A look back on what the film industry had to offer this summer at the box office
Hollywood’s panicking! The news as stated by the New York Times is that summer 2014 was the worst summer film season since 1997 at the United States box office. Although the debate rages online as to why that is the case, that shouldn’t stop us from breaking down some of our favourite, and not so favourite, films of the season.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel has done it again. The studio that can seemingly do no wrong has made audiences all over the world fall in love with relatively unknown superheroes, and actor Chris Pratt in the leading role. Directed by James Gunn, the film follows the story of Peter Quill, AKA Star Lord, a space pirate with a criminal record, as he assembles a group of misfits to fight a rogue supervillain named Ronan who’s hell-bent on destroying the galaxy.
While the storyline is typical of superhero movies, the film saw tremendous success, making it the top earner this summer. It also paved the way for sequels, mainly because, like most Marvel films, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Chris Pratt’s delivered a solid performance and was supported by a strong cast. Combined with the talented director, it produces a fun, feel-good summer superhero film. Lets leave the “dark,” “realistic” superhero movies to DC. Guardians of the Galaxy was a definite summer season winner.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The sequel to the 2011 film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes – in which human civilization collapses due to the spread of the ALZ-113 virus – takes place a decade later. While humanity struggles to survive, the apes, led by Caesar, evolve and build their own separate civilization. With the underlying theme being the coexistence of good and evil in all of us, regardless of species, both humans and apes end up going to war in their quest for dominance.
Directed by Matt Reeves, the film succeeds in delivering an original perspective on the classic franchise. Supported by great visual effects and exceptional acting across the board, Andy Serkis reprising his role as Caesar steals the show. Already a proven heavyweight in motion capture acting, giving audiences memorable characters such as Gollum, King Kong and soon Baloo in the upcoming Jungle Book: Origins in 2016, Serkis’s portrayal of Caesar is generating some well-deserved Oscar buzz. If he snags an Oscar nomination, the result could be game-changing in Hollywood, as the Academy has yet to acknowledge motion capture acting. Overall, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a must-see summer film.
Note: spoiler alert. A reboot of the Godzilla franchise, this film offers a new take to the classic monster story, which was originally created to reflect the destructive consequences of nuclear weapons. This film, however, portrays the monster as humanity’s saviour against creatures called “MUTOs,” who feed off of radiation and multiply, threatening to wipe out human existence.
This reimagining disappointed some fans of the franchise, especially in Japan, where Godzilla is an important cultural symbol. This was not the only risk taken by director Gareth Edwards: two lead characters–played by Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche– were featured heavily in the film’s promotion, only to get killed off. Yet for all the risks taken, the result was a critical and commercial success. The film gives a nod to classic monster movies, such as Jaws, by withholding a glimpse of the monster from the audience until roughly halfway through the film. Even then, scenes featuring Godzilla are sparse, so that the monster’s appearance leaves audience members intrigued and wanting more. It is a film worth watching, if for nothing other than the Halo jump sequence (you’ll know it when you see it), complete with a tribute to Stanley Kubrick’s classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Maleficent is Disney’s latest retelling of one of its classic films. Director Robert Stromberg reimagines the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of one of the most powerful Disney villains, Maleficent. Maleficent is portrayed as misunderstood, turned evil due to being betrayed by a peasant boy, who uses her to gain the kingdom’s throne. She takes her revenge by cursing his daughter Princess Aurora; yet, as the princess grows older, Maleficent grows fond of her and eventually becomes good again because of her love for the girl.
Even considering the strong visual effects and a solid portrayal of Maleficent by Angelina Jolie–a part the actress fits perfectly–the film wasted its potential. The story line ignores any character development except for that of Maleficent. The narrative is constructed in a way that does not make the audience care for anyone other than the villainess, or understand why the story unfolds the way it does, resulting in a sloppy, boring retelling of a truly classic fairy tale. The movie is essentially 97 minutes of watching Angelina Jolie fly around in a kick-ass costume. Somewhere Walt Disney is turning in his grave.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Explosions! 165 minutes worth of them! In the longest, and by far the worst, Transformers movie to date, director Michael Bay once again made a film which introduces new characters–human and alien alike. He also makes sure the audience doesn’t care what happens to those characters or even remember who they are when coming out of the theater.
The story takes place five years after the battle of Chicago, where humans have turned against the Transformers, hunting them down and forcing them into hiding. However, attempts to build an imitation of the transformers by a corporation called KSI leads to the reincarnation of Megatron (the big villain) who plans on using “the seed” to destroy mankind and create more Decepticons (the bad guys). This forces the remaining Autobots, the good guys, out of hiding, who then team up with Cade Yeager, played by Mark Wahlberg, and friends to save the day.
After four Transformers movies and countless complaints by critics and fans, director Michael Bay ignores all the noise, and with good reason. This latest installment is, inexplicably, the second highest grossing film of the summer in the United States box office, making over $1 billion worldwide, and is overall the highest grossing film of 2014. An absolute train wreck, but let’s hope that the fifth installment will be handed over to another director.