This summer was full of explosions, cops, car chases, apocaylpses, and, above all else, property damage. Many of the movies were bad. Some were good. Most were ok. But none of them were truly great. It’s all enough to make one yearn for that year Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight came out, back in the day when superheroes were still interesting, before Marvel milked the concept for every dime it was worth. There hasn’t really been a summer action movie that good in years. While we can all wait, I won’t be holding my breath. It seems that shoddy sequels, fun but ultimately shallow superhero flicks and melodramatic science-fiction is the name of the game now.
Which movies this summer were good? Which were bad? Here’s a list…
- Star Trek: Into Darkness
I’m not even a Star Trek fan (Star Wars was always more of my thing as a child) but JJ Abrams’ sequel was a skillful blend of well-planned action scenes and actual character development—a blend that few other summer films managed to find this year. It had humor, it had battles, it had chases, and sot of all, it had heart. While the plot was a little muddled, the interactions between Kirk and Spock saved the movie and propelled it to the top of this list.
- World War Z
I had very low expectations for this oddly bloodless zombie thriller ostensibly based on a book by Max Brooks. I was very pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a fun, fast-paced zombie romp with a few moments of gripping suspense. Who can forget those zombies building a giant anthill to enter Jerusalem?
- You’re Next
Arriving at the tail end of a summer filled with big-budget fiascoes, You’re Next was a welcome change of pace. It was the little indie horror flick that could, a lot of suspense with a hint of black comedy, all without the use of any sort of CGI. Still, it’s a sad day when a movie with a plot as thin as this one’s nails the third spot on a list of the summer’s very best.
- Pacific Rim
Can special effects save a poor script? The answer, in almost every case, is a resounding no. Yet for every rule there is an exception. Pacific Rim’s fight scenes are so cool and inventive that they do manage to wash out the bad taste left in your mouth by some of the movie’s cringe-worthy dialogue. It helps that everyone in the film—the director, the actors, whoever designed the monsters and robots—seem to have put a lot of heart into their work.
- Iron Man 3
The more I think about it, the more annoyed it makes me. It’s stale, shallow, formulaic—but it also has really sharp dialogue and some genuinely cool action set pieces. On the whole, this one was enjoyable, but it killed my desire to see any more Marvel movies. They’re all too easy, and they’re way too over-prodouced.
- The Conjuring
The Conjuring is an interesting case. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not exactly brimming with drama or a compelling story. It’s all about the scares, and it will either scare you, or it won’t. While the first hour was atmospheric and filled with nail-biting suspense, I found the climax overwrought and even dull. But I will never argue it’s not a good movie—just the sort of movie that doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression once you leave the theater.
And this year’s dumbest plot award goes to Elysium, which offers the questionable premise that all of the world’s woes can be solved with the literal push of a button. The visual look of the film is excellent, though, and the action is pretty fun. If only it hadn’t tried so darned hard to be meaningful, it might have actually been so.
- Kick Ass 2
The most disappointing film of the summer, the sequel to the excellent Kick-Ass failed, thanks to severe tonal inconsistencies, cringe-inducing potty humor, and clunky dialogue filled with cheesy and unnecessary pop culture references. There were a few shining moments where the film transcended itself, and we all got to see what a great movie could have been made—before it plummeted back into the pit of crass, vapid humor.
- Man of Steel
The second-most disappointing movie of the summer, and by far its most pretentious. Man of Steel thought that epic music and lots of smashing equaled a great superhero movie. It thought wrong. Very wrong. If Marvel has become bland and shallow, DC has become absurdly melodramatic—and that’s even worse.
The ones I Didn’t See
Some movies were bound to be bad. Take the Lone Ranger, a movie advertising itself as “from the people who brought you Pirates of the Caribbean.” So, the people who made three god-awful films milking Johnny Depp for all he was worth, and that one good one all those years ago? Yeah, I’ll pass. I also passed on The Wolverine. You had your chance to make a good Wolverine movie, Marvel, and your chance was called X-Men Origins: Wolverine. No more Wolverine for me, never again.
Then there was RIPD. I confess I loathe Ryan Reynolds and refuse to see anything with him in it. I missed out on The Heat, more because of lack of time than anything else, and skipped on the kids’ movies. There’s still a chance to see Blue Jasmine and The Butler.
Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to see all these, and others, and find out how they stack up on my list.
Which movies did you see? How do they rank up? Share your thoughts.