Since the dawn of movies such as Jaws and Star Wars, the “Summer Blockbuster” has become synonymous with flashy spectacle, state of the art effects, and a campaign of hype like no other. Not every movie, however, makes the season of no school and hot days pleasurable. For all their gusto, some films fall into cinematic disaster. Without further adieu, here are Guy’s Top Best and Worst Summer Blockbuster movies.
The Best 5 Summer Films
Batman (1989) – When Batman hit the big screen, it became an unavoidable force of nature. From toys to comics, to cereal to people shaving bats into their hair, Batman was everywhere. Tim Burton’s Batman may have been an anticipated film, but it was a pop culture phenomenon as well, with a great cast (Love that Joker), dark and gothic art direction, a fantastic score, and a lot of Prince music to boot. The Summer Movie Schedule of 1989 may have offered up sequels to some of the biggest movie franchises of all time, but not could beat the Bat.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) – Sure T2 (as it’s more commonly referred to) was a basic retelling of the first Terminator film, but everything in this film went above and beyond. Arnold Schwartzenegger was the biggest action star of the time, and his heroic turn in this entry set the stage for future films in the franchise. It’s a great action story mixed with a quest to understand the human condition, all mixed with some of the most advanced special effects of its time. T2 was simply a badass movie spectacle.
Jurassic Park (1993) – Few movies hold up as well as Jurassic Park when it comes to special effects, and for the film’s duration, you believed that dinosaurs were real. Wondrous, suspenseful, exciting, and chock full of dinosaurs that leapt around every corner to terrorize our heroes, it all built up to a full-on dinosaur confrontation, and one of the best film scores of all time, courtesy of John Williams. The raptors were amazing, but here, the Tyrannosaurus Rex is king, and never lets you forget that.
Spider-Man 2 (2004) – I was lucky enough to attend the Los Angeles/Westwood premiere of this film, and everything I liked about the first film was expanded into an ever larger full-on Spider-Man adventure. Finally moving past the “origin story”, Spider-Man 2 allowed room for more humor, more action, more romance, and giving one of Spidey’s most long-standing villains a menacing, yet sympathetic characterization of the infamous Doctor Octopus. The movie also spawned one of the best Spider-Man games of all time, so this entry kept on giving throughout the year.
Avengers (2012) – This is one of those films that Summer was made for. This film is the culmination of years worth of several Marvel super hero films coming together as one amazing team for the simple goal of saving the world from alien invasion. This is one of the best definitions of the “popcorn film” around, providing a spectacle that may seem more common now, but that first shot of the Avengers coming together fully assembled was as exciting as it got. The fast-paced script made all the difference as well, providing plenty of fun and witty dialogue to establish their heroic camaraderie, with just as many audience pleasing scenes. The big battle was fun, but it was the little moments that made this film shine.
The Worst 5 Summer Films
Mortal Kombat Annihilation (1997) – The first movie was cheesy, but it was good cheese. It was the best film that could exist based off a video game where people casually ripped each other’s heads off. The sequel, however, felt like it was designed by a panel of people that not so secretly hated you. Massive recastings for almost all the main characters, quick and sloppy deaths, horrendous CG, and crappy dialogue (“Pretty cool, huh? That’s my Animality!”) all crammed into a plot(?) that mainly focused on seeing how many of the game’s characters could fit into a scene whether they made sense or not (It didn’t). I nearly walked out of the theater on this one. On a side note, I had the chance to meet Robin Shou (Liu Kang) before the film premiered. He assured me that the film was going to be better than the first one. I’m still angry that he lied to me.
Batman & Robin (1997) – This was the year that tested my will to stay in a theater to complete a film, and I regularly thrive on watching crappy movies. I don’t know who this film was made for, as it felt completely different than the Batman that had been established in movies, TV, and comics of the time. How can you get this many top-tier stars and make them look idiotic and uncomfortable at the same time? Peppered with incredibly corny dialogue, implausible action scenes, and “Bat nipples”, this whole film felt like a sinister plot to destroy Batman’s chances of ever appearing in movies again. It definitely worked for a while, as it was nearly a decade before they tried a reboot with Batman Begins.
Godzilla (1998) – How can you mess up a movie that is designed to appeal to the most base instincts of watching shit get blown up? Based of the king of destruction himself, no less? I refuse to believe that the director and producers had ever watched a Godzilla film before making this thing. There was no lesson about the harmful effects that mankind can cause when tampering with elements that it doesn’t understand. Oh no! They take one of the most iconic monsters in cinema, make him unrecognizable, and and proceed to make a nonsensical and boring film based off of a great licensed property. This is a great example of how to completely misinterpret the source material. Then again, maybe we were the ones to learn the lesson this time.
Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) – I considered The Phantom Menace as this choice, but I attended a premiere for that film, and that positive energy, coupled with an interesting Pod Race and lightsaber sequence, at least gave it something. “Clones” (outside of sounding like a bad nature documentary on Fox), offered up an unlikable and creepy Anakin Skywalker, coupled with a mulleted Obi-Wan Kenobi on a pseudo mystery that ultimately led nowhere and did nothing. Seriously. No one found a secret, ready made clone army not even in the least bit suspicious and worthy of an investigation? Anakin ramped up the whining, grousing about trivial sand-based complaints, and for a “great friendship”, regularly complained and bad-mouthed his Master. The CG, especially for Lucasfilm’s pedigree, looks incredibly dated and like a video game cut scene. The film’s “romance” was the worst offender, and Anakin and Padme completely lacked the chemistry established in the Original Trilogy. If this relationship is so integral to the entire saga, shouldn’t it at least be compelling and believable? Well, that didn’t happen here.
Transformers (2007) – Again, how can you mess up a film that the entire premise is based on giant robots turning into cars, jets, and media devices? I’m pretty convinced that Michael Bay hates his audience, or at the very least has high contempt for them. Laughable dialogue is mixed with rampant sexism that features women with no greater value than PG level porn eye candy. Oh sure, they got Peter Cullen to reprise the voice of Optimus Prime, but why not give the robot flames and lips? Or make every other robot suck as bad as the already poorly stereotyped humans. The robot designs are horrible, as the robots actually blend together and become unrecognizable once they start fighting. It’s like watching a self-loathing piece of modern art roll around in a haze of confusion as you wonder how you honestly got to this point in your life.