After thinking long and hard about it, I’ve still come to very few conclusions about the success of this past summer’s movies. Part of me wants to say it was fantastic and a summer to be remembered, that is, Christian Bale kicked ass in “The Dark Knight.” The other part of me wants to hang my head in shame and mourn the state of modern filmmaking — did they really have to make a second “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”? In hopes of coming to a neater conclusion, and because it’s never too early for a little nostalgia, here is a short recap of the summer blockbusters, the hits and the flops, in no particular order:
‘The Dark Knight’
How can I not start with “The Dark Knight”? Opening-night screenings were sold out weeks in advance and IMAX screenings continued to sell out for weeks after that. The mobs of people waiting for tickets just proved how desperately people wanted to be a part of something epic this summer, and who could say they were disappointed. If anybody was disappointed please come talk to me personally, and I’ll be more than happy to punch you in the face.
‘Speed Racer”/“The Hulk’
Looking back, it’s hard to even remember these being released. “Speed Racer” was such absolute crap that Warner Bros. originally lied about opening weekend numbers to boost interest. Last time I checked, 18 million doesn’t automatically round up to 21.5 million. “The Hulk,” on the other hand, is just a franchise that needs to be let go. And since when is Bruce Banner a Jason Bourne character, free running in Latin America? Crap.
‘You Don’t Mess With the Zohan’
I stand by my opinion that this was a decent film. Any movie that reliably provides a hummus-based joke every five minutes is good in my book. But really, the self-deprecating satire of Israeli culture and Middle East conflicts was amusing and uplifting. It also proved that execs will literally give Adam Sandler complete creative control, marketing potential aside, and I’d much rather be in his hands than in those of whoever the hell wrote “Click.”
Officially the cutest movie of all time. Essays could be written about the movie’s poignancy and the all-too-real prediction of man’s future. I’d much rather talk about his little cockroach friend, though. How freakin’ cute was that thing? The Jiminy Cricket of our age — I insist he was the star of the movie.
‘Kung Fu Panda’
And then the movie that could have been. With awesome animation sequences and feature performances by stars ranging from Dustin Hoffman to Ian McShane, it could’ve been a great success. Too bad the script sucked big, formulaic, “everybody’s special” balls. And did they really hire Jackie Chan just to deliver ONE line? I want my $14 (IMAX is expensive!) back.
I just think it’s funny that my dad, 60, called me after the movie to tell me how much he enjoyed it. I didn’t see it.
I also didn’t see it, although I watched the trailer at least a million times to prevent insanity at my summer internship. All work and no play. I owe my sanity to this trailer, even if Will Ferrell hasn’t changed character once since “Anchorman.”
I didn’t see “Stepbrothers” because I was too busy watching “Pineapple Express.” While one obviously has to ask how long the man-child characters played by Rogen and others can last, it was good to see indie director David Gordon Green jump into the blockbuster mix and take some chances. With Robert Downey Jr., Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro all making blockbuster hits, indie crossover seems to be the theme of the summer.
‘Mamma-Mia’/’Sex and the City’/’Brideshead Revisited’
Then these three. Grouping these all together, misogynistic? Probably. I justify myself in that they were all critical failures in big-screen adaptations. A good musical/TV show/Early 20th century novel do not a good movie make. Were these supposed to be filling the Rom-Com void? What happened to just throwing John Cusack in a movie and calling it a day?
I don’t even know where to go from here. There’s still “Iron Man” and “Tropic Thunder” to count into the mix. Plus the other-worldly (pun) disappointment of the “Indiana Jones” sequel. Even with all the flops, though, I can’t help but look back fondly on the past summer’s critical hits and look forward to the trends they will set for next year. The relative failure of the bigger names and bigger budgets, and the continuing success of the smaller names and pet-project films will hopefully remind execs that the movie industry is not all about marketing and spectacle. It’s about those moments when Heath Ledger slams a guy’s face into a pencil. I mean, how freakin’ awesome was that?