So it is now September, the limbo month, where movie goers don’t get any blockbusters worth the name and no real Oscar contenders are out yet. Let’s take a look back at the summer and see what we learned from the biggest movies of the summer:
#1) Your creation will kill you. In most movies where this is a plot device, a human playing god in some way will get bitten in the ass, and this summer had plenty of ass biting. There were three killer Artificial Intelligence movies: Ex Machina, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Terminator Genisys (although, to be technical about it Ex Machina wasn’t a summer movie), plus Jurassic World’s supercharged killer–dinosaurs–just to hammer home the point.
These movies appeal to the standard Frankenstein fear our culture has been grappling with for a while. American culture has long been skeptical of new technology. And with good reason as drones, driverless cars, and even de-extinction are becoming more and more commonplace reality. But I, for one, welcome our new cyborg, passenger pigeon overlords.
Chappie, however, stands out as the one film that showed an AI character as the hero and humans as fearful reactionaries. Obviously, everyone saw Age of Ultron, in which the AI personality was psychotic, so nobody really paid it much attention.
#2) It was a quiet summer for superheroes. Friends and I have talked about how the superhero movie’s run may soon be coming to an end. I’m not so sure. This summer we only had three: Ant-Man, Fantastic Four, and Age of Ultron. Ultron was a clear winner. It made a ton of money and was mostly well received. However, it seems the general consensus was that it wasn’t as good at the first Avengers movie. I liked Ant-Man a lot, even with all its problems, and it was well received and performed well at the box-office. I think it missed out on doing something different with the genre and just gave more of the same.
Fantastic Four was a disaster, but that franchise might be cursed. It was blasted by critics and fans, buried the franchise for the next ten years, and ended its director’s career. I’m kind of impressed.
Looking down the line, we still have plenty of superheroes queuing up for movie releases: Deadpool, Batman, Superman, more Guardians, more Avengers, more X-Men, and even more Spider-Man. The summer might have been slow, but I don’t see a bust in the genre anything time soon.
#3) Women kicked butt. The summer was especially good for women and men who love female-centric movies. Mad Max: Fury Road, Spy, Trainwreck, and Pitch Perfect 2 all were well received and did very well at the box office. If Hollywood was unsure whether there is a market for these types of movies, they know now. Far From the Madding Crowd wasn’t a big money film but was a critical hit. Hot Pursuit didn’t do so well, but overall I think it is pretty clear the gals had a good summer. There was even another Magic Mike movie—no central female roles, but definitely marketed to women. My prediction: next year Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy with be in the third Magic Mike movie directed by Judd Apatow. It will be five hours long.
#4) Spy movies are still cool. There were four spy movies this summer. Four! Spy, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and American Ultra. Maybe four movies about clandestine services opening so close to each other is just a coincidence, or maybe Americans are really loving themselves some spy films. Either way, the selection for this season was a mixed bag. MI5 did very well as did Spy but I didn’t really care for either. I liked U.N.C.L.E. but it looks like I was the only one who saw it and American Ultra didn’t seem to make any impact. I don’t think this is a long-term trend but we’ve got a new James Bond later this year and then Snowden will throw cold water all over it.
#5) Video game movies still suck. They don’t work. I didn’t see either Hitman or Pixels. I don’t think I missed anything.* It amazes me that studios think that audiences want to see these movies. We did Hitman already in 2007, and it was awful. Yet, somehow, somewhere, someone thought Hitman deserved another shot and made it worse. The less said about Sandler and Pixels the better. He hasn’t been having a good year anyway.
#6) Hollywood’s philosophy is: if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, and if it is broke ride into the ground until it stops working—go with what the people know, and hope they still like it. Sometimes this works, and other times it didn’t. Jurassic World was the clear and surprise winner. So too was Mad Max, my personal favorite movie of the summer. We had a bunch of squeals, remakes, and reboot, and most did well. I would even include the bio pics Straight out of Compton and Love & Mercy in this category, because both played on the nostalgia of the fans of the real life people. On the other hand, Fantastic Four, Terminator, Vacation, and Entourage showed that a movie can’t totally count on name alone. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. stands out as a name nobody remembered—and if they did remember it they didn’t care about the original anymore and only judged the 2015 movie on its own merit.
#7) Originals let us down. While there where some interesting entries this summer that were not a franchise in some respect, none of them had any staying power or a lasting impact. There were some valiant attempts. The Gift tried to show the revenge genre for the perspective of an innocent bystander, but maybe the ending was a bit too ambiguous. Dope was a great for two-thirds of its run time, until it dipped back in to cliché land. Tangerine didn’t live up to its IMDB synopsis. Even Pixar’s Inside Out left something to be desired.
- Mad Max
- The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
- Love & Mercy
- After number 5 I feel ambivalent to rank them
– By Joseph De Paul
*Editor’s Note: I DID see Pixels, and neither Joseph nor anyone else who chose to skip that particular cinematic turd missed anything.