This summer is one full of promise, should it live up to that promise, which previous movie summers could it overtake or share the title with, of best movie summer?
Below are some examples of, “Best movie summers”
1979 (Alien, Apocalypse Now, Life of Brian)
1980 (Empire Strikes Back, Airplane, Shining, Blues Brothers)
1982 (E.T., Blade Runner, Tron, Poltergeist, Wrath of Khan)
1984 (Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Karate Kid, Terminator, Nightmare on Elm Street)
1994 (Lion King, Speed, Pulp Fiction, Mask, Forrest Gump)
1999 (Matrix, Sixth Sense, Blair Witch Project)
Looking at those summers, then taking a look at this summer, I ask myself, where’s the originality? Could this be the best, yet most unoriginal, movie summer in years? Out of the “BIG” summer movies, arguably only Brave, Moonrise Kingdom and the comedies are originals (And they aren’t even the big movies of the summer). In 79 the big three movies were all, “originals” 1980 admittedly another arguably unoriginal year however flash forward four years and all of the big, classic summer movies were original. In 94 again they are all originals, while it is hard to get more original than 99 with the likes of The Matrix, the Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project.
This begs the question, are summers becoming more successful, yet less original as a result, for movies? It is hard to now find a summer blockbuster line-up with a non-sequel, non-spin-off, non-adaptation on it. Arguably the last original summer blockbuster, was Christopher Nolan’s Inception and whatever Pixar makes, such as 2008’s WALL-E. Therefore when it comes to “originality” it is possible to suggest that the late 70’s to the end of the 90’s were the golden era for summer movies. Taking a look into the future for the films forecasted for summer 2013 releases you see the likes of Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2, Fast and Furious 6, Hangover 3, Man of Steel, The Wolverine, Despicable Me 2, Grown Ups 2, Dirty Dancing (Remake), The Smurfs 2, Red 2, the 300 sequel and the Robocop remake. Not forgetting of course the sequel to Monsters Inc, Monsters University.
Therefore it is reasonable and evident to conclude, that the summer is no longer about “original” movie-making like it was in the era when films such as Alien, Apocalypse Now, Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner (More original visually than in origin), Ghostbusters, Nightmare on Elm Street and Sixth Sense were summer fare. An obvious shift has occurred where the summer movie season is for money and the fall movie season for quality. Many times the two elements overlap in a particular movie with the odd moneymaker out of season in the fall (Avatar, The Help) and the odd quality movie in the summer (Inception, WALL-E or last year arguably The Tree of Life) movies that seemed more geared for summer audiences such as Avatar and The Help, pull in summer numbers outside of season, while films that seem more geared for end of year, awards conversation, make a big and sometimes profitable splash during the heat.
Comparing this year’s fall movies to this year’s summer movies, this divide is evident. While the summer movies are a much more enticing prospect for film fans, it can be argued the more original titles are now segregated to the fall, especially when it comes to 2012. Let’s take a look at fall 2012
Argo- Third film directed by Ben Affleck. A political drama about rescuing six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran in 1979 during the “Iran Hostage Crisis” Sure it’s based on a real event but the story must still be written and visualized unlike sequels, spin-offs, or adaptations of books and/or comics.
Looper- From Rian Johnson (Director of Brick) and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, this sounds like the sort of science fiction movie that in the 70s or 80s would have been summer fare (e.g Terminator) like Terminator (cited as an influence for the film) it is about assassination attempts involving time travel, with Levitt playing a younger Bruce Willis. Could this be this year’s Inception? Beyond Prometheus, this summer is not for sci-fi however along with Looper and another fall release, it may be getting the attention it deserves once the sun sets.
Gravity- another science-fiction film (A genre that is becoming too intellectual and original for the summer beyond the likes of Inception and Star Trek sequels?) directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. There has been a lot of buzz for this film visually and along with Looper perhaps demonstrates that while in the 70s and 80s original science-fiction was absolutely a summer thing (Alien, Terminator etc.) it is now very much a fall property, with that shift perhaps mirroring and being linked to the shift in which films are now summer films and which types of films are now fall films.
Beyond Brave, there is arguably no original animation this summer (Unless what feels like the 50th Ice Age film counts as original) however in the fall we have Frankenweenie (Another Tim Burton project) and Wreck-It Ralph. Franknenweenie is a feature film treatment of an early Burton short, done in stop motion and in black and white. The story focuses on a young boy who brings his dead dog back to life. While Wreck-It Ralph is almost the Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World of animation family films, with the story focusing on a video game villain who ends up in another game, wherein he is a hero.
The Master- Paul Thomas Anderson is back after 2007’s There Will Be Blood, with The Master. Starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams, the story focuses on a “charismatic intellectual” who launches a new faith called, “The Cause” following World War II, a story many believe will be a criticism/satire/exploration of Scientology.
Django Unchained- The latest Quentin Tarantino, need I write more? Jamie Foxx plays a vengeful slave named Django, who under the guidance of a German, former dentist, bounty hunter (Played by Christoph Waltz) attempts to rescue his wife from an evil plantation owner Calvin Candle, played by Leonardo Dicaprio.
In another decade, or even year, all these films could have been summer movies. Tarantino’s last film, Inglourious Basterds, was a summer movie in 2009, whilst as already written the intellectual, original sci-fi films from which Looper and Gravity appear to have gained significant story and visual inspiration, were summer films. Therefore looking at previous movie summers, this year’s film offerings and 2013 some conclusions can be made. The “fall movie season” is officially the most original season for films, with summer now officially the arena in which studios release their purely money induced sequels. Original summer movies being the norm rather than the exception is a thing of the 70s and 80s and while this summer may be one of the BIGGEST ever, if you determine best based heavily on originality, then it may also be one of the worst.
Therefore to answer the question which originally inspired this article. This summer may be AWESOME both financially and in terms of the qualities of the films, however it will not be, “original” Therefore in terms of commerce and enjoyment this summer could rank with the best, however when it comes to something we have never seen before, this summer is already far from being the best ever. This article started off as one with immense expectation for the summer and is ending on a rather pessimistic, damning note, something that has happened entirely naturally as I looked into the summer and what it was offering more, in order to preview and compare it to others. Hopefully the films of this summer, will not suffer a similar fate when they hit our cinema screens in the immediate future.
While this article for many, older, film fans may seem to be stating the obvious, I find it telling that in starting off with an initial idea to explore the best summers in film and predict a new one, I have instead ending up writing a very different article from the one I intended to. Why should you care? Well arguably as long as the movies you go and see are good enough then you shouldn’t. However it is more what the studios are saying and thinking about you. Summer is their time to make money, people on holidays, off work, out in the weather and instead of populating that time with their most original, high caliber projects; they just want to give you the same thing. Which admittedly we want and perhaps it is up to filmmakers to prove that you can give us what we want but not in a way that we have been given it before. As far as box office goes it would appear that studios are merely bowing to our wish, Transformers 3 made a billion dollars worldwide, as did Pirates 4.
The studios are not to blame their primary goal is to make money, the filmmakers are also arguably not to blame, they work for the studios. We’re not to blame are we? We consume what they give us. It would appear most of the public don’t want originality (Even though Inception was a HUGE hit, people will go see good movies, summer or not...most of the time) the trick is to give something different in a familiar way, but then again it is the idea that audiences must be thought down upon when creating movies, that has created this state and scheduling of cinema. At the end of the day, under the criteria I have used in this article, The Godfather: Part Two was not original and hey, that movie was alright wasn’t it? Then again...it wasn’t exactly a summer blockbuster.
Is this a big problem? And if so who is to blame? Is it alright that summer is unoriginal as long as the rest of the year can compensate? It will never be seen as problematic in the eyes of the studios as long as they keep making money and while many say quality TV may be the downfall of cinema, it may in fact keep unoriginal cinema alive. Who cares if the majority of films you see in a year are unoriginal, franchise, paycheck movies...you can go home and watch Breaking Bad.
Vote in the poll below, which film from this summer are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below which your favourite summer was for movies and what you think of the argument that summer is now the most original part of the movie calendar. Also be sure to share this article with your friends and family, by clicking the tweet and like buttons down below.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,