Without a doubt, summer 2008 has proven to be one of the
strongest and most prolific for Hollywood in quite some time. The sheer bravado displayed on screen this
season hasn’t been seen since the late 1990s and we, the filmgoer, are all the
better for it.
The month of May is traditionally the starting point for all
summer blockbusters. It’s been home to
the likes of Star Wars – Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, The
Matrix Reloaded, Gladiator and The Mummy. Although, if history has taught us anything,
it’s that the best films run out of the gate first, leaving the lesser caliber
pictures lagging behind. This summer,
however, is a different story all together.
The 2008 summer movie season started with a memorable bang,
as it brought the wildly successful and all-out entertaining Iron Man
to the big screen. Fast, funny and the
epitome of a great night out at the movies, Iron Man started the
season off right- great story, great characters and actors and great
action. The success of Iron Man
has proven that audiences will go to the movie theatre if the movie is good
enough to do so; considering nowadays it’s considered passé to watch a film
anywhere other than your television room, with a fancy Blu-Ray and Hi-Def
widescreen television at your disposal.
Give me a packed theatre with and an excited and boisterous audience and
that’s all I need for my night out at the movies.
Shortly after Iron Man, Indiana Jones
and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Chronicles of Narnia:
Prince Caspian and Speed Racer rampaged onto the screens
with much hype behind them. While the
films didn’t deliver the goods in regards to their respective niches, I have a
strong feeling that they will make an impact in the home video department. Well, that doesn’t necessarily apply to Indiana
Jones, as it’s already made over $700 million worldwide at the
moment. Besides, and this especially
goes for Speed Racer, at least there are maniacs out there like
the Wachowski Brothers who will try something a little out of what we consider
the norm in order to entertain the audience.
But then, something happened. The films that were released in June… they were actually getting
better. There were no signs of slowing
down. At this point, I can literally
feel audiences gasping with anticipation.
The big surprise was The Incredible Hulk. While not a masterpiece by any means, the
film was an enormous improvement over its predecessor and was just as
entertaining a time as Iron Man.
Besides, these two Marvel produced pictures have set the wheels in
motion in regards to the company’s master plan in regards to their ballsy Avengers
property. And then at the end of the
month came Wanted and Wall-E, the film that’s well
on its way of becoming a masterpiece.
And of course, what would summer be without the obligatory Will Smith
film, this time being Hancock.
The film is already cleaning house worldwide, based solely on Smith’s
fresh prince mug.
Which leads us to where we are now, approaching the middle
of July. And do you know what’s
amazing? We are not even close to being
done. This week, Hellboy II: The
Golden Army will be unleashed onto the masses, followed by The
Dark Knight (easily the most anticipated film of the summer and maybe
the entire year). After that, The
X-Files: I Want To Believe, Pineapple Express, The
Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Tropic
Thunder. Somewhere in there is
the adaptation of Clive Barker’s masterful horror short story Midnight
Meat Train, but Lionsgate has shifted the release date so often that I
don’t even know if it’s going to theatres or straight to video at this
point. These are all very strong films
from a number of different studios and talent.
Furthermore, aside from The Dark Knight, all of them can
go any way. X-Files has
the built-in fanbase that, while not enough to drive it to astronomical ticket
sales, can definitely provide great word of mouth and support repeat
viewings. Pineapple Express
has slowly been building some buzz over the last year and the past releases of Superbad
and Forgetting Sarah Marshall have only amped up the marketing
campaign for the film. With such strong
talent in front and behind the camera (including indie director darling David
Gordon Green), I vote Pineapple Express as being the biggest
surprise of the summer. But don’t count
out The Mummy and Tropic Thunder. xXx and Fast and the
Furious director Rob Cohen takes over the reigns for The Mummy
and if the trailer is any indication, there will be plenty enough action to
keep our asses in those seats. Tropic
Thunder has a few key things going for it- an interesting premise, a
talented trio of lead actors (including their secret weapon: Robert Downey Jr.)
and a number of interesting cameos that I wouldn’t want to spoil here.
At any rate, a number of genres have proven to be profitable
over the past couple of weeks, which is great.
From the best of my knowledge, it seems that only action and adventures
films can comfortably find a home in the summer movie season. But this summer, comedy has found its way
into multiplexes as well, with Get Smart (much better than I
expected), The Love Guru (what you see is what you get) and the
wonderful Kung Fu Panda.
It’s amazing that this summer is shaping up to be one of the best in
recent memory. I don’t want to jinx the
good luck we’ve had thus far, but I think it’s because filmmakers are starting
to realize how to combine old storytelling methods (like… oh, I don’t know… an
effective screenplay) with new storytelling methods (like multi-million dollar
special effects), resulting in sheer entertainment that can’t be beat.
The reason why this summer has become a milestone of sorts
is because most of the films (but not all) have lived up to the hype that the
marketers have provided them. In this
day and age, it’s getting harder and harder to surprise and impress an
audience. But I think studios and
filmmakers alike are starting to learn how to use the hype machine to its
advantage. It’s funny, the only film to
truly benefit from a pervasive online marketing campaign was The Blair
Witch Project, another summer release back in 1999. But that was before internet marketing was
the norm. Today, internet marketing has
the potential to outshine the film it’s advertising. I won’t lie, as fun as it was, the viral marketing campaign for The
Dark Knight was quickly growing tiresome. It’s not that it’s a bad idea, it’s just I was hoping they
wouldn’t show too much, too soon. At
this point in time, a little more than a week away from release, I feel Warner
Bros. has reached the breaking point.
Now that positive word of mouth is starting to spread like wildfire,
they can sit back, relax and watch how one of their biggest properties can take
over the industry and bring in millions and millions of dollars.
What’s most incredible is that the rest of the summer
actually looks just as strong as what’s preceded it. A fact which is, in and of itself, absolutely jaw dropping. The sheer volume of talent in front and behind
the camera is what’s making this season such a strong one. It seems that the stars have aligned and
everyone is in the right frame of mind, artistically and financially
speaking. And who would have thought it
would turn out like this? I honestly had
no idea, but am most pleasantly surprised.
Next summer looks to be interesting, with Wolverine, Transformers:
Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe leading the pack. But it pales in comparison to what this
summer has given filmgoers so far and what it promises to give in the coming
to think, this whole blockbuster mentality of the summer movie season started
with a film whose star, a mechanical shark, was kept under water for most of
the running time simply because it broke down at the most unpredictable
moment. My how far we’ve come. Still, very few films have matched that one
in terms of unabashed entertainment value.
But this summer has provided quite a number of contenders and more are
still to come.