound came out in October of 1996, marking the directorial debut of The Wachowskis, leading the way for The Matrix films and all their innovations.
Charlize Theron came to the fore in 1996 too, appearing in That Thing You Do! And 2 Days in the Valley, a good eight years before she won an Oscar.
I’m sure you could make a case for other years being as important, but I feel like 1996, for good or ill, was the beginning of important themes in Hollywood that endure. Maybe in 2036 someone will be saying the same thing about 2016.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.