So here's the thing, this 2016 summer of movies was, to put it lightly, not so great, at least on the summer blockbuster front. Now, this doesn't mean that there weren't any films worthy of downing a barrel of popcorn without anyone's help. There were strong showings from Captain America: Civil War, Star Trek Beyond, Finding Dory, and Ghostbusters, all of which I would definitely put in different places squarely on the summer movie continuum.

There was also a strong string of independent films like The Lobster and Swiss Army Man. However, none of this was enough to make up for the disappointments of films like Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Jason Bourne, all of which had the potential to be heavy hitters within a movie summer, but simply didn't deliver.

So then, what made the 2016 summer of movies so completely and utterly lackluster? To understand that, we need to look at what makes a good movie summer, as well as where this one came up short.

Memories of a Better Time

For me, the fondest memories I have of a single movie summer are from the summer of 2008. In this summer alone, we had movies that I place firmly in the category of great films like Iron Man, WALL-E, The Dark Knight, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, and Tropic Thunder. These movies alone are enough to make 2008 a very good summer of movies, but these weren't even the only worthwhile ones.

There was also solidly entertaining, though not stellar, movies like Kung Fu Panda, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Get Smart, as well as The Forbidden Kingdom, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Baby Mama, all of which came out in April, but I didn't see until the summer.

In many ways, a good movie summer isn't just about the good movies, though. The best summers also generally have movies that are bad in just the right ways. These are either the so bad it's good, or oh no, this is really, really bad, how could this have happened? sort of bad movies, which I consider Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Happening, Hancock, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor all to full into one or the other of these categories.

2016: Major Studio Summertime Sadness

So, by contrast, what went so disastrously wrong this year? After all these years of success and failure, it seems like studios would have an understanding of what makes good summer films and do what they can to come out on top. The reality of the film industry today, however, is that what makes a summer particularly great, or memorable for us film lovers is not the same criteria that studios look at.

Studios have become incredibly reactionary in recent years, and that is something that has undoubtedly harmed summer movies. Since such a large portion of big budget films are based on original existing properties with existing fans, studios and filmmakers have become incredibly concerned about pleasing these fans. However, studios need to learn what fans actually want, and what discussions actually warrant paying attention to.

As pointed out by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, this is something that people across many different industries have had to adjust to as social media has risen to its place today as the central binding force for culture and society.

"The primary difference between social media data and the 'web of the past' is that where static websites can be indexed and crawled for archival data, social media data is real-time and can be mined for 'current awareness.'

This is simultaneously the biggest advantage and the biggest potential hurdle of social media intelligence. While it's instantly accessible and genuine information produced in real-time by real people, it also means that in order to derive meaningful insights from this data you have to define the right parameters for its use."

The film industry has seemed incredibly slow to learn this lesson. Instead of making the right decisions for their films, they go with what they feel will appease online discussions. For example, look at the film that I think is hands-down the biggest failure of the summer (maybe not from a commercial standpoint, but definitely in terms of quality), the flaming pile of confounding garbage, Suicide Squad. If nothing else, this film should make it obvious that sometimes the loudest voice in the room (or on the internet), doesn't always know what it's talking about, and isn't the best one to listen to.

Suicide Squad: The Latest Cautionary Tale in Major Studio Filmmaking

Enough people have already talked about why Suicide Squad is so dreadful that I don't feel the need to add anything on that front. Instead, I think a better question is how it was allowed to be so bad. It's no secret that Warner Bros. and DC are trying very, very hard to replicate what their rivals over at Marvel are doing. However, they are entirely missing the keys of Marvel's success by, up to this point, being overly concerned and reactionary in all the wrong ways.

Now, I'm not sure that there's a good movie to be made of Suicide Squad, but I am positive that there's a better (at least more consistent, which would be a huge step up) version of it that could be found within the footage that was shot.

I walked out of the movie honestly baffled by what I had just seen. It had been a long time since I had seen a film that just honestly didn't add up at the level of Suicide Squad. The more I thought about it, though, the more apparent it is to me that the finished product that made it into theaters was a prime example of reactionary decision-making.

First, it is obvious that they wanted to avoid the backlash that came after Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It seems that they were specifically concerned about making sure that the film was less confusing, which led to things like Will Smith's character, Deadshot, being introduced multiple times (just in case someone in the audience had gone to the bathroom during the first one or maybe fallen asleep). However, all this did was make the film more confusing because it took away from things like actually explaining anything that was going on.

Second, they saw that people generally responded well to the film's trailer, (specifically the one edited to "Ballroom Blitz"), and tried to replicate the feeling of the trailer by stuffing the film with music in the most jarring and nonsensical way I have maybe ever seen in a movie, which is made even worse by how incohesive and mostly very, very bad the film's soundtrack is.

Finally, there's the Jared Leto issue. I have a hard time believing that they went into making Suicide Squad planning that The Joker would primarily serve as a marketing red herring. However, with all the negative press leading up to Suicide Squad's release about Jared Leto and his trash monster antics toward his co-stars, it seems clear that the studio became extremely nervous about hitching any measure of their future to someone that nobody else apparently wants to work with.

Now, I'm a fan of this decision since I was truly annoyed every time that Leto appeared on screen. However, all this reactionary decision-making about the film seems to be a major factor in the terrible final product we got. Instead of there being any semblance of a cohesive film by the time it got to theaters, we were left with was the film equivalent of a procrastinated, written the night before the due date, high school research paper.

So Bad It's Good vs. So Bad I'm Bummed

Not even the best summers have been devoid of bad movies, and I would go as far as saying that bad movies are essential to a great summer. However, even bad movies aren't doing things the right way this summer. I consider myself a serious fan of so bad they're good movies, but none of the stinkers this summer really reached that status. There was nothing that elevated them to that next echelon. Instead, they were just disappointing.

In 2008, I was still very much a believer in M. Night Shyamalan, and believed he could still get back to his early form. However, the awfulness that he unleashed upon me while I sat in a crowded theater watching The Happening at least elicited a reaction from me. It may have been one of disdain, but at least I cared. With Suicide Squad, however, I just didn't care.

The closest I came to having a reaction like that was to X-Men: Apocalypse. Even the disappointment of that movie, though, didn't register with me the same way, despite X-Men being my favorite superhero franchise my entire life (even before the first film came out and totally changed the game for the superhero film genre, I was obsessed with everything X-Men).

On that personal fanhood level, the mediocrity of Apocalypse, (especially its total waste of potential in transforming the collective internet's boyfriend, Oscar Isaac, into a lame, nondescript villain instead of the imposing force that Apocalypse should be), was just a bummer.

Will Summer Ever Be the Same Again?

For a movie summer to work, let alone be great, there needs to be a few factors. First of all, there obviously needs to be quality. Not only that, but there needs to be films that you expect to be great, then deliver on that. Anticipation and hype leading off to a rewarding payoff is one of the parts that makes summers spent at the movies so fun. These successes also has to outweigh the disappointments, which is where this summer failed the most.

Of the films I truly enjoyed this summer, only Captain America: Civil War was one that I went into with unbridled expectations that then delivered. Others were ones that I was cautiously optimistic going into like Finding Dory (because Pixar is not what they once were, and spin-off sequels are tough to nail), Star Trek Beyond (because of its garbage trailer and a new director taking over the franchise), and Ghostbusters (which I was incredibly hopeful for because I love seeing garbage manbaby trashlords proven wrong, but was unimpressed by the trailer), or were smaller films that I had no expectations for, but was pleasantly surprised by, such as The Lobster (which is probably my top film of the year at this point).

Basically, the 2016 summer of movies was such a bummer because way too many of the films that are definitively summer (big budget action and superhero movies, specifically), failed to deliver what makes summer great--actually being fun to watch. It's not just that there were so many bad movies, it's that the bad ones weren't bad in a fun way, they were just bummers.

The worst part, however, is that it seems like this is a pattern that will continue in many ways because studios are going to continue making reactionary decisions about films, and truly original concepts are going to continue being made less and less, at least on the summer blockbuster scale.

This doesn't mean we won't have good movie summers anymore, but it does seem that when we have bad summers now, they are likely going to be very bad.