Bombs and blockbusters: Summer 2013 in review

By Ashley Bergner
Box Office Buzz

ironmanWith the release of “Elysium” in theaters this past weekend, the summer movie season is drawing — for all intents and purposes — to a close. Though there are still a few major releases scattered throughout the remaining weeks of August, students will soon be heading back to school, and Hollywood will be focusing on its line-up of fall films.

It’s been an interesting summer at the box office, and I have to admit that as I look back over the summer, I’m a bit puzzled. While the summer started out strong with solid openings for “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel” and “Fast & Furious 6,” it seems like ever since July (with the exception of, perhaps, “Despicable Me 2”) almost every major release has underperformed. Of course, there are a few flops every summer; some of the biggest bombs of 2012 included “Battleship” and the “Total Recall” remake. However, it seems like a higher than normal percentage of major releases had soft openings this year. What makes this even more puzzling is some of these films, such as “Pacific Rim,” “Elysium” and “The Wolverine,” even received good reviews.

It could be Hollywood has reached a point of saturation: with so many films coming out and ticket prices climbing higher, audiences could be getting choosier. In my area, it costs about $16 for a 3D IMAX showing. Add in drinks and two large buckets of popcorn, and you’re looking at a cost of at least $100 for a family of four, which makes for an expensive night out. Families did turn out in big numbers for the animated sequels/prequels “Despicable Me 2” and “Monsters University,” and “Iron Man 3” proved to be a crowd-pleaser, as well.

While I was hoping for higher box office receipts for some of the films this summer, I’d have to say that overall, I wasn’t disappointed by the films I was most looking forward to. I think the best way to sum up this summer might be “flawed but fun.” Many of the films — such as “Man of Steel,” “Pacific Rim” and “The Wolverine” — may not have been perfect, but I felt film makers did bring some fresh ideas to the big screen, and I genuinely had fun watching these films.

Of the three main superhero movies released this summer — “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel” and “The Wolverine” — “Iron Man 3” is probably my favorite. Robert Downey Jr. is my favorite actor, and I love his performance as Iron Man/Tony Stark. “Iron Man 3” did prove to be a bit polarizing among fans, primarily due to how the film handled its main villain, “The Mandarin.” Though it might have been better if they’d adhered more closely to the comic book story-line, as fans had been anticipating, Robert Downey Jr. is always a lot of fun to watch in the role, and he brings plenty of his trademark snarky wit to his third solo outing as the character.

Another highlight of the summer for me was “Pacific Rim.” Though I do wish the film had had a bit stronger character development and dialogue, this was a fun sci-fi monster movie. And it’s hard not to geek out over the concept of giant robots fighting giant monsters. 🙂 I actually went back a second time to watch this movie in IMAX 3D (I saw it in 2D the first time), and while I do think 3D is sometimes over-rated, I thought the film was actually even more fun in this format.

One of the most notorious flops this summer was “The Lone Ranger,” but I also think (please don’t judge me!) 😉 that it was also the most misunderstood movie of the summer. Its decidedly quirky brand of humor may not be for everyone, and its infamously large budget earned it some bad buzz. While it probably wasn’t a good business decision to give a $250 million budget to a Western — a genre that doesn’t play as well anymore — I will say I don’t think a single dollar of that $250 million was wasted. It’s a lavish production with gorgeous cinematography and several nicely crafted action set pieces. The movie wasn’t flawless, but it dared to be crazy and different and fun. I know I’m one of the only people defending this movie, but I believe it deserves a second chance and I hope people will check it out on DVD. And hey, at least it did out-gross “White House Down,” “After Earth” and some of the other major flops this summer, right? 😉

trekAs for my favorite movie of the summer, I’m going to have to pick “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” which probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. 😉 I’m a huge fan of J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” reboot, and I loved the follow-up just as much. The film has plenty of action and breathtaking special effects, but it never forgets that the real heart of the movie is the characters. While Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto — as Kirk and Spock, respectively — were the standouts for me this time around, each of the actors chosen to recreate the crew of the USS Enterprise manages to pay homage to the original TV show and yet make the roles their own. Benedict Cumberbatch also turns in a deliciously chilling performance as one of the most famous villains from Trek lore, Khan. It was a risky decision to borrow from the most beloved classic Trek film, “The Wrath of Khan,” but I think Abrams pulled it off in fine form. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the “Star Wars” universe.

So, what are your thoughts on the movies released this summer? What did you like the best? What did you like the least?


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