Everything comes full circle. The summer began with a team of superheroes taking on evil forces in The Avengers, only to wrap itself up with another, older but no less powerful fighting force in The Expendables 2. In between those blockbusters were four months of a most interesting movie season, flush with some of the biggest hits of all time and a few Howard the Duck-size financial disasters.
One of my favorite things about both The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus is that they divided everyone. There was no consensus on either movie, which caused one heated fanboy argument after another. They will continue to cause debate and merit repeat viewings, which will allow audiences to see, with realistic expectations and not under clouds of hype, that these were two of the year’s finest films.
The Avengers is now one of the biggest hits of all time but even comic book fans admit it wasn’t perfect. I enjoyed it, but let’s be honest: Mark Ruffalo is a terrific actor but his take on Bruce Banner was grindingly dull. When the CGI took over, the character worked but when Ruffalo mumbled his way through the part, I longed for the intense Eric Bana, the charismatic Edward Norton or even Bill Bixby to come back.
An even better movie was The Amazing Spider-Man, which energized the tired franchise by giving us a potent love story instead of a worn out love triangle and a fresh, brooding approach to Peter Parker. Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films shouldn’t be tossed aside in comparison, as Andrew Garfield’s refreshingly different interpretation is exactly what this series needed.
The Bourne Legacy survived being Matt Damon-free, offered an exciting, different approach and wound up the summer’s most underrated movie. While not a comedy classic, The Campaign, with its raunchy laughs at the expense of politicians, is a welcome satire in the pre-election season. The wonderful Moonrise Kingdom brought in appreciative audiences seeking art house escapism and it’s hard to determine which will end up being the bigger guilty pleasure of the season: Rock of Ages, The Expendables 2 or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, all dumb and hugely entertaining time-wasters.
NOT UP TO SNUFF
Men in Black 3 was not worth the wait or the price of admission and, take away Charlize Theron’s pitch-perfect villainy, Snow White and the Huntsman was an overlong snooze fest. Ted had some big laughs but the joke got old during hour two and offered little you couldn’t see for free on Family Guy. Disney’s Brave brought in hordes of children but even fans of the film couldn’t deny it was far from a Pixar classic. A theater full of rowdy, cheering women may disagree but the fun of Magic Mike wore off after an hour of thrusting, g-strings and penis pumps.
Most of the seasonal art movies weren’t anything special, as Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love proved to be one of his mildest, least essential comedies, and Safety Not Guaranteed was too slight to pay full admission price. I admire that Disney made a movie so openly in favor of adoption but wonder what they were thinking when they made The Odd Life of Timothy Green.
Then there’s Battleship, a giant flop/Hollywood cautionary tale that was unloved by millions, depicted Oahu getting pulverized by aliens and had precious little to do with the board game it was based on. Having on-his-way-out Taylor Kitsch in the lead and giving Liam Neeson only a few minutes of screen time was a big mistake. Yet, in the film’s defense, it was better, shorter and more fun than any of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies.
Teaming Johnny Depp with Tim Burton to re-think the charmingly creaky horror soap opera Dark Shadows seemed like a can’t miss idea until we actually saw the movie. Taking Oliver Stone away from wealthy, privileged America and back into his drug-hazed badlands sounded promising until we sat through the awful Savages. I had hopes for Total Recall, maybe because the filmmakers claimed they were being faithful to the original story by Philip K. Dick, but the result was Philip K. Dick-less.
Next summer looks to repeat this year’s triumphs and mistakes, as Iron Man and Superman return, along with the crew of Star Trek and the Fast and Furious gang. There EW also sequels to The Smurfs and Grown Ups that no one asked for, a new M. Night Shyamalan movie starring Will Smith and, worst of all, someone thought remaking Robocop was a good idea. Suddenly, That’s My Boy and The Dictator don’t seem so bad anymore.