Oh jeez, is it that time of year again already?
Summer, the eternal season, still has a way left to go until it retreats into the objectively better golden colours of autumn. But in Hollywood, where summer lasts as long as there are lucrative release dates they can stake out ten years in advance, they’re just about done for the season. The last of the big summer tentpoles has hit multiplexes, and now there’s just a few bits of weird, radioactive residue left that’ll ooze out into the world over the course of August before Hollywood enters its power nap hibernation period. Don’t worry. Blockbusters start again in September. You’ll live.
But as someone, somewhere once said, never look forward, only look back. And, for better or for worse, there’s been a lot to look back at this year. So, for the third year running (it has passed beyond tradition now, but the city council will not respond to my emails about a street festival), here’s my tribute to the months that have gone by, solely through the lens of $100 million plus budgeted cinematic universe explosion clip shows:
Note: Like Hollywood’s, my definition of ‘summer’ for this is pretty loose. I remember it being warm in March once or twice, so Kong: Skull Island, which came out March 10, counts. Don’t contradict me with ‘March isn’t summer’. I know. I just don’t respect the meteorological calendar anymore.
Most Post-Credits Scenes – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
I love post-credits scenes. Really, I do. I enjoy the waiting through ten minutes of interminable credits. I enjoy telling my friends that the wait will be worth it, and then seeing their faces when it is not. So imagine my delight when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 busts out five post-credits scenes! It’s like being served Christmas dinner in brunch at August – it’s just hard to process all the goodness. My desire for the equation to be reversed, so that there are only a couple of scenes before the credits and a three-hour movie during them, has never been closer. 2017 was a good year for me.
The movie itself was good, by the way, although not quite as invigoratingly unusual as the first one. Its commitment to evolving its characters rather than keeping them in stasis made for a messy and overloaded movie, but one that was richly rewarding when it came to pay-offs, and genuinely uncynical in its exploration of family and solidarity. The soundtrack was once again excellent, and really gave the movie a vibrant personality matched by the colourful neon sci-fi visuals.
But, to be honest, I wish more of it was after the credits.
Best Anti-War Movie In Which Giant Gorilla Uses a Tree as a Baseball Bat (Of All Time) – Kong: Skull Island
Technically, Kong: Skull Island is an anti-war movie. Its villain, in reality, is Samuel L Jackson’s personification of insatiable American imperialism, and its heroes are a pacifist photographer, an ecologist tracker and a John C Reilly who has been embraced by the island’s indigenous population. On paper, it’s a scathing critique of the bloodthirstiness that provoked the war in Vietnam and runs throughout Western society.
But in reality, this is a big, silly monster movie where King Kong hits evil monsters in the face with trees and punches helicopters out of the sky. It’s a good case study in the idea that anti-war movies just end up glorifying their subject, because it asks us to find certain forms of violence and killing a-okay even as we boo and hiss at Samuel L Jackson as he tries, desperately, to blow some indigenous life-forms up. It’s anti-‘skull crawlers’, though, so it’s at least taking a stand on that issue.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun movie, and I’m pretty excited to see Godzilla and King Kong go a few rounds in 2020. But it’s not really Apocalypse Now.
I’m Going to Park the Sarcasm for a Moment – Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman took a lot of people by surprise. I certainly didn’t think it would both be critically acclaimed and massively successful commercially, but here we are, as it sits with 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and nearly $800 million in the bank. It’s also transformed the conversation about representation and diversity in blockbuster films, possibly for good, punching a hole through the already flimsy myth that female heroes don’t sell tickets. This could end up being the most influential superhero movie since The Avengers, but actually in a healthy and necessary way for the industry. Certainly, for millions of underrepresented voices, it’s been the most inspirational one in yonks.
So it’s hard to be snarky about this movie, because it’s come to represent a lot more than two hours of fun at the multiplex. In my view, it’s as good as it gets for two acts, up to and including the outstanding No Man’s Land scene, and then tails off big time in the third act as it reveals its villain, and spoils its interesting commentary on whether war is the product of external or internal forces in man by saying, nope, it’s all down to evil David Thewlis, and then dovetailing into a paint-by-numbers PS2 final battle. But hey. Wonder Woman got what it needed to get right very, very right. The sequel is finally a DC movie I’m legitimately looking forward to. And if we get a bunch of superhero movies that branch out from the all-white-male perspective in the next few years, then it’ll have done its job.
But it was pretty funny to see Ares’ little moustache poking out of the helmet.
Best Playlist (Obviously) – Baby Driver
Can you believe that Baby Driver invented music in movies?
Before the creation of this movie, films just had ticking sounds and beeping to accompany the excitement on screen. One man, Edgar Wright, sought to change this. He put his foot down, and came up with the idea that changed it all: what if there was music in movies?
Cinema would never be the same again.
Thank you, Edgar Wright.
Best Trilogy Closer In Spite Of Problematic Marginalisation of Female Characters – War for the Planet of the Apes
Double-think, invented by George Orwell, is the concept of holding two contradictory thoughts in one’s head. George Orwell was not talking about War for the Planet of the Apes, but I’d like to think he anticipated. This is simultaneously one of the most thoughtful and deeply human blockbusters I’ve seen in years, and also a movie that includes no female roles aside from a young mute girl and a wife that is killed off to make a male ape feel mad. It breaks boundaries, but also embraces some of the oldest boundaries in cinema. It’s a $150 million action flick that is universally better when it’s deathly quiet. The best dialogue in this movie is sign language. The climax basically confirms divine justice in what is obviously a godless world. War for the Planet of the Apes is full of contradictions and ambiguities, so it’s a weird movie to love. It’s like having a pet Schrodinger’s cat – an exciting and worthwhile experience, but sometimes you just want to ditch the nuance and know for sure whether the cat is dead or alive.
Best Spider-Man Reboot of 2017 – Spider-Man: Homecoming
There have been so many Spider-Man reboots that it’s just damn hard to know how to rank them all. I can say, however, with confidence, that Homecoming is definitely the best reboot of the character in 2017. Like no other interpretation of the character that has come before, it is set in the year 2017, and was produced the year before, making it an unparalleled step forward into uncharted territories for a character who has only starred in movies that came out before 2017. Some claim of superhero fatigue, but when the… just let me Google this one… seventy-fifth live action reboot of Spider-Man is this good, setting new records for Spider-Man reboots in 2017, those claims become all the more dubious. Tom Holland’s magnificent performance tops it all off, and I could argue that this is the finest ever performance of a Marvel hero played by an actor named Tom. Despite this, it’s hard not to wonder whether the character needed another reboot. Nonetheless, it is clear that the character has been rebooted, and I would argue that a sequel to this movie is coming out in two years. This is a good, or a bad thing.
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Best Heart Attack – Dunkirk
The internet insisted that Christopher Nolan’s latest movie had to be seen in IMAX. I happen to live near an IMAX, so I forked up the extra money for the comfy seats and bendy screen of premium cinema. And boy, let me tell you, IMAX Dunkirk is the best cardio I’ve ever had. The insistent, rhythmic ticking of the soundtrack and the screeching horror of the Nazi attacks on the soldiers that cascaded throughout the movie really had an effect on me. By ‘effect’, I mean ‘help, I am no longer certain my heart is in my chest cavity’. By the end of the movie, I had aged 75 years, and I now require constant defibrillation to allow my desiccated heart to pump blood throughout my body. Expiration, I am certain, is imminent. Boy, IMAX Dunkirk is intense.
Best Franchise Fatigue Diagnosis – Pirates of the Caribbean 5/Transformers 5/The Mummy/Fast and Furious 8
Have you been suffering from franchise fatigue? The symptoms are easy to miss. Here’s our quick chart of the sure signs that you might be coming down with this highly contagious condition:
- Hiring of Anthony Hopkins as exposition man
- Hiring of Tom Cruise, a 54-year-old, as a ‘young’ character
- Hiring of Johnny Depp, in any capacity
- Hiring of Charlize Theron, but not to actually do anything
- Introduction of baffling mythology e.g. ‘the Transformers killed Hitler’ or ‘Russell Crowe is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and he has hunted monsters for decades’
- Serious contemplation of sending your franchise to space
Don’t worry. Franchise fatigue has a low mortality rate, and can easily be treated. Here’s some of the ways you can combat it;
- Actually sending your franchise to space, because it would be hilarious
- Removing Mark Wahlberg from your franchise
- Removing Johnny Depp from your franchise
- Introducing new ideas
- Hiring less than 10 separate writers to work on your screenplay
- Do a Bumblebee spin-off, set before the original movies but before he killed Hitler
- Ending it all, for the sweet release that only death’s cold hand can provide.
I haven’t seen any of these movies.