Another year, another summer movie season come and gone. Look, there’s no point in comparing this summer to last since it has the displeasure of following up Mad Max: Fury Road. Last year was a defining year for blockbusters. If they weren’t great, they at least made buckets of money (. In a perfect world we would receive one blockbuster, and movie in general, to achieve the caliber of entertainment and creativity. What we’re left with this year is odd. The big studio tent-poles garnered mostly critical disappointment, with few bright spots, and even then audiences will most likely disagree on which was the definitive blockbuster of the summer (by the way, it’s Star Trek Beyond).

Warcraft

Universal Pictures

Films that weren’t great still didn’t earn much of our money. Critical backlash was just as haphazard as the box office. Warcraft possibly being the biggest bomb of the summer (even if I was the only person in the country who liked/loved it) put yet another dent in the video game movie adaptation circuit. Suicide Squad failed to convince naysayers the DCEU had something to offer everyone, although it ended up doing well for its budget. The one major box office exception is Captain America: Civil War and even that didn’t gain unanimous acclaim from those of us here at AE, though it’s hard to deny the quality of the airport scene.

Even a franchise with an incredible batting average stumbled with Jason Bourne, a film exceeding expectations in the action and acting department, but a major disappointment in the story department (it’s been a rough summer but this one stings the most). Although a good use of Moby goes a long way, so it’s not entirely a lost cause. It wasn’t all for naught, as the blockbuster landscape found a few diamonds in the rough.

Star Trek Beyond wasn’t wholly loved either, but captured the optimistic spirit of The Original Series in a manner that hadn’t been done on film before. Bonus points for the superb use of “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys. But what I adored was the smaller scale of the adventure, focusing on a familial relationship between the crew of the Enterprise that felt bigger and better than anything in Star Trek Into Darkness. The size of physical stakes don’t define the emotional ones, and emotion always hits harder (unless you’re hit by like a car or something).

The Shallows solidified Jaume Collet-Serra as one of the great B-movie directors, delivering arguably the sleekest thriller of the year and inarguably the best movie involving a flaming shark. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising upped the ante for comedy sequels and gave us a heist sequence set to a rendition of “Black Skinhead” which basically means it’s one of the best comedies ever (hyperbolic jokes aside, I’m surprised how much I loved it).

Nobody really ended up watching The Nice Guys or The BFG, but both were among the better films of the year. So what the hell happened this summer?

The answer is relatively simple (the movies weren’t all that well made) but still worth discussing and provide us with some nice reminders about loving movies:

  1. You probably won’t agree with everyone and that’s okay.
  2. Seek out small movies!

Like what you like. You don’t owe anybody anything. Independence Day: Resurgence wasn’t great – not even particularly good – but I found the unified spirit of humanity coming together for a decent one-liner to be entertaining enough. “It’s the fourth of July so let’s show them some fireworks.” yeah, I was basically in the bag for this movie.

There’s nothing wrong with casually watching films for entertainment but it’s also important to explore films outside of a comfort zone. Do yourself a favor and check out the smaller features that trickle into theaters once in a while. Support the types of films you’d want to see. Don’t be afraid to experiment with weird movies. Whether you love it or hate it, Sausage Party will surely usher in more R rated animation comedies because people took a chance on it. I didn’t even end up loving The Lobster (a well made movie, just not for me) but I would gladly spend money supporting a movie with an individual voice.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Focus Features

The blockbusters may have disappointed but the smaller films have been top notch this year. And this isn’t even restrained to summer. It’s been happening all year. It’s not that blockbusters aren’t at fault (oh my god, who was responsible for London Has Fallen?) or that indies will always have a better track record than mainstream cinema (Demolition shook my faith in Jake Gyllenhaal). All we can do is take chances on movies. Don’t worry, I missed Green Room in theaters so I’m just as guilty as the rest of you.

Mid-range budget movies like Kubo and the Two Strings (yes, I’m going to start raving about this movie again) is a poignant adventure about the human spirit, storytelling, and the unifying forces of both that bring us together. There can be frustration, boredom, beauty, but the stories we share always endure. Let’s spend time appreciating the good ones.

Featured Image: Paramount Pictures