Summer 2013: The Worst Summer in Recent Memory?

Summer is typically that time of year when moviegoers like to shut their brains off and watch aliens & dinosaurs team up to make the White House go 'splode. This particular summer was one of the worst in recent memory, and I will get into the many reasons why, but I will also compare it to the other "worst summer" I can recall, and why that may bode well for the coming fall & winter films.

Summer began with Iron Man 3, which I was disappointed with, but in retrospect, turned out to be one of the better films of the summer. At the very least it tried something different, and placed a good deal of emphasis on dialogue & character, something that other big budget affairs would summarily ignore. Then came The Great Gatsby, which was similarly disappointing if for no other reason than it failed to live up to the promise of its first half. A week later, summer went right in the tank for me with Star Trek: Into Darkness, a film that still makes me very angry when I think about it, and the season never really rebounded.

Leave it to the films I had the lowest expectations for to be the four best studio films I saw this summer: Pacific Rim, The Heat, Now You See Me & Turbo. Those four seemed, on the surface, to be rehashed run of the mill nonsense, but ended up surprising me in ways I didn't think possible. On the other hand, you had films I wanted to see like Man of Steelwhich ended up taking a stupid story and cramming as much headache inducing action into the final forty minutes as the human brain could handle before it revolted entirely.

Other films I was looking forward to such as Despicable Me 2, Only God Forgives & Elysium ended up disappointing as well (one more than the others, for sure), but it just went to show that it almost wasn't worth looking forward to any films this summer as they were sure to disappoint in the end. It's no surprise films like Lee Daniels' The Butler & We're The Millers have become late summer successes because, despite their varying degrees of mediocrity, at least they tried something different.

So whose fault is it in the end; Mine for expecting too much, or the studios for not delivering? I guess it's partially my fault for thinking that the big studios gave a shit about filmgoers and tried to deliver good films, but I find it hard to blame myself for a movie not being good. It's why I steered clear of White House Down, The Lone Ranger, World War Z & Fast & Furious 6... I just didn't care enough to spend money on films that were obviously products. At least Man of Steel had the decency to confine its rampant IHOP & Sears product placement to the film itself to at least fool me into forking over my money first.

All of this leads me to recall the summer movie season that was wrapping up fifteen years ago. The summer of 1998 brought us some world class stinkers: Godzilla, Deep Impact, Armageddon, Doctor Dolittle, The Horse Whisperer, Hope Floats, Snake Eyes, The Negotiator, The Avengers, Disturbing Behavior, Six Days Seven Nights & 54 to name but a few. There were some decent films: There's Something About Mary, The X-Files Movie, Mulan, The Truman Show, The Mask of Zorro; And even four of the best films that year were released that summer: Buffalo 66, Out of Sight, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas & Saving Private Ryan. But for the most part, that summer was flat-out awful. But something strange happened between Labor Day & New Year's... A glut of fantastic films were released, including, but not limited to: Life is Beautiful, Shakespeare in Love, Velvet Goldmine, Little Voice, Rushmore, Waking Ned Devine, Pleasantville, The Thin Red Line, A Simple Plan, Gods & Monsters, American History X, & Apt Pupil.

Looking ahead to this year's fall & winter slate, I see some films that have the potential to rival that year's fantastic finish, and hopefully we can look back at 2013 as an overall great year, much the way we now view 1998 (a year I may go so far as to say is the best of that decade). The point of all this is, I suppose, not to judge a year until it's over. After a disappointing spring that yielded a few decent films, only one of which, Mud, is likely to end up on my year end best list, I was ready for a promising summer. Thankfully a handful of indies (The Way, Way Back, Fruitvale Station, Much Ado About Nothing, Blue Jasmine, The World's End) ended up redeeming the summer to an extent, but of the big budget blockbusters, I really only enjoyed two films that made any money: Now You See Me & The Heat. The others that I enjoyed such as Pacific Rim, Turbo, & R.I.P.D. all flopped.

The moral of all this, I suppose, is that there is a time to announce 2013's place in history, but that time is not now. It was a disappointing summer, to be sure, but the year's not over yet, and that's the most exciting prospect of all...