Blockbuster report: Summer 2017 in review

It’s hard to believe that another summer movie season has already come and gone! Not surprisingly, the big winners this year were superhero films. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” all enjoyed big opening weekends. Although people continue to speculate when the superhero bubble might burst, the demand for these movies continues to be strong. Of course, it will be interesting to see what happens to the genre after Marvel wraps up the Infinity War storyline and “Justice League” succeeds or flops this fall, but expect superhero films to keep doing big business for at least the next couple of years.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” kicked off the summer in a fun, colorful way. While I didn’t enjoy it or its accompanying soundtrack *quite* as much as the first, it was still a very entertaining ride. The characters that particularly stood out this time were Michael Rooker’s Yondu and Kurt Russell’s Ego. I’m really looking forward to watching the Guardians characters join the party next year in Infinity War.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not have been groundbreaking per se, but it was a lot of fun, and Tom Holland really nailed the awkward-yet-earnest teenage aspect of the character. It was also a blast to see Robert Downey Jr.’s extended cameo in the film as Iron Man/Tony Stark.

“Wonder Woman” ended up being the highlight of the summer for me and is actually my favorite movie of the year so far (pressure’s on, “Star Wars: Episode VIII”!). Gal Gadot was a wonderful Wonder Woman, and was just the sort of hero we needed this summer — a confident, compassionate superhero who still believes in the power of love and that people are worth saving. The scene where she charges up out of the trench into No Man’s Land brought tears to my eyes the first time I watched it and continues to be one of the most powerful scenes in a movie this year. Chris Pine also was fantastic as WWI spy Steve Trevor.

Although audiences continued to show their love for superhero franchises, they didn’t respond as well to some other franchise continuations and reboots this summer. “Alien: Covenant” proved to be a missed opportunity, offering up some scares but doing little to excite audiences (you were better off staying at home and watching “Alien” and “Aliens” instead). Even though I personally had fun watching “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” this franchise couldn’t return to its former heights, either. And Universal’s planned “Dark Universe” monster movie franchise is on shaky ground after audiences failed to respond to Tom Cruise’s “Mummy” reboot, while Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” wasted performances by Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.

It’s easy to see why Hollywood loves franchises — they’re a great way to capture a regular audience — however, just because you start a franchise doesn’t mean audiences will flock to it. Consumers have lots of entertainment choices and limited dollars, and good (or bad) reviews from places like Rotten Tomatoes are carrying more clout. Audiences want to be confident they’re spending their time (and money) on a worthy film.

Franchise continuation “War for the Planet of the Apes” may not have made as big a financial impact as other films this summer but was still an excellent movie. The rebooted trilogy has turned into a surprisingly somber and powerful series, offering some deeper philosophical themes than one might expect.

Although summer often belongs to the franchises, some riskier original projects from well-loved directors did pay off. Edgar Wright’s slick, stylish car-chase-and-heist flick “Baby Driver” was a hit with fans and critics, and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” eschewed dialogue for a more realistic tone that really made you feel like you were part of the action. “Dunkirk” is the true story of the evacuation of about 300,000 British and French soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, during WWII, made possible through the help of civilian boats. It’s an inspirational story about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and despair.

So, what do you think were the winners and losers this summer? What were some of your favorites and least favorites?

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