Sep 05 2013
Now that summer is officially over (I don’t care what the actual date is supposed to be), I wanted to take a look back and try to capture the scope of just how bad this summer was for blockbuster movies.
There were a TON, and though ticket sales were up (it was supposedly the biggest summer ever, somehow), quality was down. Often way down.
I hunted through the calendar and pulled any film I thought would classify as a blockbuster. Usually there are at least a handful of shining films that ended up being great, but this summer? “Pretty good” is about the highest honor I can bestow, while most are average or sub-par at best. Read on.
I’ve linked to my review when applicable.
This is really the only film in this month I’d consider an actual “blockbuster,” as it had a budget over a hundred million and I think doubled that in ticket sales worldwide. It was also one of the most surprising films of the summer, considering the trailers were lackluster and the post-apocalypse is almost getting tiresome at this point (which is unfortunately where my book trilogy is set, whoops!).
In reality, the film had a much smarter plot than I ever thought it would, and Tom Cruise proved yet again that no matter how odd he is in his personal life, he’s usually a very solid lead. The biggest flaw with the film was that it was shot like an action blockbuster with no grace or style whatsoever, when it really didn’t need to be. It could have benefitted from a bit of artistic vision, as the content wasn’t as mindless as the trailers let on.
I still have mixed feelings about Iron Man 3. Everyone says it’s the best movie in the trilogy, and that may well be true. But I’m still disappointed months later with the direction they took the Mandarin, as I was looking forward to a performance from Ben Kingsley on par with Bane or the Joker.
That said, there are many great scenes in the film, and it has an emotional core that’s better than the other two. The grand finale scene was one of the best fight sequences in ANY superhero movie, but overall, I’m just not sure IM3 has lasting appeal.
This is certainly the odd duck out here when it comes to blockbusters, but I have to include it as such given how lofty this project was from Baz Luhrman. The film has the opposite problem as Oblivion, despite the difference in genres. It’s all style and no substance. The central love story is just painful, and the over the top performances from the entire cast always felt hollow.
This move received a decent amount of audience and critical praise, but I still hate it. I really do. I like this cast and this new Star Trek universe that’s been created around them, but for what’s supposed to be a mindless blockbuster, this had one of the strangest, most confusing plots I’ve seen. People in torpedo tubes? Just read my full review to understand why I was scratching my head the whole time. I did like Benedict Cumberbatch in the villain role, but I just wish he had a better movie to terrorize.
There was nothing wrong with FF6, as it was good, mindless fun, but it wasn’t the surprise smash hit that FF5 was, as that movie ended up being one of the better movies of the summer. I really only remember the eternally, ridiculously long plane chase at the end, and then Jason Statham showing up to promise that the sequel will be more interesting.
M. Night Shyamalan finally had a tick up in quality instead of another tick down, but it wasn’t by much, and After Earth still isn’t very good. There are differing views on this, but for all M. Night’s usual twists and turns, this was the most straightforward plot I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi movie, and there was really nothing all that interesting visually or story-wise contained within. It was fine, but immediately forgettable. Not good for a movie with that sort of budget.
I did like Man of Steel more than most, I feel. More than Iron Man 3, and certainly the other superhero films of the summer. Snyder can be hit or miss, but I felt he did a pretty great job with incredibly dangerous subject matter. No, it wasn’t Nolan’s Batman Begins, but it created the best vision of a live action Superman I’ve ever seen both visually and thematically. Yes, I’m including the original films in that classification, which is blasphemy to some, but I was never the biggest Donner enthusiast.
There was too much after the fact focus put on the fact that Superman killed someone in the end of the film, and I wrote a whole post about why that was misguided. The film’s flaw was not having Superman kill someone, it was not properly explaining why it was such a big deal for him to do so. They didn’t set up his moral code well at all, and put too much focus on his decision to reveal himself to the world, which isn’t really an interesting form of character motivation.
Still, I wish they’d stuck with the franchise and just let Superman and Snyder have another go at it in a sequel without getting Batman involved (Affleck or otherwise). It feels like a desperation move, and I don’t like it.
This was actually another surprise, as I had rock bottom expectations for this movie, and expected it to be the biggest flop of the summer. No, it was nothing like the original, amazing book by Max Brooks, but it was a pretty entertaining popcorn flick, and not a bad zombie film, all things considered. Not phenomenal or anything, but enjoyable, and that’s leagues better than what I thought we’d see.
This was Pixar’s big entry this summer and it was just okay. Though Toy Story sequels end up being classics in their own right, that isn’t the case here for Monster’s Inc. Again, not bad, and better than Brave or Cars or Cars 2, but not exactly an instant classic either.
This is the only film listed here I didn’t actually see. I know it has its defenders, but as always, poor David R is in the critical minority. I can’t say too much about the content, other than I don’t think the Lone Ranger had the brand appeal Disney thought it did, and they overestimated how much people wanted to see Johnny Depp offend Native Americans. I believe this was actually the biggest bomb of the summer, mathematically.
Did not imagine that if I had to pick one favorite film this summer, it would be Pacific Rim. It’s mindless, goofy, robot boxing action, but it’s infinitely better than the insipid Transformers films, and it’s actually an original script unlike all these superhero films. Yes, it’s based on anime, but it’s an homage, not a rip-off. Pacific Rim was just so much damn fun, it’s a shame it didn’t make more money. It was thought of as a bomb at first, but I think it’s gone on to turn a profit. Still, I don’t think you’ll see it return as a franchise.
As I explained in my review, this film was a rollercoaster of expectations as it went from “should be amazing” when Aronofsky was directing to “probably won’t be” when James Mangold stepped in. And it wasn’t amazing, it was average. It was literally the most average superhero movie I’ve possibly ever seen. Yes, it was leagues better than the first Wolverine movie and certainly X-Men 3, but it’s still a long ways away from great, and sits firmly at “not bad.” But that’s not enough for a character this beloved, and ultimate The Wolverine was a disappointment.
Speaking of disappointments, I was incredibly excited to see another original sci-fi feature from District 9′s Neil Blomkamp. Unfortunately, he got way, way too caught up in his allegories about illegal immigration and universal healthcare, so much so that they completely overwhelmed the film. Even if you side with his views, the lack of subtlety with which these issues are presented is just too much to handle. And really, even stripping all that away, the core film just isn’t all that great either.
Perhaps not a blockbuster in the same sense of the others, but definitely an anticipated sequel. They squandered Hit Girl by taking her out of costume for most of the film (and she’s too old now anyway), and Kick-Ass himself is both bored and boring. The only highlight Chris Mintz-Plasse’s The Mother****er.
So, what WERE the best movies of the summer? Outside of the handful of blockbusters I’ve mentioned here that I could tolerate, it was a pretty big summer for horror. The Purge did exceptionally well (even though it was very dumb) while The Conjuring and Evil Dead and You’re Next were decent and good and great respectively. There were a few good comedies as well, from This is the End to The Heat to The World’s End to We’re the Millers to Much Ado About Nothing. And movies like 42 and The Butler and Mud cleaned up on low budgets. And honestly, my favorite movie of the year so far still might be Spring Breakers.
It was just sad to end the summer without a blockbuster movie that truly wowed me like a Dark Knight or The Avengers or Inception. Next year should be better, and 2015 will be absolutely huge, but 2013 will forever stand as a wasteland for blockbusters.
Agree? Disagree? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.
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