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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to tent pole movie season, where blockbusters are currently jumping off of the screen in 3D! The summer movie excitement is in full swing, and this weekend marks the first statement made by the movie-going public. I predicted back in April that this would be a big year for movies at the box office, and that this summer would see Avatar get knocked off of its perch as the highest grossing movie of all-time, but the movie I picked to do it, Avengers: Age of Ultron, is not going to have the legs to run it down.
Avatar’s reign may still be in jeopardy, however, as the statement made these last few days is that movie goers cannot get enough dinosaurs and Chris Pratt. Jurassic World is gaining steam after a tremendous opening weekend, and the end to its momentum is still very far away.
So what has been the best movie of the summer? I am so glad you asked! I want to run through a few of them to take a look at the summer scorecard, which is 6 rounds into a 12-round heavyweight fight. A fight that has already seen one movie crack the top 10 of the highest grossing movies of all time, and another one steaming towards the top spot like a runaway train that even Denzel and Captain Kirk can’t stop.
*All numbers current worldwide box office totals as of 06/19/2015
Mad Max: Fury Road
Current box office total – $335,316,904
The point of a summer movie is to sit back, turn off your mind, and enjoy explosions. Mad Max: Fury Road has this by the truckload, and knows exactly what it is the entire time. You will not see Max pretend to be something it is not, nor will you see it apologize for how over-the-top it is. There are times during this movie that I saw what was on screen and had two thoughts at the same time.
“That is absurd.”
“That is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen!”
Those two thoughts typically don’t go hand-in hand, but for this movie it is an excellent balance, and the main reason that it is so much fun to watch. You are not going to get very much message and meaning, but what you will get is two hours of explosions, car chases, gun fights, fist fights, awesome cars, and at least 20 things that you have never seen on any screen at any point in your life. When I left Max, I walked out into the desert sun (literally – I was in Arizona) and needed some water and wanted to yell, “WITNESS ME!!!!” as I drove my rental car back to my hotel at high speeds.
If the box office numbers are any clue, however, you are probably going to wait to see this movie when you can watch it at home, but I’m begging you to reconsider. This movie is the perfect combination of fever dreams, acid flashbacks and “looking back over your shoulder at cool explosions” faces. Go see this on the big screen with a bottle of water and a smile on your face. You will not regret that you did.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Current box office total – $1,356,373,457
It’s hard to describe any movie that has climbed to 5th on the all-time highest grossing movies of all time a disappointment, but Age of Ultron was made by Marvel to claim the top spot on the list. I have heard this movie described as lackluster, but I see it as the first comic book movie that combined all of the characters you love, and does not have to spend much time on backstory. Other incarnations of the Marvel franchise have moved past origin stories at this point, so why the backlash when the studio does that exact same thing with the group?
This movie starts out action-packed, it ends action-packed, and there is plenty of action inbetween, so the quieter moments stand out more, but that exposition is what has tied the entire Marvel movie franchise together. Marvel has never sacrificed story, and the future of their name, just to make a mindless summer action movie. That is why they are so respected, so it baffles me that Age of Ultron is catching the type of reviews it has. Was the entire movie great? No, but they are building for a much, much larger payoff than any other movie this summer.
A conversation between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers while chopping wood seems unnecessary, but will fit perfectly when Captain America: Civil War kicks off. Ant-Man will make money and be a good movie, but again, it will not be a stand-alone because the studio has already told us that he will be on screen with other characters from the franchise at some point. That is very much a comic book trait and the reason that people have continued reading comics since the 1930s. Do you think that generation after generation after generation would continue to read comics if the stories weren’t well thought out and compelling? Do you think that Marvel could have existed for this long as a comic book company if they put each character on an island and never brought characters over from different books?
Marvel studios will continue to plan for the future and will continue to give the fans what they want, but if the occasional movie spends 20 minutes setting up the next 5 years, then we should trust them that it will pay off. I have more faith in Marvel Studios than I do almost any other studio or executive group in the world. They had a plan that has been executed perfectly, and they have the next part of that plan that has been put in progress, which will also be carried out precisely. Trust me, it will all pay off when you see Spiderman slinging webs alongside Cap while the Guardians are protecting space with the help of Hulk. This is your childhood coming to life on the big screen, so don’t judge farm scenes and exposition too harshly.
Current box office total – $594,000,939
This is all the movie review that you need…This movie is so much fucking fun!! I distinctly remember seeing Jurassic Park in the theater in 1993 and loving it. I have also watched it several times since, and while parts of it do not hold up, (I’m looking at you Laura Dern’s high-waisted-khaki-mom-shorts) I still love the movie. You could do worse than Steven Spielberg directing a movie with a clever script about dinosaurs, but when he signed on to direct the original there was always going to be a heart at the center of everything. That is why the original is remembered so fondly and nostalgia for Jurassic Park is one of the main reasons loved I Jurassic World so much.
Jurassic World does such a wonderful job of including the past with the future, especially when they end up at the old park while lost on the island. Seeing those old familiar doors and buildings, if only for a few minutes, made this sequel the first one that actually picked up the original story and made sense where Lost World did not. The story itself isn’t going to win any awards, but I am a sucker for casting, and Jurassic World knocks it out of the park with the casting here and I’m not just talking about Chris Pratt. Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jake Johnson, and Ty Simpkins make for a tremendous cast, especially when Chris Pratt is on screen doing Chris Pratt things on Chris Pratt motorcycle next to Chris Pratt raptors.
I had concerns about how Pratt would do outside of the Marvel machine, and he completely exceeded my expectations. He is a full-on movie star and carried this movie so well. How well you ask? At one point he is telling the two boys the names of the raptors, with the last one being named Blue, the beta male. When they ask him who the alpha is, he responded with, “You’re looking at him,” at which point I leaned over to my date and told her, “I think I would f*ck this guy.” I’m lucky that she has a great sense of humor, but she also very much agreed that he is a bad ass.
This is one of those rare occasions where a sequel is made that makes you like the original better, at the same time you like the movie you are watching. It is a fun, well-cast, kind of scary, really well done movie that needs to be seen in the theater, and everyone in the world must agree. Through its opening weekend it is already half-way to the Avengers: Age of Ultron box office total, and at $204.6 million it is showing no signs of going away. I’m not sure that it will take down Avatar, but I’m absolutely rooting for it to do just that.
You have possibly noticed that I don’t have much negative to say about any of these movies, and that is because I take them for what they are: summer popcorn movies that are an exciting two hours. Does that mean there aren’t flaws in any of these movies? Absolutely not, but what is the point of negative reviews for movies that aren’t pretending to be award-winning productions? Sure, several summer movies aren’t great, but those are the movies I choose to watch at home instead of at the theater. I’m sure I wouldn’t like San Andreas, and several summer movies tend to be sequels, but it all depends on the execution and casting. Daredevil has as many interesting storylines from the comics as Batman, but Daredevil the movie and The Dark Knight don’t belong in the same category. Execution is key, and casting is equally as important, so that is how I make my decisions, which is something that I’ve picked up from years and years of being a movie fanatic. I knew every beat that was coming in Jurassic World, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of how they presented it.
More on this next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel.
Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.