The season opened solidly on May 4th with the debut of the much anticipated Avengers. Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers is all that it should be. Perhaps not all that it could be, but it gives the audience exactly what it wants and leaves it wanting more. Whedon excels visually as he knows how to milk the most from a scene simply by showing our heroes together. In a story that is simple enough for the youngest of fans to get, yet contains enough depth to keep most adults interested, Thor’s brother Loki brings an army of aliens to conquer Earth to feed his need for power. Whedon does struggle with comedic timing as his story (written with Zak Penn) generates great laughs, but too many lines following jokes are lost behind laughter. The cast provides enjoyable performances though Mark Ruffalo’s risky portrayal of Doctor Bruce Banner strays too far from the traditional intensity associated with the character, and thus appears muddled and confused. Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother fame attempt to play a strong and stoic S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is also distracting.
Two weeks later, the bar for the summer was set at an incredibly low level as Battleship sunk into and stunk up theatres. This cheese factory, which claims to be based on the classic Hasbro board game, is so bad that playing the game in the theatre would have been more entertaining. Yes, the special effects were impressive…when we saw them in Transformers! Any grin gleaned from the alien missiles resemblance to the pegs used in the game, or the grid-like shots taken in an attempt to locate the alien ship, will be wiped from your face by the dialogue supplied by writers Erich and Jon Hoeber and the scene-chewing performances of Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, etc.
Can you have a summer season without Will Smith? In 2012 the answer is a resounding yes! Men in Black 3 is just a waste of time and talent. Yes, Josh Brolin does a fine impression of a young Tommy Lee Jones, and that’s fun for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, there are 106 minutes in this time-travel-themed romp, and the failure to find humorous opportunities associated with time travel, done so well in other efforts (see Austin Powers, Back to the Future, etc.), is inexcusable and unwatchable.
The summer was sure to be resurrected by the highly anticipated Prometheus! Ridley Scott can certainly tell a story, and this film looked and sounded great in IMAX 3D. Unfortunately, writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof don’t provide a story worth telling. The crew of the Prometheus heads off to the outer reaches of the galaxy, land on a planet, and deal with aliens that appear to be nothing more than an afterthought, both visually and from a storytelling perspective. The performances are muddled and the characters are poorly developed in what is sure to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year.
No summer would be complete without some independent effort and with Wes Andersen directing the likes of Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, and many more in Moonrise Kingdom had “hit” written all over it. Unfortunately, this cute tale of two young runaway lovers on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s simply gets in its own way as it tries far too hard to be quirky.
Disney and Pixar can always be counted upon to boost the summer box-office bucks, and Brave does bolster the blockbuster bank, but ultimately, this is a cute film just for the kids as the subtle humor often found in Pixar films is missing, and the plot is a little too out there for adults to “bear”.
If Marvel can deliver The Avengers, surely a Spider-Man reboot is sure to be a swinging success, right? Nope. If you are going to retell a story that set the standard for fun comic-book adaptations ten years ago, and was followed up by one excellent sequel and one that should have been squashed in some toilet paper and flushed, you better make it better than the original. More complicated does not equal better.
The Amazing Spider-Man fails in comparison to Spider-Man (2002) on far too many levels to list here, the least of which is the disappointing special effects that make the additional expenditure to experience it in 3D a waste of money as well as a waste of time. Audiences enjoyed the performances, characterizations, and relationship between Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson. While Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are let down by the underdeveloped script, their respective performances don’t help the cause. This reboot should get the boot as this Spider-Man is far more awkward than amazing.
Could Seth McFarlane’s foul-mouthed, stoner of a stuffed animal save the summer? Ted the teddy bear, who was brought to life by a magical wish made by his outcast little boy, gained celebrity, and grew up with his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg), certainly supplies some laughs, but the novelty of a cute stuffed bear who gets stoned, has sex, and runs his mouth wears thin early in this outing, and the audience soon realizes that everything else is just an attempt to distract you from the thin plot. The references to the 1980 fromage fest that is Flash Gordon, a film that makes Battleship look award-worthy, are fun and the cameo is worth the price of admission alone to those who have experienced Flash, but really, how many people is that?
There are certainly a lot of other films out there with potential to quench your desire for quality on a hot summer day, but let us not continue to encourage Hollywood to produce mediocre fare by accepting that which fills us with reservations regarding other outings. Stay thirsty, my friends.