Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: The blockbuster season in review

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Dominic Corry examines the highs and lows of America's blockbuster season.

Dominic Corry names 'Iron Man III' the best blockbuster of the season.
Dominic Corry names 'Iron Man III' the best blockbuster of the season.

I've always appreciated how the American summer blockbuster season coincides with winter down in this part of the world. After all, winter is a much more logical time to be inside a movie theatre.

Plus, it was the blistering American summer heat driving large numbers of patrons into air-conditioned movie theatres that helped create the summer blockbuster season - and we've never really had to deal with that kind of heat down here.

With the blockbuster season more or less over for another year (does this week's Riddick count?), I've decided to take a look back at the highs and the lows.

Best Blockbuster: Iron Man III

In terms of pure, giddy joy, no blockbuster stepped up for me more this year than Iron Man III. The overall turdiness of Iron Man II had lowered my expectations, but even factoring that in, I was blown away by how cool this was.

I think I enjoyed it more than Joss Whedon's new standard-setting The Avengers. Writer/director Shane Black is one of the few action movie genre auteurs in existence, and his voice came through loud and clear in this often hilarious exercise in brilliantly calculated spectacle.

Best Blockbuster That Was Also A Disappointment On Some Level: Elysium

Elysium was an absolutely amazing film that I loved every minute of. I was completely caught up in its emotional thrust and all the action and hardware was fantastic. The only context in which it could possibly viewed as a disappointment is as the follow-up to District 9, my favourite movie of the last 20 years, and one of the most dazzlingly assured film debuts ever.

District 9 made anything seem possible again in genre cinema, and as great as it is, Elysium didn't build on that potential, it merely met it. There was nothing hugely surprising about most of its content, and it wholly lacked D9's gut-punch of a story. Elysium cost four times as much District 9, yet it feels like a smaller film.

Plus since Elysium came out, a wide array of mind-blowing concept art has been released, detailing innumerable fascinating designs and ideas that didn't end up in the film.

Factoring in the film's long release date delays, I can only conclude the storyline underwent a large amount of retooling throughout its development and production, which is disheartening, if not exactly rare with films of this size.

As futile as it is to focus on what might've been, I've spent a lot of time drooling over the insanely cool unused ideas - like this robot which was at one point was going to have Kruger's brain implanted into it - and I cannot help but weep for the versions of Elysium that we'll never see.

Still, I have complete faith that writer/director Neil Blomkamp will bring back the surprise in a big way with his next film, the robot comedy Chappie, which sounds freaking rad.

Worst Blockbuster: After Earth

I am a big M Night Shyamalan defender from way back (we demand an Unbreakable sequel now!), but with Lady In The Water (in which he cast himself as the person who saves humanity) and The Happening (in which Mark Wahlberg yelled at the wind), it's getting tougher and tougher to focus on his positive achievements.

There were tellingly no media screenings for After Earth, but with M Night still engendering some goodwill in me, I paid to see it in a cinema. And boy was it a pong-tastic stink-pile. Aside from the incredibly generic sci-fi and action tropes (which made the bland Twilight look like Nosferatu), the film proffers an amazingly gormless performance from Jaden Smith, who commands the vast majority of the screentime while his dad periodically chimes in with audio admonishments and assurances. The younger Smith may have every possible force in the world willing him (sorry) to become a movie star, but you just can't force presence. And he doesn't have any.

It was amusing when Will Smith was frank about the film's failure, but I just hope M Night Shyamalan gets another chance to direct a big movie. I still have faith in you M. Night!

Most Disappointing Sequel: Kick-Ass 2

The original Kick-Ass was a five star movie for me. So naturally I was eagerly anticipating the sequel. But where the first film took a niche concern and demanded a wide audience by being so outrageously and gleefully over-the-top, the sequel is a smaller, more inward-looking film that critically fails to recapture the exuberant, savage wit of its predecessor.

Although Kick-Ass concerned amateur superheroes, there was nothing low-key about its approach - it was a classically fantastical superhero movie with simply a unique dramatic hook. By being truer to the idea of every day vigilantes taking on bad guys, with ground-level action and fewer jet-packs, the sequel rendered itself way less fun.

Budget issues were also apparent on screen, such as when it became depressingly clear that they couldn't they afford to show a certain character being eaten by a shark, and had to rely upon the old staple of injecting a whole lot of red dye into frothing water. This moment rendered the finalé the opposite of epic for me.

Best Comedy Blockbuster: This Is The End

It was difficult not to view the set up of This Is The End as self-indulgent - a bunch of chummy actors playing themselves take on the apocalypse at a Hollywood party. If This Is The End is what results from self-indulgence, then I say give these guys money to do whatever they freaking want and then some.

There was more inspired weirdness in This Is The End than all the other Summer movies put together - I laughed and I laughed. And then I laughed some more.

Worst Comedy Blockbuster: We're The Millers

This film has become a bonafide smash hit and most people seemed to really like it. I did not care for it one bit.

Best Little Blockbuster That Could: Now You See Me

I often feel like I'm this magic-themed heist thriller's biggest fan - I've struggled to find any critics who've embraced it apart from myself. Anyway, some people out there must like it, because it's become a genuine global sleeper hit that has made more than enough money to generate a sequel.

Stoked!

Most Underrated Blockbuster Part One: The Lone Ranger

Look, it wasn't a mind-blowing film, but it was a fun family adventure, and a far cry from the turkey it was made out to be. Just like with John Carter last year, the financial performance of the film led its public perception, and prevented anyone from forming an opinion based on the movie itself. They were denied the pleasures of some really cool train stuff.

Most Underrated Blockbuster Part Two: Trance

Okay so maybe it's not quite a blockbuster, but it came out right in the thick of all the big movies, and delivered a much more engaging rollercoaster ride, in my opinion.

Trance got a wildly mixed reaction from audiences, but I really appreciated its psychological ambition and willingness to challenge traditional notions of what a protagonist should be.

The Blockbuster That Best Recovered From Bad Advance Buzz Part One: World War Z

I had big problems with the final third of this film, which was probably not coincidentally the focus of the bad buzz-generating delays this film faced while shooting. I still like the sound of the original ending more, but I think most viewers would agree that World War Z was nevertheless much better than we'd all been lead to believe.

The Blockbuster That Best Recovered From Bad Advance Buzz Part Two: The Great Gatsby

Big delays and a shift away from an Oscar-friendly release date inspired all sorts of negative prognostication for Baz Luhrman's follow-up to the poorly-received Australia. The film wasn't universally embraced when it was finally released, but it was enough of a hit to justify the whole enterprise, and it had no difficulty finding an audience that lapped up its garish wonders. I really dug it.

The Blockbuster That Most Lived Down To Expecations: The Hangover Part III

A glorious return to form after the bland Part II they said. They lied.

The Ghost Rider Award For Blockbuster Character Doomed To Poor Movies: The Wolverine

Saying this is better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine is damning it with the faintest praise of all.

The Stephen Sommers Award For Unexpectedly Fun Blockbuster: GI Joe: Retaliation

The buzz was bad, the film was crazy good fun. More ninja gravy than any movie ever made.

The Liam Neeson Award For Unexpectedly Fun Action Blockbuster: Olympus Has Fallen

This film got terrible reviews. I dug it.

Blockbuster That Has Suffered The Most In Retrospect: Star Trek Into Darkness

I had issues when I first saw this widely-scrutinised sequel, but I was also bouyed by the film's masterful genre filmmaking. Memories of the fun parts have since faded, and I am only left with the obvious-in-retrospect conclusion that Star Trek Into Darkness' content was dictated by marketing concerns to such a degree that it ruined the film.

Most Notable Blockbuster I Couldn't Think Of A Category For: Man Of Steel

As with Star Trek Into Darkness, I like this film less now than I did straight after it came out. Unlike Star Trek Into Darkness, I still actually like it. And I'm more intrigued than ever by what form the sequel will take.

* Agree? Disagree? Which of this year's crop of 'summer' blockbusters rocked your world? Which ones did you hate? Comment Below!

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