Hits, misses and plenty of surprises: Summer 2015 in review

By Ashley Pauls
Box Office Buzz

ant-man-jumpingThe summer movie wrap-up is probably my favorite blog to write each year. Summer blockbuster season is my favorite time at the box office, and it’s always fun to look back over the summer and review the hits and misses. While there are always a few surprises, I have to admit that this year, pretty much all my predictions were a bust. 😉 The movie I thought would be the biggest blockbuster of the summer as well as my personal favorite — “Avengers: Age of Ultron” — actually turned out to be neither. Instead, “Jurassic World” was the biggest blockbuster, breaking records set by the first Avengers movie. I was also surprised to find my favorite movies of the summer were “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Ant-Man.”

I’m still trying to decide how I ultimately feel about “Age of Ultron.” Like all Marvel movies, it was fun to watch, and I enjoyed seeing it in the theater. I really love these characters — and the actors who play them — and it’s always great to watch them onscreen. But this is the first Marvel movie in a long time I only watched once in theaters (I’m still not confessing how many times I saw one of my most-watched Marvel movies “Guardians of the Galaxy” in theaters 😉 but it was more than twice). I definitely want to watch “Age of Ultron” again when it’s released on DVD to see if my thoughts change. On first viewing, “Age of Ultron” doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the first Avengers team-up film. There’s a bit too much going on, and some subplots and characters don’t get quite enough development (i.e. the Hulk/Black Widow romance, the introduction of new heroes Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, Andy Serkis’ too-brief cameo appearance, etc.). Even though it made more money than Marvel’s other summer 2015 offering, “Ant-Man,” the latter felt like a better film.

The biggest surprise of the summer for me was “Mad Max: Fury Road.” With a 98 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, the reboot of the classic ‘80s franchise is arguably the best movie of the summer. It’s a tense and thought-provoking action film with amazing visual effects, and while the strange post-apocalyptic setting takes a bit to get used to, the movie is a great ride. It’s also exciting to see an action movie with multiple nuanced roles for women, and though Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is the character whose name appears in the title, rebel leader Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is the star of the show.

I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed “Ant-Man.” Marvel’s long-delayed origin story created some negative pre-release buzz with the departure of original director Edgar Wright, but the movie turned out to be a fun, lighthearted treat. Paul Rudd is a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Ant-Man, and the film makers found a way to make a hero whose powers are shrinking and running with ants look really cool. The clever action sequence that takes place on the miniature train set is one of my favorite movie scenes this summer. I’m definitely on board for an “Ant-Man” sequel.

“Jurassic World” was a bit hit with audiences and ended up as the biggest blockbuster of the summer. While I was surprised to see it break “The Avengers” box office tally, now ranking as the third highest-grossing film of all time, I think the movie did well because it played on nostalgia for the original 1993 film and captured a sense of magic the previous two sequels didn’t quite attain. A stronger script would have made this a better film, but it was fun and made for a good summer popcorn flick. It was great to see new (and old) dinosaurs, and Chris Pratt makes a strong case for why he should be hired for the Indiana Jones reboot, playing a motorcycle-riding raptor wrangler.

Tom Cruise’s “Rogue Nation” proved that even after almost 20 years and five films, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise isn’t running out of steam. This is a fun but smart spy thriller, and as far as I’m concerned, Cruise can keep making these films as long as he likes.

The biggest flop of the summer was undoubtedly the “Fantastic Four” reboot, with a cringe-worthy 8 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. We’ll never know whether the movie was doomed from the beginning or whether the studio’s tampering ruined what may have been a better film. It’s tough for fans who are still waiting for a definitive Fantastic Four movie. It will be interesting to see if Fox has another go at this or decides to let Marvel take back the rights and work the Fantastic Four into their overall cinematic universe.

So, what do you think? What was your favorite film of the summer? What was the biggest surprise? What was the biggest disappointment?

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