We’re officially only a few days into the Summer of 2013, but Hollywood has been churning out their latest batch of summer blockbusters since early May. Here are my thoughts on some of the biggest movies of the season so far (by order of release date).
Iron Man 3 (Release Date: May 3; Box office take: $403 million): This was clearly a ‘paint-by-numbers’ effort for Robert Downey Jr., who, by all accounts, has grown weary of playing the role of billionaire industrialist/playboy/superhero Tony Stark. The writers tried to raise the stakes for Tony/Iron Man by giving him PTSD (a result of his bout with the generic aliens at the end of last summer’s The Avengers), a lethal adversary in The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), and someone to care about (and thus a damsel in distress) in Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow), but it all falls rather flat in the face of sequel syndrome and the reality that there isn’t really anywhere else for this franchise to go; that is until Marvel decides to reboot it in 5 years. My verdict: 1.5 stars (out of 5).
Star Trek: Into Darkness (Release: May 16; Box office take: $217 million): The sequel to JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot reunited all the familiar Star Trek characters for another swashbuckling adventure into the final frontier…only, a good chunk of the film actually takes place on boring old terra firma. This time around Kirk (Chris Pine) must learn some tough lessons about leadership, responsibility, and personal sacrifice when he and his crew face off against a villain-who-shall-not-be-named, but who is readily familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of Star Trek lore. Abrams doubles down on all the action, humor, and lens flares that made the 2009 film both loved and loathed, and die hard fans of the original films will be rankled as the director continues to step on their favorite castles in the Star Trek sandbox. While Star Trek: Into Darkness is light on the intellectualism that is generally associated with this long-running franchise, it’s still a fun ride. My verdict: 3 stars (out of 5).
Man of Steel (Release: June 14; Box office take: $214 million): This ain’t your dad’s Superman. That’s the message that director Zack Snyder and writer David Goyer tried to convey in this reboot of a franchise that’s been long overdue for a shot in the arm. Gone are the original Donner films which portrayed Clark Kent/Superman as the all-American superhero fighting for truth, justice, and all that jazz. The 2013 edition of Kal-el/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) still battles monsters, but mostly (at least initially) of the internal kind, as he struggles with the quintessential question: “who am I?” (Apparently existential crises are not exclusive to just humans.) Viewers get to discover the answer to this question through a series of flash backs to his childhood growing up on a farm in Kansas, while in the present Kal-el roams North America, performing random deeds of heroism while searching for clues to his alien ancestry. Snyder fills the screen with beautiful imagery, yet it felt to me that it was merely style over substance, as I really never felt any connection to this new Clark Kent at all. By the time the last of the Kryptonians, led by General Zod (Michael Shannon), arrive on Earth to reclaim their prodigal son, little work has been done to establish why Kal-el would fight for a planet that he’s never felt a part of. There’s still moments to enjoy in Man of Steel, and I think I liked this film more than Eric did, but for movie goers and fans of the comic who are looking for the quintessential Superman movie, the search continues. My verdict: 2.5 stars (out of 5).
By my estimation, this has been a pretty dismal start to the summer movie season, and with such titles as The Lone Ranger, White House Down, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D., and The Wolverine to look forward to, I’m not holding out much hope for improvement. If I do manage to catch any of these other films I’ll update this list and provide a close-out summary of this summer’s blockbuster movies. Stay tuned!