You’d be forgiven for thinking this summer has been a complete washout at the box office. Headlines have been prophesying doom at an alarming rate over the course of the last month. The Atlantic dubbed it “Hollywood’s summer from hell”. Variety said that the summer of 2017 was “officially the worst in over a decade” and Vox opted to call it “the terrific and terrible summer 2017 movie season”. This summer season finished with just $3.8bn at the American box office – a worrying 14.6% decline from last year and the lowest result since 2006.
However, the doom and gloom of the cold, hard numbers only tells half of the story. This year has boasted its fair share of brilliant summer movies, from the big blockbuster spectacles to interesting animation and even some more modest releases. It would be wrong, though, to dismiss the fact that we have had an enormous array of stinkers that, if there’s any justice, will stop a number of franchises in their tracks.
Let’s start with the positives…
Best films of the summer
Luke – Wonder Woman
While this summer has shown diminishing returns for most franchise entries, Wonder Woman has consistently broken records and shattered glass ceilings, both as a superhero film in its own right and as the most successful film directed by a woman.
Among the lazy sequels and even lazier reboots that have plagued the superhero world, Wonder Woman is a beacon of passionate and earnest filmmaking that takes in the preferred conventions of the genre – spectacle and humour. Meanwhile, director Patty Jenkins keeps her own visual style and themes at its core, making this kind-of-sequel feel heartwarmingly original in the current landscape.
Patrick – Baby Driver
The cast have great fun in their roles and the movie has an internal rhythm throughout its soundtrack that dictates the pace and flow effortlessly but, most importantly, it’s just a whole lot of fun to watch. Wright has always been a filmmaker who really likes to use every element of cinema production to create unique and creative works and here sound, editing and direction manifest in something truly remarkable.
Tom – Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Patrick has already talked about Baby Driver and Dunkirk certainly isn’t going to be short of praise, so I’ve decided to go in a slightly different direction for my pick. There have certainly been better films this year than Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and there have been far more sophisticated pleasures too, but I don’t think I’ve had as much fun in the cinema as I did with this DreamWorks delight.
The film is a 90-minute odyssey of jokes about underwear, poop, farts, diarrhoea, vomiting, belching and butts. It’s as immature as that sounds, but uncomplicated and joyous in its approach to the lavatorial. Game voice performances and a script that packs in plenty of one-liners ensure that anyone who is willing to sit back and go with it will leave the cinema with a smile on their face. In a sans-Pixar year that has felt rather poor when it comes to animation, Captain Underpants is an oasis of side-splitting silliness. Go and see it. Then go again. And again. And once more for luck.
You can read a full review of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie here.
Worst films of the summer
Luke – Transformers: The Last Knight
With most bad movies, you can take solace in the fact that eventually, at some point, it’s all going to come to an end and the credits will roll. However, at more than two and a half hours, Transformers: The Last Knight barely manages to do that correctly.
At its best, it is nonsensical and hard to watch. At its worst, it is offensively thoughtless filmmaking that is impossible to comprehend through its layers of terrible. The performances are phoned in, the writing is sloppy and Michael Bay’s direction is so poor that you could call it his nadir, if you didn’t know with absolute confidence he would outdo himself in the next Transformers movie. This film is abysmal, with absolutely zero redeeming features. It’s not just the worst film of the summer – it’s the worst of 2017 so far.
You can read a full review of Transformers: The Last Knight here.
Patrick – Alien: Covenant
I saw Alien: Covenant at the beginning of the summer and I really thought something would have beaten it to the bottom by now, but even something as messy as Death Note had enjoyable elements. Alien: Covenant is simply just unengaging. Bad movies at least give you something to talk about, but boring movies are an absolute sin. This film caused my eyes to glaze over out of boredom and took one of horror and sci-fi’s greatest monsters in the xenomorph and robbed it of all of its tension.
It’s amazing that Ridley Scott has coasted for so long on his reputation when this is what we get when he’s given free reign. It’s boring, has zero tension and can’t decide if it wants to be a sequel to Prometheus or a straight-up Alien movie and fails at both. As a final note, a major aspect of exposition was released via a YouTube video which I decried in our podcast on the film. Now, the new Blade Runner film is doing the same sort of thing. For shame, Mr Scott. For shame.
You can read a full review of Alien: Covenant here.
Tom – Rough Night
This summer yielded an incredibly funny female-led comedy with the utterly filthy Girls Trip. Arriving a few weeks later with the star wattage of Scarlett Johansson behind it, Rough Night married a distasteful premise in which the death of a stripper is played entirely for laughs with a dismal script. It’s a barren wasteland for laughs and squanders its talented ensemble with an overlong and complicated plot.
It’s a film that is never able to get beyond the stupidity of its central conceit and is weighed down by its odd tone. Isolated moments suggest there were decent ideas knocking around during the writing process, but there are too many scenes of blokes in nappies and misjudged morbid slapstick for this to be anything other than a flop. Transformers might have been worse, but Rough Night feels like more of a sad waste.
You can read a full review of Rough Night here.
What were your favourite and least favourite movies of the summer? Do you think it has been a strong season overall? Let me know in the comments section.