It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Sitting in an air-conditioned room with dozens of strangers, eagerly anticipating an experience that you hope to remember for many years. Shoving popcorn in your mouth is half the fun. Once in a while we get some truly great theater experiences that keep us talking for the right reasons. While other times we’re greeted with disappointment, crawling out of the theater with our heads hanging low from defeat. Summer 2013 had a few movies I adored (Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim, The World’s End) but other than that, there weren’t any standouts. Thankfully, there were many more hits than misses this year. And these hits knocked it out of the damn park. But with the release of movies like Expendables 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, it’s overwhelmingly clear to me that the summer movie season has come to an ungraceful end. So let’s take a look back at how the big blockbuster movies did this summer season. (Note: We’re discussing domestic gross for the US box office and critical/audience reception)
For such a strong movie season, it opened on a pretty dour note. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 left few fans eagerly anticipating the next installment. I have this weird fascination with it where I end up loving it ironically because it’s unintentionally stupid, but this did not leave me excited for the remainder of the summer. Feel free to disagree with me, but there’s a reason it is the lowest grossing entry of the franchise. It made $708 million against a $200 million budget, but there are rumors that a separate marketing budget was around $250 million. Also, Electro gets a rubber suit to put over his electric body. I don’t even know.
Neighbors was a surprisingly charming comedy that made its budget back approximately a bajillion times ($266 million against $18 million). I’ve been championing Zac Efron since 17 Again and it’s nice to have my faith rewarded. (Ironically, I’ve never seen a single High School Musical movie)
The divisiveness of Godzilla is pretty baffling to me. The human characters are weak but they’re only there to support a larger narrative and show how meaningless we are in the grand scheme of things. If you didn’t at least love the final 20 minutes, you are an anomaly. Regardless of domestic audience opinions, the US was able to push the box office to 200 million domestically. Thanks to international income, Godzilla was able to gross over $200 million.
The X-Men franchise is weird. There are some god awful entries in the franchise that end up grossing more money than they deserve. There are also some pretty good movies that also bring in the dough. I wasn’t in love with Days of Future Past but I had a pretty good time watching it. It’s not as character centric as First Class, which I still consider the best in the series, but it’s second best. And that’s not too bad. People seem to generally dig the movie as it’s the second highest grossing movie of the summer with $744 million.
Maleficent was stupidly disappointing, but I don’t know what I expected from the cinematographer who worked on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. And just like the aforementioned mediocre CGI fest, Maleficent raked in the box office cash with $238,715,000.
Seth Mcfarlane’s follow up to Ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West, didn’t disappoint me one bit. I thought it looked dull and lazy from jump-street. It didn’t even crack $50 million domestic.
Last year, Pacific Rim turned a profit overseas allowing for a sequel to be greenlit. This was not the case for Edge of Tomorrow. Granted it’s not a movie that needs to build a franchise. It’s actually refreshing to see just a one-and-done type of movie with clearcut character arcs that aren’t busy “setting up for next time.” Maybe people are just getting tired of Tom Cruise? Or was it the god awful marketing team? Probably a bit of both. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I implore you to do so. It’s a summer movie that doesn’t insult your intelligence and earns a truly satisfying ending. It also only made $364 million against a $178 million budget. Hey, at least Tom Cruise doesn’t need the money.
I had been eagerly anticipating How to Train Your Dragon 2 since I saw the first movie. I expected nothing from it and fell in love with it. A simple but well-executed story that wraps around a beautiful message of acceptance. HTTYD 2 doesn’t quite emotionally resonate the way the first film does, but it’s a worthy sequel and visually breathtaking animated movie. And yet, the movie just didn’t generate enough buzz with general audiences like the first one. Domestic intake didn’t reach $200 million but it’s still the 6th highest grossing movie of the summer at $535.5 million.
22 Jump Street was a worrisome notion for me. Phil Lord and Chris Miller had just come off my favorite movie of the year, The Lego Movie, but a comedy sequel? Those are never good! Looks like I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about because 22 Jump Street is the king of comedy sequels. It might even be a modern classic. I need to rush out and see it again since I was so busy laughing at some jokes that I missed at least a dozen others. It takes the number 10 spot in the summer box office with $304 million.
My least favorite movie of the year Transformers: Age of Extinction came to shit on the goodness that was the June box office. It somehow made over a billion dollars at the box office. Only $243 million of that came from the US. Our country has plenty of problems, but we aren’t the reason we’re getting another fucking Transformers trilogy. Your move, planet Earth.
July began to slow down in the earlier weeks with movie releases like Tammy and Earth to Echo. I haven’t seen either movie but both seem to have audiences resounding “Well, okay I guess!” Tammy sat comfortably with $83,405,334 while Earth to Echo came to a screeching halt with only $38,173,560.
The next few weeks were met with smaller releases that didn’t cause audiences to storm theaters but I have to highly recommend for their noteworthy achievements: Life Itself and Boyhood.
Finally, returning this summer to its great roots comes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar and company proved audiences and critics alike can’t get enough of their banana-less adventures. DOTPOTA is the fifth highest grossing movie of the summer at $205,520,000.
Lucy and Hercules fought to the death in the last weekend of July. Scarlett Johansson crushed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s muscles with her Luc Besson directed action flick. I wasn’t a fan of either movie, but if you’re going to give one of these stars a superhero movie, give it to Black Widow. Lucy brought in $118,570,000 against a $40 million budget, while Hercules only brought in $71,065,000. But hey, The Rock throws a fucking horse.
Critics and audiences are hooked on a feeling because Guardians of the Galaxy is spectacular. It’s the highest grossing movie of the summer with $280,475,000. If I start talking about why it deserves this money, I’ll never stop so just read my review.
The rest of August was not so kind. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was depressingly mediocre but broke the $150 million mark. I haven’t seen Let’s Be Cops, but it’s a comedy in August so I don’t think I’m missing out. I actually liked The Expendables 3 as a movie but felt that it was a step down in quality and subdued in its violence from the previous films. And for everyone who doesn’t think pirating hurts movies: Expendables 3 made roughly half of what the Expendables 2 made.
I hadn’t seen the original Sin City so I thought it’d be a good idea to check out what the hubbub was about by watching the sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. The most entertaining bit of the movie itself was when Marv said “That’s a dame to kill for” and I turned to my friends, “Hey that’s the title of the movie!” So the movie itself didn’t really do anything. I had to make my own fun. That’s when I knew the summer was over.
Even though it started with a depressing meh and ended with a clusterfuck, this is arguably one of the best summer movie seasons in a long while for moviegoers. These summer movies remembered how to be smart and fun. No more dreary dark tones. Guardians of the Galaxy skyrocketed into the hearts of millions, people realize the Apes saga is just as relevant as ever, and 22 Jump Street is the greatest comedy sequel ever.
Unfortunately, the box office doesn’t reflect the quality of these movies. Summer 2013 had the most profitable box office in history, while this summer is the worst since 2006. Why? The answer is simple: studios are focusing more on the foreign box office than domestic. Why did half the scenes in TASM 2 take place in or near Chinatown? Chinese box office. Why did Transformers 4 take place in China? Chinese box office. Fact: The foreign (mostly Chinese) box office is the reason these movies made their money back overseas.
We got some great movies out of this summer and hopefully studios take notice that there were some genuinely different movies in theaters (A talking tree made me cry). Taking chances is what keeps people coming back. Nobody wants to be spoon-fed the same stock movies again and again. All we can do is hope for the great movies of this summer to influence other blockbusters in the near-future.
One More Thing: Top 7 Movies of the Summer
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- 22 Jump Street
- Edge of Tomorrow
- How to Train Your Dragon 2
- X-Men: Days of Future Past