Well, the summer movie season is officially over, and while box office earnings are way up, it seems like the quality of the films have actually gone way down. But for every few badly-written movies (like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Transformers 2, and G.I. Joe–though some will say it’s not that bad), there was a diamond in the rough like District 9. So why were so many movies so bad in the summer of ’09, even if they did make a lot of money? Hint: The Writers Strike!
Before the summer began, I wrote an article about how the 2007 Writers Strike might affect the summer 2009 movies. I speculated that back in 2007, studios were nervous about how long the writers strike could last, leaving them with a possible lack of films for the fall/winter 2008 and all-important summer 2009 season (early May to late August 2009). To make sure they had big films lined up for Summer ’09, the studios pushed to have their big-budget scripts quick-finished before the Writers Guild of America’s (WGA) contracts were up in November 2007 and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in summer of 2008.
So what happened? Movies like Wolverine, Transformers 2, GI Joe, Angels and Demons, Terminator Salvation, and others got thrashed by critics (and our own, brave reviewers here at Screen Rant), for their lackluster scripts that showed every sign of being half-cooked. Now, some of you might thing bad scripts and summer blockbusters go hand-in-hand – but let’s be honest, when was the last time there were so many stinkers that came out in one summer? Sure, many of these films made a lot of money, but how much of that profit hinges on moviegoers looking for affordable entertainment and “stay-cations” in this bad economy?
It’s very well known that most of the summer ’09 films were rushed into production. Angels and Demons was delayed a year due to the Strike, but that didn’t seem to help make the final product that much better; Michael Bay has said in interviews that he worked out the overall story of Transformers 2, all the way down to the action AND comedic bits. However, when the WGA strike ended, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were joined by fellow writer Ehren Krueger to try and get the script for TF2 hammered out in a matter of three or four months to meet the production start deadline. At that rushed pace, the script was bound to suffer.
Here’s a quick recap of some of the more disappointing movies this summer:
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
- Terminator: Salvation
- Angels and Demons
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine
- Year One
- Public Enemies (this one is open to debate–it seems kind of split on how people and critics liked it–Vic liked it)
I am ashamed to admit I missed J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (you can count on me to see the re-release in IMAX), which many feel is the best Trek in years, movie or TV. But consider this: J.J. was frustrated because he couldn’t make any changes to the script leading up to and during a good part of the production, because of the WGA Strike. Could Star Trek have been even better than it was? We may know when the sequel hits.
Marvel took a hit with its one-time plans to have at least Thor out this summer, thanks to the WGA Strike (and a projected $300 million budget for the film), which forced it into re-writes and delayed it until 2011.
The good news? There were a few diamonds in the rough this year, including:
There are other highlights, of course, many of which were independent films made outside the Hollywood system – there is hope! And let’s not forget: many of those indie directors who did well this summer might just end up handling big-budget movies down the line (See: Jon Favreau and Christopher Nolan). Could we see District 9 director Neil Blomkamp finally get handed the keys to the Halo franchise? Stay tuned to find out.
So, looking ahead, what can we expect for the summer of 2010? It’s safe to assume that things will be a lot better, quality-wise. We have Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, Inception, and many promising prospects – plus, now that the studios have ample time for scripting and on-set re-writes, it looks like the bar for summer movie scripts might get raised back to average… We hope. Summer 2009 has proven that blockbuster movies need to have at least a little bit of mind to go along with their “mindless entertainment.”
Here’s a perfect little clip that sums up the Summer of ’09, courtesy of Quentin Tarantino and Rachel Nichols (G.I. Joe) on Jimmy Kimmel Live:
Did you think that Summer ’09 at the movies was as disappointing as we did? Sound off in the comments.