Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Summer 2008 Retrospective

Well, summer is officially over. And as a result, the blockbusters are ushered out and the award movies are brought in.

To say that 2008 was a better summer than 2007 would be a vast understatement. Sure, one could look at the numbers that have been released regarding box office and notice that attendance is actually down year-over-year, but that has more to do with franchising than any respectable amount of quality.

2007 was sincerely my most anticipated movie summer ever. My favorite franchise of all time, Spider-Man was receiving its third installment, while 5 other movies were given 3-quels that summer and a few other run-of-the-mill sequels as well. My excitement was so high going into last May, only to dash all of my hopes as the weeks went on. Spider-Man 3 was a pretty big disappointment overall. Shrek the Third was horrific. Ocean's 13 was less boring then 12, but still a far cry from the fun of 11. The only sequel that truly appeared to surpass its predecessors was The Bourne Ultimatum. Everything else was mildly entertaining at best.

So coming into 2008, I kept my expectations in check. No longer would I allow my expectations for a film overshadow what it is able to deliver. No, this would be a summer where I would attempt to put all those feelings aside and just enjoy movies for what they are.

And I did.

The summer started out with some serious (and some would say very surprising) quality in Iron Man. The perfect embodiment of the role, Robert Downey, Jr. delivered a believable and exciting turn as Tony Stark that also led to the beginning of a larger Marvel Universe. Having Downey make an appearance in The Incredible Hulk was not only a lot of fun, but helped a lot to tie these universes together.

Unfortunately, Hulk did not see the success that Iron Man did, despite many in the internet community seeing it as a welcome upgrade from Ang Lee's 2003 version. Whether or not Universal, and by extension, Marvel Studios, sees it as a success is something unknown to me as its overall box office was not too different from the original.

The following week, my hopes were still high, as I experienced one of my favorite movies of the whole summer, Speed Racer. This was surprisingly one of the most divisive movies of the year, in that a very small minority (myself included) absolutely LOVED this movie, while the vast majority of the critical press panned it as juvenile and much too long. I was holding out hopes for a sequel, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards anytime soon, given its $100+ million price tag and lack of box office overall. I still want this movie to succeed on DVD and will be singing the praises to anyone who will listen.

Narnia was decent, but nothing great, and it was a good holdover until Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indy 4 was worth seeing strictly on the basis of the fact that it was Indiana Jones and for the first time in my life I was able to see him adventure on the big screen. Since I was a baby when Temple of Doom came out, and only 5 when Last Crusade was released, this was my first (and possibly only) chance to see and hear the excitement for myself. While the actual story I had some serious issues with, it was definitely still worth checking out.

I ended up missing Sex and the City (it wasn't hard for a male to do), but I certainly marveled at the amount of women who went to go see it. I guess never underestimate the potential for a girls' night out.

A few animated movies really stood out from the pack this summer. Kung Fu Panda was a surprisingly solid entry from Dreamworks, who normally seems to rely on pop culture jokes at the expense of story. This time around, they really kept their focus on story first, and the movie was helped tremendously by this. And who could forget Wall-E, perhaps my favorite movie of the year thus far? I'm really hoping to see a Best Picture nomination, but that could just be a pipe dream of mine.

But what this summer was really great for though was comedies. From Pineapple Express, to Step Brothers, to Tropic Thunder, there were so many quality comedies this year that I found it difficult to contain my laughter when just thinking about them afterward. Less successful, but still entertaining, comedies such as Get Smart and You Don't Mess with the Zohan at least offered a few humorous moments. And it pains me to write even the words "The Love Guru." I'll leave it at that.

Overall, this was a different summer. A summer filled with all sorts of different kinds of movies and one that I was able to enjoy much more because I didn't allow myself to get hyped to levels that would only set me up for disappointment. No, I just enjoyed being a movie fan this summer, because it allowed me to spend some good times with friends, having fun discussions, and watching crazy things happen.

So, thanks 2008. And we'll just say that my hopes are even LOWER for 2009's summer, since there really isn't much happening there at all. Except for Transformers 2. I love giant robots.

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