Summer of 2014: The Revisitation

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on September 02, 2014

Our brief cinematic fling is over, and it’s time to look back on what we had together. Sure, I wasn’t your only lover. But where others chose to only look back on your biggest “objective” achievements and lament what could have been, I thought – hey wait, that’s no way to talk to a lover. Our affair was more nuanced and complex than that. Behind the predictable victories of Marvel and Disney movies at the box-office, there’s a more interesting story to be told. So let me fill in the cracks.

First, too many people have overlooked your best offering of the season. Maybe they simply assumed Edge of Tomorrow’s generic title was the sign of a generic product. Even the Warner Bros. marketing department seems to realize this mistake. Yet its certainly "the most fun I’ve had at the movies all summer" and gave me everything I could hope for in a big budget summer spectacle. And still, it was trounced at the box-office by a teenage romance with comparatively unknown stars and faultless adherence to the genre.

So what, though? My enthusiasm for the film wasn’t diminished by its returns at the box-office. It does, however, highlight the way Marvel is creating a monopoly on what qualifies as a blockbuster film. Even the critical praise for Guardians of the Galaxy is mostly measured against other Marvel films. I certainly don’t mind visiting the Marvel universe, but I sure as hell don’t actually want to live in it.

We fellas have taken an unhealthy ownership of summer movies. We act like every film that doesn’t perfectly transport us back to being 13 years old is a failure (even if the box-office says otherwise), and every film that energizes a female fan base is the end of cinema (see every Twilight film—which, mea culpa, we don’t even bother to review). This might be why two films this summer, both coincidentally starring Scarlett Johansson, were overlooked. One is a striking technical achievement and a challenging think-piece on gender politics, and the other is a rare female-lead action film that managed to destroy even Dwayne Johnson as the mighty Hercules at the box-office. The story of Under the Skin and Lucy are both equally essential to assessing your true value to the cinematic landscape.

Many people may have skipped the theatre completely on those non-Marvel opening weekends, but overall the box-office outlook really isn’t that bad. Yes, a 15 percent drop is large, but considering last year was the highest grossing summer of all-time, the sky is hardly falling. Plus, if last year’s dystopian vision of the future was any indication, the biggest earner of the year is yet to come with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1. Presumably, another film with a strong female lead (well, in the first film, anyway) coming after a year when Disney finally found a runaway hit by making it cool to be a princess again.

But even if Frozen wasn’t deemed suitable to your season, maybe we should forgive the relatively lackluster theatrical performance of another extreme winter picture like Snowpiercer. Or better yet, we could look to understand howrevolutionary it actually was to have a multi-platform release of a major studio title. For once, box-office numbers don’t tell the whole story. Especially for a film with a hard R rating that is never going to draw in the 13-year-olds necessary for a four quadrant hit.

I should really stop knocking boyhood though. I loved that film.

What I’m trying to say is that our annual love affair may be over, but you gave me more than I was willing to admit. I just hope I can convince others of the same.



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