Year by year, you can usually gage the quality of new releases based on the season. You don’t expect anything from the early months of January, February or March because that’s always been a dumping ground for some of the worst movies of the year. Fall and early winter are usually an embarrassment of riches with countless movies vying for awards consideration, with a few blockbusters sprinkled in. The real question every year is the summer, and if all the 3D superhero sequels will amount to anything more than the usual bland, forgettable garbage. With the final weekend of the summer season upon us, let’s take a look back at how the summer of 2013 fared (also, we’ll be focusing on blockbusters primarily, otherwise Before Midnight would be at the top of this list, alongside many other great indies like The Act of Killing or The Spectacular Now).
Let’s start things off with…
Always best to start out positive, especially with a summer as monotonous as this. The biggest hit of the summer and one of the first was Marvel’s follow-up to The Avengers, bringing it all back to how they started the franchise. The latest Tony Stark solo outing could’ve easily been as dull and manufactured as his last, but for Iron Man 3 Marvel brought in a fresh voice to write and direct: Shane Black. Black, who worked with Downey Jr. on his previous film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, meshed his unique writing style with that of the Marvel universe, and it turned out about as well as you’d expect. There are the expected plot holes and blunders you get with movies of this scale, but Iron Man 3 managed to get past most of them and solidify the fact that The Avengers didn’t dry up Marvel’s resources.
Later in the month came Furious Six, which also had the challenge of following the biggest hit of its own franchise. The film understands what made Fast Five such a success with audiences and critics, so it amps that up to another level with more insane set pieces, more of The Rock, and of course more cars. The film is probably the least successful of those in this section, but it deserves a spot simply for having what may be the best post-credits scene in history.
There’s usually one movie that wins the summer with the most laughs, and this year it was This is the End, and deservedly so. In a summer with not just many apocalypse movies, but at least four different apocalypse comedies, this long-gestating project of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s made me laugh harder than anything since probably 2009’s In the Loop (which is still a much smarter, funnier movie) and on a clearly miniscule budget was far better than any of the huge effects driven end-of-the-world movies like World War Z and Oblivion.
Pixar came back strong after their last few lackluster efforts of Cars 2 and Brave with Monsters University, admittedly not their best film but one that has miles more charm and imagination in it than other animated fare of the summer.
Certainly the biggest movie of the summer in terms of literal size, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is certainly the best movie of the summer in terms of pure spectacle, and is a hell of a lot smarter than the “giant robots fighting giant monsters” logline makes it sound (although it sure is as awesome as that sounds).
This is already a great year for horror, with The Conjuring as one of the scariest of recent years, and You’re Next as one of the funniest. Neither reinvent the genre or anything like The Cabin in the Woods, but they both are very straightforward and effective while playing to an audience that knows how these movies usually go.
In the end though, one movie rises above the pack (although to be fair, it just barely gets to be in this article, getting a wide enough release at the very end of summer) and it’s another apocalypse movie: Edgar Wright’s capper to his Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the creators of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz made the best movie of the summer, nor is it any surprise (although it is a big disappointment) that the film is on track to be one of the lowest grossing on this entire list. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
And now for…
Some of what were arguably the most anticipated movies of the summer turned out to be duds. Huge movies like Man of Steel, World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Lone Ranger and Elysium were at their best, forgettable, and at their worst, unpleasant slogs. I’m not going to get in deep about the excessive destruction and 9/11 imagery of Superman’s latest outing or the abundance of plot holes that threatened the crew of the Enterprise far more than phasers did.
Many of the movies we had more modest expectations for tended to meet those, movies like The Heat, The Wolverine, Olympus Has Fallen, Oblivion, 2 Guns and Turbo didn’t do all that much, but no one really expected them to anyway.
Of course, there were also those movies that met everyone’s very low expectations for them
Last were those few oddballs that no one really knew why they were even around in the summer. No one really expected R.I.P.D. or After Earth to be any good, and sequels like Red 2 and Kick-Ass 2 might have had a few people interested but disappeared quickly (aside from one particular moment of feces in Kick-Ass 2).
So how was summer 2013? Short answer seems to be: good thing it’s over. Now we’re done with superheroes for the year and we can finally get to the good stuff. Oh, wait, there’s still Thor: The Dark World. Crap. It’ll never end, will it?