Summer flicks feature action-packed Superheroes

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Kylie Yamada, Feature Editor

The summer movie season is known for its blockbusters, action scenes and massive budgets. This summer, however, two themes seemed to reign supreme: superheroes and war.

Patty Jenkins’s “Wonder Woman” stole the show, grossing over $400 million in the U.S., possibly because of its uniqueness. “Wonder Woman” tells the curiously unknown origin story of the most famous female superhero. In the film, Gal Gadot stars as Diana of Themyscira, masquerading as Diana Prince, a sheltered young woman who meets the soldier Steve Trevor in the thick of World War I and decides to leave her island to end the war.

Diana begins the movie as a young, naive girl who sincerely believes in the inherent innocence of man, and the film follows her journey to a much more self-aware hero. Female-led superhero films have had an unfortunate trend of being poorly-received by audiences and critics, but “Wonder Woman” broke the trend with a 96 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating and wide acclaim from male and female moviegoers alike.

The other major superhero film of summer was “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a teenage film take on the web-slinger. While “Wonder Woman” was a traditional origin story, “Homecoming” skips the origins of Peter Parker in favor of a look at his everyday life.

The film follows the Tom Holland Spider-Man which was introduced in “Captain America: Civil War,” a prodigious 15-year-old living in Harlem whose days consist of Academic Decathalon practice and whose nights involve chasing after robbers.

As the third version of Spider-Man in 10 years, “Homecoming” faced the risks of coming across as rehashing tired cliches of the same character. However, Holland’s interpretation of Peter Parker brought a youthful charm and humor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film also had one of the more memorable Marvel movie villains in the form of The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton.

Following in the war theme was “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan’s ambitious look at the Battle of Dunkirk from World War I. Drawing parallels to “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), “Dunkirk” takes a larger, quieter scope of a war movie.

Nolan utilizes wide, sweeping shots and deep bass sound effects to contribute to the cinematic language. Dialogue is sparser in “Dunkirk” to preserve the impact of the cinematography. Rather than a traditional war storyline, the film follows a twisting and unorthodox plotline recounting three sides of the war: land, sea and air.

However, despite all of these successful blockbusters, certain installments of major film series released this summer underperformed, either financially or critically. The “Transformers,” “Alien” and “The Mummy” franchises were all major money-makers in the past, but “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Alien: Covenant” and “The Mummy” (2017) all fell short of expectations.

In particular, “Transformers: The Last Knight” grossed only $601 million worldwide, a step down from the last two films in the franchise which each earned over a billion dollars at the box office.

Some critics have theorized this decrease is due to “sequel fatigue” or “reboot fatigue.” In short, audiences are simply tired of seeing the same properties on screen every couple of years. The trend towards newer storylines can be seen in the top-grossing film “Wonder Woman,” which is the first film centering on Diana Prince, and in the growing trend of smaller indie films gaining large traction at the box office.

For example, “Baby Driver” stars Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver with a hearing problem which he drowns out with loud music. With a budget of only about $34 million, “Baby Driver” has grossed over $175 million due to its original concept and killer soundtrack. The film found its own niche in the summer line-up as a breath of fresh air from the CGI-filled action films that dominate movie screens.

Similarly, some of the biggest bombs of the summer movie season were fantasy films with derivative origins. “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” focused on the famous King Arthur myth, lost Warner Bros. approximately $150 million. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” criticized as cliche, opened against “Dunkirk” and lost badly, earning only $15 million its first weekend. “Valerian” would need $350-$400 million dollars to break even for Lionsgate; five weeks into its theatrical run, the film has grossed less than half of that number.

The summer movie season continued old trends, buckled old franchises, and created new potential conventions. The future of summer blockbusters may continue down the road of “Baby Driver” or return to the “Transformers” franchise.