Summer movie season underwhelms with few surprises
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2013 16:09
There’s no denying that when it comes to summer movie season, there will inevitably be some duds. After all, with so many movies competing for precious few weekends and consumer dollars, not all of them can be great. But moviegoers hold out hope that for every abomination that comes around, like “Battleship” (2012), there will also be an intelligent franchise film, such as “The Avengers” (2012), or a creative, conversation-starting movie, like “Inception” (2010). Sadly, the 2013 summer movie season offered little in innovation. It instead produced mostly standard fare with only the occasional gem sprinkled in, leaving blockbuster lovers looking forward to 2014.
Most Surprising Film:
Easily the most surprising movie of summer 2013 was the Brad Pitt-led “World War Z,” which astounded audiences by actually being pleasantly entertaining (with only some occasionally bland moments). For a movie that had the buzzards circling it for a year and garnered nothing but bad publicity up until its release, that’s no small feat. News of the troubled “World War Z” production had been circulating on the Internet for months, thanks to reports of reshoots and a completely rewritten third act to the movie. The final product is a respectable thriller with a unique take on the zombie genre (hint: they’re not slow), as viewers watch Pitt’s ex-U.N. employee race around the globe in search of the source of the zombie epidemic. Yet, the film’s innovative action sequences are surrounded by somewhat underwhelming character development and one can sense that there was potential for a much more innovative film. Nonetheless, “World War Z” was a decently entertaining alternative to typical summer films.
Most Improved Sequel:
Another happy surprise of the summer was James Mangold’s “The Wolverine,” which featured Hugh Jackman returning for his fifth performance as the troubled mutant. For anyone who sat through the complete and utter mess that was “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” back in 2009 – to say that expectations were low for this sequel is an understatement. Based on the popular Marvel comic book storyline, the film followed Jackman’s Logan as he travels to Japan after the events of the “X-Men” trilogy and becomes entangled with the dealings of a powerful Japanese family. “The Wolverine” featured Jackman’s best performance of the character to date, as he portrayed a tortured Logan grappling with the demons that come with immortality. Surrounded by an engaging supporting cast and exhilarating action set pieces (until the film descends into third act silliness), Jackman helped make “The Wolverine” a thoughtful superhero movie and a strong start to the summer movie season.
Most Disappointing Film:
Not including this summer’s movies that looked like trouble from their first teaser trailers (i.e. “The Lone Ranger” and “R.I.P.D.”), the most disappointing movie of the season was “Man of Steel.” Featuring a supporting cast stacked with Oscar winners and nominees, along with trailers evoking a sense of gravitas on par with Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, “Man of Steel” had audiences believing that director Zack Snyder could deliver an engaging Superman film. While the movie was commercially successful enough for Warner Brothers to green-light a sequel, the rest of the film was a massive squandering of potential. Henry Cavill turned in a fine performance as the titular hero, but he and the rest of the impressive cast couldn’t do much with a weak script that stayed within generic blockbuster territory. While the main complaint with the last Superman movie, “Superman Returns” (2006), was that it was light on action and slow moving, the exact opposite was true for “Man of Steel.” Snyder did deliver some stunning action sequences while achieving a level of destruction that would make Michael Bay blush, but this came at the cost of barreling through more than two hours of running time while avoiding much real character development. Hopefully Snyder will be able to redeem the character in the 2015 sequel, which will include Ben Affleck as Batman.
While it was a strong entry in the continued reboot of the longstanding “Star Trek” franchise, a five word review of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek Into Darkness” could sum it up: Not spectacular, but good enough. The “Star Trek” sequel found Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and company squared off against famed villain Khan, portrayed by a chilling Benedict Cumberbatch. While the movie does suffer from some plot holes and script issues, it succeeds primarily due to fantastic action sequences and a phenomenal performance by Cumberbatch. By delivering a new spin on the Khan character, Cumberbatch created a memorable performance in a summer movie season devoid of many.