Friday, August 30, 2013

Revisiting the 2013 Blockbuster Season

I am going to start the Blockbuster Season - a term that's hard to define, but I am going with April-August 'Wide Release' - with Oblivion (April 11) and end it with Red 2 (August 29). Still upcoming we have White House Down, a couple of animated films - Turbo and Planes - and Thor: The Dark World so there are big-budget studio productions and family-oriented films screening all year round.

Excellent (4-4.5) - Oblivion, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim, This is the End, The Conjuring and The World's End.

Decent (3-3.5) - Star Trek Into Darkness, The Internship, World War Z, Despicable Me 2, Monster's University, Epic, Now You See Me and We're the Millers.

Eh (2-2.5) - Snitch, The Great Gatsby, Man Of Steel, The Lone Ranger, The Heat, The Wolverine, Elysium, Red 2.

Ugly (0.5-1.5) - Olympus Has Fallen, The Hangover Part III, Pain and Gain, Kick-Ass 2.

My main challenge here was determining what constituted a 'Blockbuster'. I tossed up whether to include The World's End, which actually takes top honors here, but the Twitter community seemed to be the consensus in claiming that it was. At the beginning of the season, around the time when Iron Man 3 was released, it seemed like there was a larger-than-normal lineup of blockbusters. But, emerging on the other side, I'm not sure it can be called a strong blockbuster period.

As I listed above, I was a fan of Pacific Rim, Oblivion and Iron Man 3. Pacific Rim was so much fun. Guillermo Del Toro knew what he was doing, managing to build characters we cared about, and infusing this gargantuan struggle with an odd brand of humour. I caught it a second time in IMAX. Oblivion was a big surprise. I was engrossed by the story, despite the derivatives, and loved the cinematic landscape (the striking design and cinematography, the M83 score). Iron Man 3 was just as good as Iron Man for me. Tony Stark without the suit, RDJ in top comic form and the fact that it was more of an espionage thriller than a superhero film. For comedies, The World's End is perhaps the funniest film (but so much more) of the year, but I also laughed a lot during the Rogen/BaruchelFranco/Hill/Robinson/McBride Apocalyptic collaboration, This Is the End. James Wan's The Conjuring made a heap of money here, and it is a more than decent horror film. Very well directed, even some of the generic malevolent elements felt fresh here, and the performances are strong.

I did admire the visual spectacle of J. J Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness but admittedly forgot about the film almost immediately. I am not a Trekkie and for all of the great character work in Abrams' films the stories aren't so great. I also enjoyed the intensity of World War Z. Zombies on an epic global scale, which made for some terrifying sequences. A bold change of pace to the finale was also a decision I admired. Chatting with director Marc Forster at a press junket was a rewarding experience too. Monster's University and Despicable Me 2 were released on the same day - and I enjoyed both. Not surprisingly, Despicable Me 2 has made a LOT of money worldwide. As for the poorly-received The Internship, Now You See Me and We're The Millers, I had a good enough time in the cinema to give them a pass. While not great films, the comedies provided ample laughs, Now You See Me a tricky, energetic plot.

The biggest disappointments were The Great Gatsby, Man of Steel and Elysium. Man of Steel angered me especially. What a disaster. The Lone Ranger, despite an entertaining final chase sequence, was a tonal mess, and The Wolverine might just be the blandest of all of this year's crop. I want to forget all about Olympus Has Fallen - the worst film of the year so far - and the abominable final installment of The Hangover trilogy. Kick Ass 2 makes a strong case for one of the year's most sickening films.

How did you find this year's blockbuster period? What were your favourites?


  1. I have not seen the number of movies this summer (winter for you) that you have. Of the ones I have seen the only one I rated four stars out of five was Iron Man 3. I had a bunch of 3 star films, but some of the biggest films were not ones I would recommend to others (i.e. they were less than 3 stars for me.)

    1. Yeah it has been that kind of season. A lot of films that were merely okay. Some elements I really enjoyed, and others that were disappointing. Only those four star films I listed provided a universally entertaining experience.