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Summer 2009 in Review…

So, how was it for you? 

Long after the movies of summer are gone...

Long after the movies of summer are gone...

 

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one majorly disappointed with the past summer of movies. With District 9 (that most unlikely Summer hit) firmly behind us, I’ve decided to call a wrap on the Summer of 2009 (only a week behind when the summer season officially ends Stateside, with the Labour Day weekend). I correctly called that the summer would be a fairly spectacular money-spinner for the studios, but I had no idea it would be so terrible otherwise. 

Okay, I’m being mean. Most of this year’s movies weren’t terrible. They were just ‘meh’. Even the breakout ones – like District 9 – were merely good or very good rather than great. The ‘adult’ (by which I mean ‘not adolescent’) hits of the summer – represented by the much-anticipated Public Enemies – all seemed to fade away as mediocre films. It doesn’t help that the big winner of the summer – Transformers 2 – was so bad it led many critics to question their own relevance. The summer of 2008 never seemed so far away.  Admittedly the Irish summer season was robbed of Up, which is generating serious buzz as an Oscar contender and as the film of the year, but still, that selection isn’t exactly inspiring. 

Maybe I’m being too harsh. There was fun to be had. Particularly mindless fun. Wolverine did exactly what it said on the tin and the fact that it was absolutely pointless and overcrowded and poorly written couldn’t completely obscure the charisma of Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. The Hangover was a great comedy – but I’ll refrain from judging it a ‘classic’ until I’ve seen it again. Star Trek as great mindless entertainment, but didn’t really seem to have too much to say – it would have been a suitably average film last year. Beyond that, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince garnered a relatively enthusiastic response. 

You could make a case that the summer was gold for alternative films. Inglourious Basterds proved that Tarantino could master the ‘B-movie’ on his second full-blooded attempt. Moon was thought-provoking and visually stunning. I’ve heard nothing but good things about (500) Days of Summer, which myself and the girlfriend are checking out next weekend (with a bit of luck). The Hurt Locker is supposedly the best movie Hollywood has produced about America’s current wars (now there’s light praise) – a triumph of down-and-dirty film making that I will check out as soon as I get the chance. 

The problem is that last year merged these independent film-making sensibilities with the blockbusters, resulting in some thought-provoking hybrids. Christopher Nolan and Jon Favreau, the architects of the two big films of last year’s summer season, came from the indie school of film making, but it looks like Gavin Hood couldn’t do the same this year (though it seems Fox didn’t make it easy for him). It is a little depressing to see the the thoughtful and insightful nature of independent cinema and the budget and scale of blockbuster diverge after a summer spent in almost perfect harmony. 

Last year was a phenomenal year for blockbusters. It had The Dark Knight and Wall-E as blockbusters with brains and The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man as blockbusters with heart. Sure, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was pretty terrible, but most of the rest of the blockbusters seemed fairly passable, if slightly below average – Wanted might have seemed a little too obsessed with cool visuals and Speed Racer might have given the viewer a migraine if they stared too long – but most seem somewhat more original or unique than the particularly mindless streak the Hollywood studios seem to have been on this year with Wolverine, Transformer2 and GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, to name but a few. 

So, if last year was an above average summer, this year was a below average summer. But that’s how these things work. It’s the definition of average. Something’s got to be under it. I just really wish that the divergence wasn’t so large, the fall so steep. 

Still, maybe there is such a thing as movie karma. A lot of people were upset with last year’s awards season. I wasn’t particularly unimpressed, though the major studio offerings left a lot to be desired. This year looks to have a very strong awards season – and a very strong fall in general with events like Toy Story 3D and Avatar coming out. With a strong likelihood of that following through into blockbuster season 2010 with Shutter Island serving as a bit of a bridge. Jeez, I sound like a weather forecaster. 

Well, maybe what goes around comes around, but I’m still a little disappointed. Hopefully next year will be better. 

Not that that would be too hard.

2 Responses

  1. I have to say that I thought “Star Trek” was better than mindless entertainment. Abrams did a great job reinventing the classic storyline and giving new life to the characters. He also managed to pay homage to the original series with a number of inside jokes. It certainly wasn’t the smartest movie released in summer ’09, but it had heart, humor and hell of a lot of action — more than what most summer flicks offer up.

    • Okay, maybe I was a bit harsh there… I did enjoy it a great deal and I thought that the characterisation (particularly of Kirk and Spock) was spot on.

      Being honest, it will probably feature somewhere in my end-of-year top ten, but it wasn’t mind-blowingly amazing, mainly because aside from the fantastic direction, effects, pacing and acting, there wasn’t too much going on. The plot falls apart the more you think about it (though arguably that’s true of any movie, particularly a Star Trek movie). It was significantly better than any other blockbuster we got this year, and I’ll likely watch it more than a few times on BluRay, but it isn’t a “classic”, for lack of a better phrase.

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