Summertime is over, and 2012 was certainly a monumental one for movie fans, with two big cinematic events ruling the box office (The Avengers and Dark Knight Rises); a celebrated director returning to a genre he pioneered (Ridley Scott’s Prometheus); reboots (Amazing Spider-Man, Dark Shadows) and remakes (Total Recall) offering fresh spins (or not so fresh spins) on familiar properties; and literary adaptations (Lawless) trying work the magic of the page on the silver screen.

But what are the moments from the 2012 summer movie season that deserve serious (and not-so-serious) recognition? Find out in our very own Screen Rant Summer 2012 Movie Awards, presented in no particular order via the following list of winners.

WARNING!!! MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!

We questioned early on whether Marvel Studio’s shared movie universe would work; after the release of The Avengers we questioned again whether the experiment had been worth it.

Well, fans and  critics have (for the most part) agreed that it was a success – and the box office certainly agrees that it was. Bottom line: Marvel has changed the game and set a new precedent for how to launch a multimedia, multi-platform, franchise model.

If that wasn’t enough: “Phase Two” of the Marvel movie universe has a lot in store, including new franchises (Ant-Man), an expanded scope that will venture headlong into sci-fi territory (Guardians of the Galaxy), and even a TV series tie-in through Joss Whedon’s upcoming SHIELD TV series.

Hold tight, fanboys and girls; with Marvel Studios, the best maybe yet to come.

So many questions, few concrete answers. (How does it connect to Alien, exactly? What’s the deal with that Engineer left to die on Earth?)

Ridley Scott’s not-quite-a-prequel film to his 1979 sci-fi/horror classic Alien was one of THE most anticipated films of summer 2012; however, when all was said and done, many viewers walked away scratching their heads; others took to the Internet to mock the film’s uneven mix of profound philosophy and ridiculous horror movie tropes. Some loved it, some hated it, some are still debating it – but when Ridley Scott starts referring to Jesus being one of the Engineers, it quickly becomes clear that the story of Prometheus went right over our collective heads.

Seth MacFarlane has established himself via his animated shows Family Guy, American Dad and (to lesser extent) The Cleveland Show – but it was far from a guarantee that his antics would translate to live-action filmmaking. $384 million in worldwide earnings later (on a $50 million budget), Ted proved that MacFarlane has a whole new avenue of revenue to tap.

The film – about a guy  who can’t let go of his childhood – had plenty of funny moments, but funniest of all was watching John (Mark Wahlberg) get into a fight with his living Teddy Bear (as voiced by MacFarlane).

For those who are meta-minded, there was added joy in the realization that what we actually witnessed was Wahlberg alone onscreen, throwing himself around a hotel room. Such is the bizarre world of acting, boys and girls…

The death of Bruce Wayne/Batman had been a possibility since the Dark Knight Rises began to take shape. Would Nolan kill Bruce Wayne, only to have “Batman” live on thereafter? It seemed highly possible. However, Nolan pulled his usual 180° trickery and instead gave us tears of joy when Alfred (Michael Caine) finally gets his longtime wish to see Bruce sitting in an Italian cafe, freed from the pain and misery of Gotham City and Batman.

If Alfred’s fatherly joy wasn’t enough, Hans Zimmer’s now-classic Dark Knight theme kicked in loud and booming one final time, as John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) stepped onto the altar of Batman and rose out of view – thereby inspiring fresh tears of sadness, as we realized that Nolan’s Dark Knight Legend was well and truly ending.

RUNNER UP: Agent Coulson’s death in The Avengers.

Image Source: Black Dandelion

Not many people may have seen Exorcist and French Connection director William Friedkin’s bizzarre Neo-noir flick, Killer Joe, but it certainly wins the award for having the most ‘WTF’ moment of any film this summer.

After a scam gone all kinds of wrong, hitman Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey) finally comes looking for payment from the trailer-trash family that owes him. As the family gets ready to enjoy a Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner, Joe shows up to preach a perverse kind of sermon – one that includes explicit and violent use of America’s favorite chicken franchise.

After experiencing Killer Joe, we dare you to reach for a bucket of KFC without gagging.

There’s no doubt that audiences’ collective minds were blown when the big final battle between the assembled Avengers and Loki’s Chitauri alien horde took place in the heart of Manhattan.

The visual effects alone were impressive – and seeing all of the Avengers standing together in that 360° rotation shot was enough to send fanboys into nerdgasm. However, the way that director Joss Whedon captured the Avengers team members fighting in tag-team-style unison will go down as some of the most iconic (and awesome) moments in the history of superhero films.

Tim Burton’s movie reboot of the Dark Shadows TV show was overall a pretty lackluster affair (read our review), but the final showdown between vampire Barnabas Collins and his witchy tormentor Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) offered a lamer supernatural creature showdown than an episode of True Blood.

Barnabas apparently comes from the most candy-ass Gothic family in existence, because the combined forces of a century-old vampire, a shotgun-toting Michelle Pfeiffer and a teenage werewolf (Chloe Moretz) weren’t enough to take down one witch. Matter fact, it took a creepy kid and his ghost-mommy to win old Barnabas’ battle for him. Embarrassing.

People may debate the qualities of Amazing Spider-Man forever (or at least until Amazing Spider-Man 2 rolls ’round) – but it’s hard to debate that stars Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield had chemistry onscreen. And, considering the pair of breakout stars are now dating in real life, it’s apparent they also had some offscreen sparks.

Within the modernized context of Amazing Spider-Man, Garfield and Stone managed to bring the characters of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy back to a classic place, which many comic book fans remember fondly. Teenage romance tinged with Shakespearian super-powered tragedy… who doesn’t love that?

It didn’t get much cuter than this in the summer movie season of 2012.

Ew. Just… ew.

Ten minutes into The Apparitionmany people in the theater (at least in my viewing) were already rooting for the ghost to win. Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) are that couple in a Costco you eavesdrop on, just so you can later tell your friends about the ridiculous pair with the idiot banter you overhead.

Compounding the problem are two young stars who manage to make their every onscreen interaction feel like an exercise from some Monday night dramatic improv class. Forget chemistry – we’re talking about not even being able to find the test tubes.

This was a hard one. Tom Hardy had the biggest breakout with Dark Knight Rises; but conversely, his fantastic performance in Lawless has (so far) been contained to a smaller crowd. Andrew Garfield continues a meteoric rise with Amazing Spider-Man, but that was his only big run this summer. Jeremy Renner, meanwhile, became a major face in not one, but two major blockbuster franchises – Marvel’s The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy – meaning he got the most exposure of the three.

Sure, Bourne Legacy has been something of a box office disappointment ($160 million worldwide on a $125 million budget); however, that misstep won’t be enough to derail the entire franchise (especially if Matt Damon returns as Bourne), and Renner’s character is still part of the equation. Factor in his attachement to the Mission: Impossible franchise and Oscar nomination for The Hurt Locker in 2010, and it’s a good time to be Jeremy.

Poor Taylor Kitsch. This guy just cannot catch a break!

After a calamitous wash-out in the spring with John Carter (which wasn’t that bad, actually), Kitsch was poised for a summer 2012 comeback with the one-two punch of Peter Berg’s blockbuster extravaganza, Battleship, and Oliver Stone’s latest crime-thriller Savages. Unfortunately for Taylor, both films struggled.

Battleship managed to recover with international grosses, but in the U.S., the military flick only earned $65 million – a quarter of its $209 million price tag. Savages cost less to make ($45 million) but earned even less than Battleship ($47 million domestically). Add Kitsch’s role as iconic X-Man Gambit in Wolverine (another underperforming film), and it begins to look like this guy is legitimately cursed.

Worst part: he’s not a terrible actor. The long-struggling  Friday Night Lights TV series showcased what he can do, and he’s arguably been a charismatic and likable presence in all his projects. Go figure…

The Amazing Spider-Man faced a lot of opposition right from the get go. Many fans were hoping to see director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire back for Spider-Man 4, but when creative differences and ballooning budgets resulted in a chasm between the studio and creative team, the entire franchise was put to bed.

Soon after, Sony decided to go with a fresh approach via a rebooted universe, with taglines stating that Amazing Spider-Man would tell ‘the untold story’ of Peter Parker – namely by borrowing from the more modern Ultimate Spider-Man comic book continuity. Well, that untold story ended up being more of tweaked origin story told over again, but Amazing Spider-Man did manage to open up the Spider-Man mythos and universe in a way that Raimi’s films never did – and managed to make $740 million, to boot.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 is already in the works, and there is rumor that Sony tried, and will try to synch their new Spider-Man universe with that of Marvel’s Avengers Universe. Spidey is back in big way.

What should’ve been an easy blockbuster story (alien scouts come to Earth to kick-off a full-scale invasion) instead was a series of befuddling events and circumstances: What was that whole red/green thing in the alien POV shots? Why did the aliens not just kill indiscriminately, if they were planning to invade? What the hell were they after, exactly? Were earthlings the villains all along?

Indeed, upon closer examination (of anything besides the slick visual effects), it seems as though Battleship wanted to tell a larger, deeper, story – one that possibly could’ve kicked off a franchise of films dealing with the alien threat. Too bad it never made it into port.

Sequel? No thanks.

Like Amazing Spider-Man, The Bourne Legacy was facing opposition from the moment it was greenlit – namely due to the absence of franchise star Matt Damon as titular character, Jason Bourne. There was still potential for Legacy to score big with moviegoers; unfortunately, the film was a long buildup to a small payoff, and overall seemed fairly extraneous and unnecessary.

It’s not that Bourne Legacy is a bad film (it has some pretty intense action/thriller sequences) – it’s just that with a cast featuring acclaimed actors like Jeremy Renner, Ed Norton and Rachel Weisz – under the supervision of Oscar-nominated writer/director Tony Gilroy, who wrote the scripts for every Boune movie – we just expected much better than what we got. High hopes often lead to the biggest disappointments.

RUNNER UP: Snow White and the Huntsman

It’s somewhat sad that this category even exists, but given the sheer number of remakes, reboots and sequels out there these days, we actually have precedent to decide which project is the MOST unnecessary. In 2012, that award goes to Total Recall.

Early on, the filmmakers promised that this redo of the 1990 Paul Verhoeven version (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger) would actually stick closer to the heady themes and ideas of the short-story by legendary sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. However, what we got was just another mindless action flick – one with less ambition (and space travel and mutants) than Verhoeven’s film.

Really, the only thing that Total Recall 2012 accomplished was adding another bothersome entry to our IMDb search results.

Ben Stiller. Vince Vaughn. Jonah Hill. Those three actors have (respectively) headlined some of the biggest comedy films of the last half-decade – so when they all appeared on the same posters and theater marquees for The Watch, big things were understandably expected. If you were a fan of the UK series The IT Crowd, you were also probably excited to see that show’s star, Richard Ayoade, making his American debut in the company of comedic giants.

There’s still no explanation for why, exactly, The Watch turned out so poorly. You can’t blame it on real-world events (the Treyvon Martin shooting), and the premise (aliens invade a suburban neighborhood) was wild enough to be funny. Only it wasn’t. The cast should’ve carried the film with a combination of improvised banter and raunchy humor. Only they didn’t. They were just… there.

Truly a waste of talent – though Stiller/Vaughn/Hill haters would likely say it was just further evidence of why these guys suck. Hard to refute, in this case.

A lot of moviegoers will have vague recollections of seeing Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor somewhere before, even if they can’t place the names and/or faces in exactly the right spots. However, with their breakout comedic performances in For a Good Time, Call… Miller and Graynor put the famous comedian collection of The Watch to comparative shame, while simultaneously scoring another big point for female raunch-com movies, in the vein of Bridesmaids.

Not bad for two girls whose names are still relatively unknown in the mainstream.

We were excited to learn that Chuck Norris would be joining the likes of Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Expendables 2. The  72-year-old former action star has seen his screen persona blossom into a full-fledged part of the cultural zeitgeist, thanks to Internet sensations like Chuck Norris Facts.

Norris’ brief cameos in Expendables 2 didn’t show off any of his martial arts skills, but as “Booker,” he still managed to be extra badass, playing the “lone wolf” amidst a collection of movie badasses. When Norris broke down and cracked his own Chuck Norris List-style meta joke, it was all fans needed to make their lives complete.

 

What the hell do they teach scientists in the future that Ridley Scott imagined – how to be the smartest dumb people in the universe? That certainly seems to be the case, according to Prometheus.

We’ll ignore a lot of the obvious points that Internet chat forums and spoof-videos have already pointed out – but we can’t ignore the dumbest character moment in any summer 2012 movie. The biology specialist on the Prometheus (Rafe Spall) was a craven sort – until all of a sudden he thought it would be a good idea to pet an alien snake rising from a puddle of black goo.

We don’t usually side with people who scream at movie theater screens – but in this case they were right: that “scientific genius” was beyond dumb, and deserved to die horribly.

Image source: Memegenerator

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) had been wreaking havoc on Earth ever since Thor, and in The Avengers he certainly took things up a notch. While not the best fighter, per se, Loki’s penchant for manipulation and deception was unmatched by anyone in the nine realms; too bad The Hulk is not so much a thinker, as a smasher.

In a moment that is pure Joss Whedon, Loki’s tyrannical rant against the Hulk is cut short as the silver-tongued villain literally gets his body used like a fly swatter by the jade giant. Not only was Hulk’s big smash moment awesomely hilarious, his subsequent one-liner – “Puny god” – may take the award for best summer catchphrase, as well.

Image Source: Zerboy

After nightmarish paranormal events keep occurring in their new house, Kelly (Ashley Greene) uncovers a shocking secret from her boyfriend Ben’s past: he is responsible for releasing the ghost that is haunting them – and worse (gasp), he had another girlfriend before her!

Kelly confronts Ben about his secrets, and after the ensuing argument, banishes him from the house. This leaves Kelly alone in a dark, empty home with a malevolent ghost, armed only with some lame-ass infrared detector as protection. Can you tell yet that writer/director Todd Lincoln never gave his Apparition script a thorough edit, in terms of logical development?

Kelly, my dear, you were always too stupid too survive. There’s a place waiting for you right next to that snake-petting guy in Prometheus. R.I.P.

Tom Hardy had a pretty good summer at the movies, headlining one of the biggest blockbusters of the year (Dark Knight Rises), as well as an artful literary adaptation (Lawless). Most impressive of all: Hardy stole the show in both films, while barely speaking an audible line.

Bane’s Shakespearian dialogue in Dark Knight Rises snagged its own place on this list – but it was Hardy’s use of grunts and monosyllabic phrasing when playing Virginia bootlegger (and invincible badass) Forrest Bondurant in Lawless that earns him the award for eloquence and emotiveness through spoken (word? Sound?).

All joking aside: Forrest Bondurant’s grunt-lingo was a highlight of Lawless, and the lager-than-life character somehow found a way to say more in a guttural utterance than most characters do in an entire monologue. Bravo, Mr. Hardy.

Heath Ledger’s Joker voice might creep people out for years to come, but Tom Hardy’s Bane voice and dialogue quotables are going to be making them laugh equally as long.

Everyone has their favorite, and this is clearly reflected in the sheer amount of memes featuring Tom Hardy’s Bane that have flooded the Internet since Dark Knight Rises was released.

In fact, see the proof for yourself (Click at your own Risk!): Bane Memes

If you watch The Apparition trailer, you too might walk away with the impression that the film is about a ghost that gains the power the more you believe in it. Only, it’s not about that at all. You might notice the end of the trailer, where star Ashley Greene is repeating to herself (via voice-over) not to believe – even as ghostly hands grope and envelope her body. Only, that voice-over never happens in the actual movie.

While on the one hand we want to call this what it is (flagrant false advertising); on the other hand, we recognize the skills of the PR team who came up with a conceivable way to market a mess of a film that had been gathering dust on a studio shelf for a year. Great job, team! Now give us our damn ticket money back…

From a hole in the ground at the end of the world, to re-appearing on the streets of Gotham City (exactly where Selina Kyle happens to be) in the span of a few minutes?

How does he do it? (All together now:)

HE’S BATMAN!

It’s been an average, monumental, disappointingly funny action-packed adventure at the movies in summer 2012, with plenty left to look forward to in the Fall.

If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to have a look at our Fall 2012 Movie Preview, for all the latest trailers, release dates and info about the upcoming crop of fall films.

Otherwise, jump to the comment section and share your favorite movie moments of summer 2012 – and/or your best summer movie awards categories (and winners)!