We are now in September which means that the summer 2012 blockbuster season is over and we are moving into a very slow(however great for more experimental movies) phase of the movie going year. I’m looking back at the summer season of 2012 and giving an overall evaluation.
Unlike summer 2011 which gave us many good movies, but very few great ones; 2012 had fewer standout movies, however the ones that did stand out really stuck out. I did not catch everything summer 2012 had to offer, but I’m going to briefly rundown the movies I did see month by month.
*The summer blockbuster season starts the first weekend and wraps up at the end of August.
The Avengers delivered on all of the promises that fans had been waiting for since summer 2008 when it was revealed at the end of Iron Man that Tony Stark was part of a larger Universe. The movie manages to be incredibly action packed and entertaining while still having some heart to it as all of the characters have their moments to grow. While it is still very much up to debate as to whether this is the best comic book movie ever made, it is easily the closest any comic book movie has come to matching the look, feel, and tone of comic books on the big screen.
While I didn’t catch this ridiculous excuse for a blockbuster film in theater I did manage to see the mess of Battleship on Blu-ray. I didn’t write a full review for this movie, but had Battleship been a parody of blockbusters like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and other movies based on a brand it would have been great, but unfortunately this ridiculous movie that is almost not even tied to the board game is not a joke, but a real thing. The movie is full of pointless explosions, caricatured characters, and ridiculous plot convention after ridiculous plot convention. Luckily this cash-in flopped
Men in Black III
Men in Black III was an incredibly unnecessary sequel to a series that really doesn’t beg for sequels. The movie had a few very cool ideas, but unfortunately the script wasn’t all that ironed out which led to a movie with a few cool ideas, a hilarious portrayal of a young K by Josh Brolin, and an incredibly clunky and disjointed plot that lead to an anti-climatic end. What’s worse? By the time the movie is over I couldn’t help but feel like the movie never really accomplished much as the status quot of the characters hadn’t changed. Either way, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith were able to cash an easy paycheck
May had an amazing start with the Avengers, but unfortunately it didn’t leave many good options afterwards unless you like bad Gothic soap operas or poorly made studio cash ins.
Prometheus filled a void that has been missing in cinemas for at least five years with the last memorable space horror being 2007’s Sunshine. Prometheus is also legendary director Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi with a script that was written by the always polarizing Damon Lindelof. Prometheus delves into many big questions both philosophical and scientific about the origin of man. The film asks many questions, but also more directly deals with the story of people who go to the ends of space to get answers to those questions and the consequences of searching for God. Prometheus ended up being(no surprise) a very polarizing film due to some of its weak characters and lack of clarity and answers. I fall into the camp that loved the ambiguity and really liked the character work with Dave, Elizabeth, and Peter Weyland whom this film focuses on. I found the movie to be far deeper and smarter than most big releases which is why I would recommend this to film goers who like headier movies.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
I never got around to writing a review for Abe Lincoln and there was a reason for that. It didn’t do enough either way to motivate me. Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter has a ridiculous premise of Abe Lincoln as a vengeful man who is seeking to wipe out the race of beings that killed his mother. The movie takes itself incredibly seriously despite its ridiculous premise and various plot holes. While I generally enjoy this type of movie for fun, the problem this movie ran into is finding a tonal balance between ridiculous and serious. The movie was at times completely absurd and over the top with its terribly written dialog and hilarious action set pieces. This type of insanity was exactly what I was hoping from with Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter, but unfortunately the movie tries to be legitimately dramatic for most of its near 2 hour run time. This inconstantantcy is what is keeping this movie from being a great piece of historical fiction. The movie ends up feeling disjointed and inconsistent and at times I thought I was watching two movies: a horrible Abe Lincoln biopic and a hilarious Abe Lincoln history parody. This film is much better off being a smart and entertaining book.
Brave is certainly not Pixar’s best movie, but it still provided a beautiful and entertaining summer movie for films to go and see. This movie feels like a Disney movie than any Pixar movie from before it(and that’s not necessarily a good thing). The movie has a couple of great characters, some really stunning animation related to the environments and Merinda’s hair, and bits of the Pixar magic that we’ve all come to know and love. Sadly the movie suffers a bit from an overly simplistic plot and many conventions of fairy tales which in the end keeps it from being one of the great Pixar movies.
Release: Demand by Theater
Moonrise Kingdom is director Wes Anderson’s latest film that chronicles two children in love in the 1960s. Fans of Wes Anderson will know what to expect as his signature style is his very dry witty humor and quirky characters. The movie is very smart, very charming, and very unlike most movies that hit the big screen during the summer. The entire movie feels like a nostalgia trip into a small town in the 1960s with a certain simple and innocent tone that underlines the entire film despite its cleverness. This is a movie I would highly recommend to people of all ages.
June was a really solid month with Prometheus and Moonrise Kingdom providing some above average entertainment. While not every movie I caught was a knock out of the park I found myself generally pleased.
The Amazing Spiderman
The Amazing Spiderman goes back to square one by retelling Spiderman’s origin story with a new edgier direction. The big question on film goers minds was ” do we really need to see this origin again?” While I’m not certain it was necessary I will say that it felt far deeper and more believable than Raimi’s take, but by retelling the origin it forced the movie into all of the conventions of an origin story. Most of the new elements such as the new cast and the character of Gwen Stacey work incredibly well, but many of the repeated material is a bit of a drag. Either way I believe that most fans will walk away feeling more satisfied than they did with Raimi’s original version. Luckily this superhero flick sets up for a great spiderman series now that it is no longer chained to the origin story.
The Dark Knight Rises
Whether or not this final entree to Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is the best or not is a debate that will more than likely go on for years to come. The Dark Knight Rises manages to deliver a sound and epic conclusion to the trilogy by bringing Bruce Wayne’s emotional journey to an end as he must look deep within himself to find the man who once loved Gotham and was filled with hope. The story introduces an incredibly smart, formidable, and terrifying villain in Bane who pushes Batman to his mental, emotional, and physical limits. The movie has an epic scale and easily transcends the super hero sub-genre and blockbuster season it is released in to deliver a very deep, intricate, and layered tale that is about many things; most of all Bruce Wayne and the soul of Gotham City. The movie may not be flawless, but the great far outweighs any criticisms I had against the film. It may be years before we see a super-hero film as well made and sophisticated out as The Dark Knight Rises so make sure to catch one of the best films the genre has to offer.
July really didn’t have a ton to offer other than two of the behemoths that were Spiderman and Batman. I am actually ok with this as I ended up having more free weekends at the theater to catch The Dark Knight Rises three times.
Total Recall is the remake nobody wanted, but we got anyway. I went into this movie with fairly low expectations, but also an open mind as I thought that it had a great cast. In the end there were a lot of really great ideas that went completely unharnessed. By taking this high concept and removing it from Mars as well as take on a serious tone, the movie actually lends itself to many cool possibilities. Unfortunately these ideas all fall by the wayside in exchange for repetitive stylized action sequences that grow very dull by the time the movie is over. In the end there is a much better and more enjoyable version of this movie available on video store shelves as we speak.
The Expendables 2
The Expendables 2 is very much the movie I had to see with the first outing which is actually a compliment. The movie is essentially a tribute to bad action movies from the 1980s with ridiculous over the top action set pieces, explosions in every other scene, one liner after one liner, and a body count equivalent to some small countries. This is by no means a good movie, but it isn’t striving to be good, just enjoyable. The cast is fun with just about every classic action star in the film, but Chuck Norris steals the show with some very self aware humor. This is great fun and an action movie that fans of the 80s shouldn’t miss. Did I mention that Van Damme makes one really fun villain?
Premium Rush was a bit of surprise to me as I was fully expecting a generic movie with a couple of cool riding sequences, but what I got was a familiar yet entertaining story with some really fun and interesting performances from Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michael Shannon. Sure this movie is about bike messengers, but it manages to be different enough from every movie that has come out in the last couple of years that I was rather engaged. Not everything worked(dumb romance), but overall I found Premium Rush to be a really fun ride from start to finish. Whenever this one hits DVD/Blu-ray I highly recommend everyone give it a watch.
August was yet again the dumping ground for movies that were cool, but not big enough to compete with the giants. Some Augusts these movies fall flat, but this year I found a couple of movies that were actually pretty solid for what they are.
Closing Thoughts and Final Grade
Overall summer 2012 was a pretty great one for blockbusters. We will more than likely never see a summer this big for superhero movies again with The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers delivering on the promise realized with 2008’s Iron Man and The Dark Knight. Spiderman may not quite have the staying power he would normally have, but still managed to deliver a solid entree that will seems promise some great sequels. Prometheus and Moonrise Kingdom delivered two exceptional experiences that are not normally found during the summer movie season by being smarter than the average summer blockbuster.
Unfortunately this summer also suffered from a ridiculous number of adaptions/sequels/remakes. A few of these movies include Battleship,Madagascar 3, Total Recall, Ice Age Continental Drift, Men in Black III, Piranha 3DD, and Madea’s Witness Protection. I have not seen all of these movies, but on top of the superhero adaptions that were released; I believe that this summer goes to show that there is less and less risk taking and creativity in Hollywood every summer. I am really hoping that this is just a trend that will eventually fade away, but with only a couple of movies like Moonrise Kingdom, Premium Rush, and to some degree Prometheus making any money without branding I have little hope for new ideas in summer 2013.
New and Creative Ideas: D
Quantity of Great Movies: B
Overall Quality: A