I’ve seen a lot of movies this summer, so to make me feel better about spending all that cash I don’t have, I’ve decided to compile them into mini-reviews. Below are my thoughts on the films of this summer, organized by the order of quality. I was surprised to find I had a lot more to say about the movies near the bottom of the list…
1. Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
Mini-review: While technically not a “summer movie,” it’s still a superhero blockbuster, so I included it. With excellent choreography and action scenes, sharp, surprisingly funny writing, and an exciting, spy-thriller plot that actually contains some intriguing subtext about the evolution of our military technology and the trust we’re putting in our government, The Winter Soldier easily became one of the best Marvel films ever released. It also left some lasting repercussions on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, another testament to the brilliance of this initiative. When it comes to summer blockbusters, films are going to be hard pressed to deliver as complete a package as this one.
Rating: 4.5 hailing Hydras out of 5
A great film, not just because it’s hilarious and features incredible comedic performances from the entire cast, but because it also provides a deeper message. Adam Sandler’s impressively floppy flop, Blended, should probably take note that it’s not enough anymore to just be funny – you have to make people care about what they’re laughing at. But maybe his films should just actually focus on being funny in the first place.
Rating: 4.5 airbag launch devices out of five
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Mini-review: I feel like I was one of the first people on the planet excited for this movie. When I heard about it, I saw it as the Avengers of the X-Men universe, and saw so much potential in the cross-over and bridge between the original cast and the new one.
Well, I’m pleased to say that this movie was just about everything I could have hoped for. The story managed to deliver, despite relying on a time travel mechanic that people so often despise, and featured some incredibly emotional and heartfelt scenes. The character exploration takes front seat here, and elevates the entire film as a result.
Beyond providing viewers with a great viewing experience, the movie was working at some ulterior motives in the background, including bridging together the two casts to exist in the same “universe,” and also retconning a lot of the horrible decisions that were made in The Last Stand.
My only beefs were that the action scenes were few and far between (which made way for great story, but I need a marriage of action and story in my summer blockbuster movies), and Trask was the case of a great actor playing a boring antagonist.
Finally—and unfortunately—Quicksilver’s character exited the movie as quickly as he came in (no pun intended). I understand that his exclusion was necessary, because his existence in the finale would have been a plot hole of “why doesn’t he just do what he did in the kitchen again?” but it feels like they could have found a purpose for him elsewhere, enabling him to still be featured in the film, but not break the finale.
Still, those gripes are minor, and don’t mar the overall package of this film. For the first time in years, people are excited again to see where the franchise is going to go.
Rating: 4 horrifying morphing Sentinels out of five
Mini-review: The return of Gojira is probably tied with The Amazing Spiderman 2 as the worst film on this list. It wasn’t terrible, and I liked the formula of “save the monster for the second half of the film” in theory, but here’s the problem – if you do that, the other threads need to be strong. And they were not. They were terrible. The only interesting thread was Bryan Cranston, and they killed him off in the first third, which simultaneously murdered any emotional investment I had in the film. The action and special effects were good, but I needed to care about what was happening on the screen, and I didn’t. I didn’t want to be apathetic when Godzilla made the Not Godzilla eat atomic breath, but I was.
Let me also just say that, as a viewer, I felt lied and cheated by both the advertising and the narrative revolving around Cranston’s character. Every preview and trailer pitted Cranston against Godzilla, which is what made me want to see the movie in the first place. So, it was great from a marketing angle, but Godzilla’s opening numbers have been met with a sharp drop-off every week, and I have to imagine that’s a large part why.
However, it wasn’t just the advertising – even the narrative left me feeling cheated. The entire movie was a build up revolving his character, and we spent a large portion of the film caring about him and his plight. To kill him off, and destroy those threads, was simply foolish from a writing perspective
Anyways, it was successful enough to get a sequel – hooray? – so hopefully they’ll amend their mistakes for the second.
Score: 2.5 annoyingly long roars out of five
5. The Amazing Spiderman 2
Mini-review: “Could have been so good” will always be how I remember TAS2. Actually, to be more accurate, the line should have been “Could have been a great two films,” because TAS2 attempts to juggle so many plotlines and character arches that it easy could have been split into two movies. Two shorter, sharper, better movies, with a more even pacing and some room to actually breath.
Instead, we got one film that tries to do everything, but in the end does nothing right. That whole “Electro Sympathy arch?” Doesn’t end up meaning anything, and he is soon overshadowed, both figuratively – his storyline takes a backseat to Harry’s much more interesting plight – and literally – moments after “killing” Electro, our hero is thrust into a fight with Harry, and the audience forgets about Electro and any reason why they would care about him…or what purpose he really served in the movie.
Then, you have Harry, which could have been an incredible storyline on its own. Instead, you don’t give the two frenemies enough screen time to sell that they actually are/were best friends, and the transformation feels rushed.
And speaking of rushed, Gwen’s death. So good – it was dramatic and well shot. And then they ruin it by completely failing the aftermath. Because, by this point, the movie was already “One entire Electro arch” too long, so to compensate, Peter goes through his entire stage of mourning, depression, giving up Spiderman, to realizing he NEEDS to be Spiderman and provide hope to the city…in about 3 minutes of screen time, therefore undercutting any real character development.
You know what frustrates me the most? I wrote a post about how there’s a better movie hiding beneath the surface of the original film, and for some reason, decisions were made that didn’t tap into the full potential. At the time, I was hopeful that the sequel would figure it out.
Now, I’m writing the same thing about the second one, and hoping the next films will figure it out. We’re starting to get past the point where “potential” matters, and it’s starting to look like this creative team just can’t make a good Spiderman movie.
I understand there’s more at stake here, and that they needed to lay the seeds for the Sinister Six film. I get that. But it’s too bad it came at the cost of what could have been a great film. Something the studio should keep in mind: if no one cares about the Sinister Six film because your movies continue to suck, then setting the stage for it won’t matter.
Maybe next time, just focus first on making a good movie.
Rating: 2 superfluous plotlines out of 5
6. 22 Jump Street
Hilarious and surprisingly self-aware for a comedy. Keep doing what you’re doing, guys.
4 future sequel posters out of 5
7 and 8. How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Both examples of how to do sequels right – focus on expanding upon the groundwork laid out in the original, but take the plot in surprising new directions that explore characters in fun, new ways. Oh, and put some heart in it. You hear that, Spiderman 2?
4.5 Ape Dragons out of 5
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel’s big “gamble” paid off in one of the most thoroughly heartfelt and entertaining movies of this summer, and of Marvel’s superhero lineup thus far. The cast is diverse, compelling, and each sympathetic in their own way. Every character (except maybe Groot) could have easily held their own movie.
With creative, exciting set pieces, surprisingly emotional character exploration, and one of the best third-acts in Marvel history, Guardians of the Galaxy has cemented its place as another Marvel juggernaut.
4 clutch distraction dances out of 5