Summer Meltdown

Summer 2009 promised to be a bumper year at the box-office, following on from the double whammy last year of The Dark Knight and (ahem) Mamma Mia! Although the numbers have stacked up favourably largely thanks to the success of Michael Bays giant metal balls (more on those later), the quality has been sadly lacking.

The Blockbuster season might not be completely over yet, but weve been left distinctly under whelmed by many of the releases so far. Weve left the animation entries for another time mainly because the real big-hitter (Disneys Up!) isnt out for several months yet.

It’s not to say we haven’t seen some great films over the summer, it’s just that they aren’t what you would classify as Blockbusters. We’ll look at those films in greater depth later, and i can’t wait to get stuck into those turkeys we’ve endured as well. Quick message for Seth Rogen, you might want to look away soon. But in the meantime heres a brief rundown of the hits and misses, be warned the first category is Very brief.

The Good

Watchmen

What we said then: The grandest graphic novel of them all finally arrives on the big screen and so the supposedly unfilmable has been filmed. The fans can instantly be assured of one thing, very little has been compromised with the violence intact meaning a far from audience friendly 18 certificate (as well as the 2hr 43min runtime). So does the film live up to the hype?

On reflection: Yeah it does. We were initially excited by the film, but thought the rest of the summer would result in this just being a good, solid movie rather than a standout from the year. On reflection this delivered on its promise and was one of the only films to justify the marathon runtime.

Star Trek

What we said then: The cast are superb, with relative unknown Pine taking to the cocksure arrogance of Kirk like a duck to water. He and Quinto as Spock are the core of the film, but the crew would not be complete without the other members. Karl Urban plays the dour Bones McCoy and gives probably the most vivid turn in relation to the first series which is particularly welcome. Perhaps the villain of the piece could have done with a little more development but for a film that clocks in at two hours this might just be wishful thinking, and now that we have a fully functioning Enterprise and crew lets have more of the franchise. Full Review

On reflection: This is how it should be done. Clever plot, acknowledgment of past glories and perfect marketing make this the real big hit of the summer. The fact that it appealed to non-trekkies and females (quiet at the back there no they are NOT the same thing) meant that it was the one film everyone seemed to enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince

What we said then: The film opens with a fantastic sequence combining the ‘real’ world with the fantasy environment J.K Rowling has elaborately created. This is a short segment, and hopefully has the potential to be expanded in future installments, pity it wasn’t used more extensively before. The idea of having these teenage characters actually acting as we know they would is also a great touch… it might go on for far too long in the opening half of the story, but it allows for some genuine drama and laughs as well as a chance to see some proper acting. Full Review

On reflection: It says something when a pretty mediocre film ends up being one of the highlights. This might be a personal choice but the justification (and Im sticking to it) is that I was expecting another big Potter-sized letdown. The fact that it wasnt, and managed to keep me entertained for most of the runtime means that it scrapes into this half of the review. Just. Lets just give it a new category the Good(ish)

The Bad

X-men Origins: Wolverine

What we said then: The story itself is very simplistic and you can understand why some late tweaks were made, however these are only moderately successful. Some of the effects are also well-handled and the big set-pieces look a lot better than the early trailers would suggest. Unfortunately not all the CGI is up to scratch and the retracting claws in particular look rushed and poorly executed. Whereas we get to see many of marvels lesser superheroes (and villains) in this movie, at no point do we feel we know any of them. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool is great for the brief moments we see him in, but it amounts to nothing more than a fleeting cameo and remember his is the character that was re-shot to feature more prominently in the final film, Imagine what his role would have been like otherwise! Full Review

On Reflection: This was the first signal that not everything was rosy this summer. It limped into cinemas with very little critical buzz (a bad sign) and the ongoing reshoots/rewrites during production were obvious for all to see. Jackman did well in the lead and his performance cant be faulted, but not much else worked.

Angels and Demons

What we said then: It all sounds pretty far fetched, and when you throw into the mix an anti-matter bomb that could blow up most of Rome let alone Vatican City, a sexy CERN scientist called Vittoria, suspicious priests and members of the Swiss Guard you have all the ingredients for either a bloody mess or a hokum-filled couple of hours. Full Review

On reflection: The former. It is a bloody mess, and has almost nothing going for it. The Da Vinci Code wasnt great either, and to call this one better is to imply that a bout of diarrhea is better than leprosy. It is, but is anyone going to boast about it? The moment Ewan McGregor leaps into a helicopter, takes of in the middle of Vatican City and parachutes back down to earth having detonated a bomb is the moment youll be ready to leave. At least the mullet was gone.

Night at the Museum 2

What we said then: The whole movie looks great but comprises one lazy historical caricature after the next. Hey look its Napoleon – ha-ha, hes short, and French. Surely that joke wore thin just after Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure in 1989 – 20 years on, youd expect something a little better. Ricky Gervais shows up for about a nanosecond to reprise his role as a grumpy curator. Its not funny and its toe-curlingly embarrassing to see him in a role like this. There are one or two funny moments; Rodins Thinker turns out to be more of a dumb jock than the intellectual type and there are some imaginative uses of the pictures in the art gallery but these bits of hilarity are few and far between. Full Review

On Reflection: Amy Adams looked nice

Terminator: Salvation

What we said then: The special effects here are functional not spectacular. The dystopian future looks very convincing but this whole setting is one of the problems with the film. Given that we aren’t trying to stop what has already happened (unlike the earlier outings) the sense of doom is lacking. The energy therefore is sucked out of scenes where we don’t really feel like there is much to play for of all the blockbusters out so far this year, T4 disappoints the most. Full Review

On Reflection: Okay it ended up NOT being the worst, but still it was pretty bad. Bale should have stuck to the role he was originally offered and the film would have made more sense. The real blame is with hack McG, who ruins the franchise with a desperate need to cash-in on an already pretty weak cow.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

What we said then: the main thing that stands out about Revenge of the Fallen is its poor construction. Relatively good CGI robo-battles (and there are some great ones) are interspersed with unnecessary comedy. Sure, cool little Decepticon-gremlins are just about acceptable, maybe even annoying geek sidekick Leon Spitz (who exists purely for light relief, e.g. shooting himself with a taser) is just about manageable. But some boundaries should just not be crossed. Bumblebee is not Herbie a.k.a THE LOVE BUG, Devastator (a massive Decepticon formed of several Constructicons) should not have balls for one moment of comic relief, and Mudflap and Skids shouldn’t be reduced to a weird combination of Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum from Alice in Wonderland and Mike/Marcus from Bad Boys. Full Review

On reflection: Megan Fox looks alright

Public Enemies

What we said then: The plot is not conventional gangster/crime genre fare, with the action taking place at unlikely moments and somewhat out of the blue. This means the bursts of excitement in the otherwise pedestrian story can catch you off guard, a neat trick for the adrenaline pumping scenes but at the expense of the overall experience. Some of the lesser characters barely make an appearance and their involvement then becomes all the more confusing when they are thrust into the middle of scenes without any introduction. Full Review

On Reflection: Controversial choice here I know. Are the performances any good? They sure are. Is it well written? Sure is. Does it look good? It has its moments but did it entertain? Unfortunately no, and I just expected so much more from Mann and co. I hate that Michael Mann made a film starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale that I am unable to love or even like that much.

Unlike last year, the standout films from 2009 (so far) have not been the blockbusters. Whereas The Dark Knight and Wall-E topped most peoples end of year polls, I doubt any of the films mentioned so far will be in this years list. Next time well take a look at the surprise gems, its worth noting that the best (and worst) films from 09 havent even been mentioned in this article. You have those to look forward to…

Cassam Looch

What do you think?