Summertime is over, and 2013 was a year in which films in release were arguably overshadowed by the announcement of future blockbuster titles, such as the Batman/Superman sequel to Man of Steel the Avengers sequel revealing its Age of Ultron subtitle and villain; or even the debut of raccoons with guns, as shown in the footage from Marvel’s 2014 tentpole, Guardians of the Galaxy.
However, 2013 did deliver a new Superman to the world; revitalized the Wolverine character and X-Men franchise, and kicked off “Phase Two” of Marvel’s Movie Universe – just to name the superhero highlights. The sci-fi, comedy and horror genres had their own summer hits – Elysium, This Is the End, The Conjuring – so there is plenty of opportunity for accolades to be handed out in this, our second annual Screen Rant Summer Movie Awards.
WARNING!!! MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW!!!
Undoubtedly the biggest success story of the summer (in terms of box office, at least) would have to be Marvel’s Iron Man 3. There was legitimate question as to whether Marvel Studios could sustain the same level of achievement with its solo films as it did The Avengers. Answer: Yes.
The film itself was divisive and played fast and loose with characters and mythos – and the behind the scenes shenanigans with star Robert Downey Jr.’s contract re-negotiation had Marvel fans on pins and needles – but none of those detractions were enough to stop RDJ and Marvel’s continued box office onslaught. Iron Man 3 walked away with 1.2 billion at the worldwide box office.
It’s always the most subjective category on our awards list, and this year the badge for “Most Disappointing Summer Movie” will likely be awarded to a variety of films, depending on who you ask. While some people might want to nominate Man of Steel or Iron Man 3, I think we can ALL agree that R.I.P.D. was a massive letdown for just about any and everybody.
…Then again, you probably never had high hopes for this ‘Ghostbusters meets Men In Black‘ mashup, so maybe “disappointment” isn’t so accurate a term as “validated” would be. Personally, our disappointment comes from the fact that director Robert Schwentke was coming off a big win with a different adaptation of an obscure comic book (RED), and stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are generally good guys – certainly better than what this film shows them to be.
RUNNER UP: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Despite a divisive reception, the box office earnings were pretty good (approx $650 million worldwide on a $225 million budget); however, the real “success” of Man of Steel was its ability to re-introduce the Superman character and movie franchise to a new audience, while also establishing DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ shared movie universe. So really, “Best Universe Launch” would be a more accurate term than “Franchise Launch.”
Need further proof? Man of Steel’s reception has engendered what is unquestionably the biggest comic book movie event yet: The announcement that Man of Steel 2 will feature a Superman/Batman team-up! Sure, people are losing their minds right now because that Batman is Ben Affleck, but once we start to see footage from this film, the entire world will likely be lining up to buy tickets. Thank Man of Steel for getting us here.
While Warner Bros. rolled the $200+ million dice on their reboot of Superman, Disney figured it would be a good idea to roll their $200+ million dice on a reboot of The Lone Ranger. And the result was pretty much what a lot of people expected: a major letdown that nobody is begging to see extended into further sequels or spinoffs.
If you listened to our Lone Ranger Podcast then you’ve heard tell of the conflicted halves of director Gore Verbinski’s film: it starts off as a supernatural-themed rumination on the old west, and ends as a mundane heist story featuring an evil tycoon, a lot of expensive trains, and nothing supernatural about it. Despite their respective charisma, the pairing of Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp (playing another inexplicably weird Depp caricature) wasn’t enough to save this film – or the potential franchise waiting in the wings.
Meet this year’s John Carter.
The criticisms of Man of Steel are overly familiar by now – the end fight, writing, pacing, performances, etc. – but there is one point of consensus in this whole debate: director Zack Snyder created some of the best superhero action seen on film, and “The Battle of Smallville” was probably the crowning achievement.
Not only is the sequence a fantastic duel and a great showcase of superpowers realized in real-world context, it’s also a fantastic character moment, as Superman’s defense of the men and women of the armed forces finally earns him the distinction of being a hero.
Man of Steel may have circumvented actually saying the classic Superman line about “Truth, Justice and the American Way”, but this scene certainly captured it in spirit.
RUNNER UP: TIE – Tokyo Battle in Pacific Rim & Bathroom Battle in The World’s End.
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) shows up in a remote Japanese village to save his Lady love, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), only to be confronted by an entire town full of ninjas. Now, one would think that an epic Wolverine vs. The Crazy 88-type sequence would ensue (and for a second it does) but then, all of a sudden, we get Logan pushing forward on some doomed march towards his target, while ninja arrows fill his back. Shockingly enough (sarcasm), not even Wolverine can shrug off that kind of assault, and he eventually passes out cold.
The symbolism (Wolverine’s unbending will and strength) was understandable, even poetic – but the sequence was still pretty lame as far as fights go. Worse yet is the fact that we know from our visit to the Wolverine set that this sequence was originally much more extensive and violent than what we got in theaters.
RUNNER UP: Wolverine vs. Silver Samurai
Star Trek Into Darkness may not have changed lives or created a deep, lasting impression, but in this quality-deficient summer, it delivered something that was sorely needed: good old-fashioned summer blockbuster popcorn entertainment.
This time the set pieces and action sequences were bigger, the banter between the cast was snappier, and the villain actually got some time for development.
Yes, the whole Khan “twist” was something of a distraction for a lot of fans – as was the question of how the Enterprise could possibly function as a submarine. But Trekkie nitpicks aside, Into Darkness was yet another well-rounded space adventure from director J.J. Abrams.
On to Star Wars 7.
RUNNER UP: Fast & Furious 6
Nobody I know was begging for it, or hoping for it, or even wanting it – yet the $271 million box office haul of the first film dictated that this sequel be made. Money talks in Hollywood – and lately it has been saying a lot of wrong things.
We’re not going to get to deep into this – It’s plain to see how and why former edgy comedians-turned-mature adults like Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and (to lesser extent) Kevin James would do a movie like this at this point in their career$. What is truly baffling is that this was ever a successful “franchise” at all.
Hopefully, the massive drop-off in box office earnings that the sequel saw ($100 million less than its predecessor) will prove that this fluke of stunt-casted mediocrity should be appreciated for what it did, before being retired for good.
Henry Cavill is now Superman. ‘Nuff said, really. Despite criticism, Cavill has cemented himself as the new Superman for a new generation, joining an esteemed (and small) circle of actors who have had the honor of playing the role in feature-films. Cavill also holds the honor(?) of being the first non-American actor to be awarded the Superman movie mantle, so props for that.
And what is Cavill doing for his next act? Well, he’ll star in Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie’s next franchise reboot, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (along side Armie Hammer); after that, Cavill will suit-up as Superman again for a little film tentatively titled Batman vs. Superman, alongside a little-known movie star named Ben Affleck.
So, you know, he’s got just a few small reasons to be this year’s “Rising Star” winner…
Ryan Reynolds had three films out in 2013 – The Croods, Turbo, R.I.P.D. – with only The Croods scoring major box office success – and most people probably didn’t even recognize Reynolds from the supporting voice role he had in that animated film.
R.I.P.D. tanked hard, proving once again that comic book movie/action hero success may not be in the cards for Reynolds (unless it’s that Deadpool movie). Meanwhile, Turbo managed to be the one animated movie of Summer 2013 that couldn’t top its production budget at the domestic box office; it was also headlined by Reynolds, and debuted in theaters in the same week as R.I.P.D. Talk about doubling the blow…
The future of Ryan Reynolds’ career is uncertain, but there’s no doubt that he’s in a slump right now. Maybe he should leave blockbuster leading man life behind and go back to doing what made him a star in the first place: witty raunch-comedy. (And no, The Change-Up doesn’t count. We said “witty.”)
2 Guns: yet another obscure comic book property adapted into a mediocre action film, but what set it apart – both in the minds of viewers and at the box office – was the teaming of leading men Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
The film itself was another B-movie crime-thriller from Contraband director Baltasar Kormakur, but watching Washington and Wahlberg trade verbal (at times physical) jabs made all the difference. As two undercover investigators masquerading as partners in crime (while not knowing the other man is also on the side of the law), the dynamic between these icons of action badassery got to take on several forms – each of them entertaining in their own right.
Without a suitable romance to set our hearts on fire during the summer 2013 movie season, this longtime-coming bromance will have to do.
Okay, so we’re getting a little tongue-in-cheek with this one, but it still (sorta) counts.
Frank (Elijah Wood) has some… unique issues with women, thanks to traumas fostered by an amoral and whorish mother. Frank is a sick puppy driven to do some pretty sick things – all of which we get to see through his eyes, as director Frank Khalfoun forces us into the skin of a maniac killer.
As for the award? Well, sit through Maniac and you too will probably agree that the relationships Frank has with his female victims – alive or recreated as mannequins topped in bloody scalps – is not what any sane person would define as “good chemistry” between lovers.
And clearly there was trouble in paradise: after all, by the end, all of Frank’s ladies turn on him and (symbolically) rip him to shreds. You know your mojo is no longer working when that happens, baby – yeah!
The scene was pretty hilarious: Hollywood actors James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson are trying to ride out the Apocalypse in James Franco’s house with a disheveled Emma Watson. Being the gentlemen that they are, the boys proceed to discuss proper protocol for keeping a girl feeling safe and comforted – without coming off “too rapey.”
Look, the subject of rape can be a powder keg of controversy and poor taste when it is used in comedic context – but something about Franco and Co.’s conversation rang a loud and funny chord of truth about the quality of a man’s character. Don’t be surprised if you start hearing the term “rapey” with increasing frequency in the street; for better or worse, This Is the End has managed to puncture the zeitgeist and add a new term to our already sordid vernacular.
The Conjuring was hands-down the scariest movie of summer (which we predicted long ago), but of all the freaky little moments in the film – the hand clap games, the ghost-sheet in the wind – the one moment that probably had people plunging their faces into their hands was when the ghost witch literally pounced off the top of an armoire onto a sleepwalking little girl.
Director James Wan’s strength in the horror genre has always been creative sequencing using old school filmmaking techniques over CGI, and this moment in the Conjuring was one of the best examples. The scare is so effective because of good old-fashioned misdirection: you expect the threat to come OUT of the armoire and are caught off-guard when witch-lady hops down on little Cindy like she owes her money.
I now peek over the top of my own armoire every night before I go in to get my pajamas. No ghost witch lady is gonna get the drop on me…
(Artwork by Jared S. Marantz)
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives is probably the most controversially divisive film of the year so far – a strange high-art conflation of both Oedipal theory and religious moralism. However, that sophisticated blend of cinema doesn’t save it from containing one of the most disturbing scenes we’ve seen recently.
After inviting her baby-boy Julian (Ryan Gosling) and his prostitute girlfriend Mai (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam) to a classy dinner, drug lord matriarch Crystal (English thespian Kristin Scott Thomas) greets her guests with a verbal diatribe that no doubt sent more than a few Sundance attendees heading for the exit.
We’ll spare you the full horror, but let’s just say that when a mother decides to wax philosophic about what makes one of her sons better than the other, eroticized and vulgar comparisons about the size of their junk should never, ever, be the crux of that argument. But in the world of Refn…
We all saw it in the trailers, and even then it sparked a strong (even visceral) emotional reaction in people: after saving a bus full of his classmates from drowning, the people of Smallville express concern about Clark Kent’s strange abilities. While confronting his adopted son about the need for keeping his power a secret, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) is hit with the hard question of whether Clark should do nothing and watch as people die.
Jonathan’s answer, “Maybe,” was at once infuriating, heartbreaking and thought-provoking in its implications. In a world of increasing moral complexity, that moment in Man of Steel not only challenged the core values of the super hero mythos, it finally gave the world what it had been needing: a Superman movie that wasn’t afraid to confront the Man of Steel’s new place in a much more complicated world.
After two films that arguably had lackluster antagonists, we were getting the main event: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) vs. his comic book nemesis, The Mandarin – with the villain set to be played by none other than Oscar-winner Sir Ben Kingsley. Questions of ethnicity aside, most of us were excited to see how the opposing forces of RDJ and SBK would clash on screen.
…And then we discovered it was all a big joke. There would be no Dark Knight-style epic rivalry; no breathtaking villain performance from Kingsley (as we were promised); all the hype was shattered as Kingsley’s character was revealed to be an actor/addict named Trevor Slattery, who had been hired to portray The Mandarin.
Whether you loved or hated the “twist,” the scene where Tony Stark breaks into an enemy stronghold and discovers Slattery’s true nature had moviegoers the world over all saying “WTF?!?!?!?!”
What is a ‘Frankenstein Job?’ you may be asking yourself: well, it’s a nice little self-styled term I use to refer to a film that was intended to be one thing, but somewhere in production the filmmakers had to take a drastic change in approach. The end result is a movie that doesn’t seem to have matching halves, or has bits and pieces that don’t seem to properly fit together – and World War Z is this year’s shining example.
Director Marc Foster had another notable “Frankenstein Film” with the James Bond entry Quantum of Solace, so maybe this sort of thing is his signature? Either way, World War Z was clearly a collection of action set pieces loosely connected by a flimsy “quest for a cure” story – and the third act of the film is pretty much an indie horror movie “Frankensteined” onto the end of a tentpole blockbuster.
In the original ending, an epic war sequence finale was planned (involving Brad Pitt saving his family), but instead we got a slow creep through the zombie-infested halls of a World Health Organization facility. Then again, after so many production issues, the biggest miracle of all is that World War Z ever worked as well as it did: Frankenstein walked away with half a billion dollars at the box office.
Sometimes conjoined twins don’t develop correctly in the womb, and one twin winds up essentially dominating gestative development while the other withers away and is sometimes “born” as a gross vestigial appendage attached to the surviving twin. In movie land, the term applies to when “copycat movies” (Like These Films) are released in close proximity, and only one film flourishes while the other flounders.
This year we had two “Die Hard in The White House” movies: Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen in the spring, and Roland Emmerich’s White House Down in the summer. The former doubled its production budget, while the latter failed to break even, despite the combined star power of Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum – AND a less restrictive PG-13 rating.
Since nobody is holding either of these films up as astounding works of art, maybe there’s a strong case to be made for getting your copycat into theaters first (even at the expense of quality visual effects). In the end, White House Down came out looking like the extraneous leftovers of a movie we already saw – which is why it is the perfect recipient of our inaugural “Parasitic Twin Award.”
So. Many. Superman. Memes.
And now that Ben Affleck is Batman, and Man of Steel 2 is going head-to-head with Avengers 2 in summer of 2015, the memes involving the Last Son of Krypton are going to be coming at us much more frequently and ferociously.
Which meme is your favorite (so far)?
RUNNER UP: Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Once again it’s been an average, monumental, disappointingly funny action-packed adventure at the movies in summer 2013, 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 upcoming Fall 2013 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)
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