When mother earth crawls her way out of winter, through spring and into summer, so too does our optimism and hope. Children put away their pencils and school books, looking forward to a short time of freedom. We swap out our pants and sweaters for the comfort of shorts and t-shirts. We go to the beach, we go to the pool, we share laughs and good times with friends and family. And we go see movies. We all go see movies and we see a lot of them. In fact, this summer, people saw more movies than almost every year before, falling just short of the total earnings of 2013’s summer. We saw the resurgence of old properties, with Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World; family movies such as Minions and Inside Out; and new entries into current franchises with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Ant-Man, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. But do the movies we watch deserve our hard-earned money? And what does this summer tell us about the current state of Hollywood?
Before I belabor you with my opinions of the movies I myself saw in theaters this past summer, I should offer the disclaimer that I am not knowledgeable about film and entertainment. I will, however, give my honest opinion of the movies I saw from the standpoint of the casual movie fan that I am.
Going into the summer, I was enthusiastically looking forward to Age of Ultron as a fan of nearly every prior movie Marvel Studios has released. While Ultron satisfied me as a fan of the Marvel movies, it did not necessarily fully live up to my lofty expectations, with occasionally unconvincing visual effects and an uneven pace. Mad Max: Fury Road, on the other hand, was a film I had no intention of seeing, but was thoroughly impressed when I did. As a fan of the Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park movie, I was cautiously looking forward to the new installment in the series, Jurassic World. While I had a fun time with the movie and thought the action scenes with the dinosaurs were fantastic, I found the characters to be pretty one-dimensional throughout the film. I also saw Inside Out, which I enjoyed, although it didn’t appeal to me as much as I think it would younger children. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation may have been my personal favorite movie that I saw this summer, as Tom Cruise delivers some amazing stunts, Rebecca Ferguson shines in her first major role, and director Christopher McQuarrie gives a refreshingly artsy feel to dramatic and tense action scenes. I ended my summer with a viewing of Ant-Man, yet another Marvel movie, which I found funny, well-paced, and a nice change of pace for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Despite what I subjectively thought about the movies I saw over the past few months, there are a few interesting facts about the movies that were released over the summer. Over the last decade, movies based on prior existing properties have been making more money than original stories. Sequels, prequels, reboots, and movies based on TV shows, comics, and games have been proven successes at the box office, the theory being that the public will be more likely to go see a movie if they recognize the subject matter that it is based on. This trend appears to have continued in the summer of 2015, with seven of the top ten highest-earning summer movies being based on a pre-existing properties. With Inside Out and San Andreas, however, the list includes more original concepts than last summer, in which all ten of the highest-earning movies were based on pre-existing properties. Some would argue that this small change is a bit of improvement, as screenwriters such as Max Landis call for more originality in Hollywood.
Another improvement over last year’s box office results is the quality of movies that we’re spending money on. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, four of last summer’s movies scored as “Rotten,” whereas this year only two qualified as such. This shift suggests that movie viewers may be paying more attention to reviews. Good news, considering that studios may aim to make better, more well-received movies instead of pumping out more reboots and sequels in an attempt to cash in on name recognition and branding. Perhaps next summer, we will keep this in mind when going to the theater, read the reviews before watching movies, and be a more thoughtful audience.