The end of August means a couple of things — it’s time to go back to school (&$%!) and the summer movie season is coming to a close. 2015’s summer movie season was a great one, with plenty of critical acclaim to go around and two films earning over 1.5 billion USD (yes, with a ‘B’) and another getting to 1.4 billion. However, this summer wasn’t without some duds. Let’s look at what won and lost during this year’s summer movie season:
Ya know how I mentioned in the intro that two films made over $1.5 billion? Yeah, those were both distributed by Universal Pictures. Jurassic World is currently the third-highest grossing film ever (not adjusted for inflation) with $1.623 billion while Furious 7 is fifth at $1.512 billion. Universal Pictures may actually become the first distributor to have three films earn over a billion dollars at the box office in a single year as Minions currently sits $10 million away from crossing the billion dollar threshold. Now, while these films aren’t the best ever, you can’t argue with money. Four billion dollars from three films? That is an undeniable win. Universal benefited from fun, silly movies, and especially benefited from Furious 7’s diverse cast, one of the biggest reason the film has done so well.
While Universal is dominating, Sony is doing the complete opposite. The company was hit hard after the huge information leak last year and still suffers repercussions from that email leak, like how Sony executives made racist Obama jokes and how they decided Spider-Man must be a straight white dude. Sony went into the summer without a huge tentpole, releasing Aloha, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and Pixels, which was the studio’s most successful summer movie. Aloha couldn’t even recoup its budget while Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is regarded as one of the worst films of 2015. Sure, Sony’s PlayStation 4 sales have been killing it, but the company is getting killed on the movie-end of business
The biggest loser to come out of 2015 is Craptastic Fo– excuse me, Fantastic Four. The film based on Marve’s First Family failed to land with audiences and critics, leading to it barely making back its production budget ($129.7 million current gross vs. $120 million production budget). The executives over at 20th Century Fox must be praying this film can cover its marketing cost (an estimated additional $80 million). The performance of the three Fantastic Four movies has forced fans to wonder “Will Marvel get the rights back?” Only time will tell.
Loser: Adam Sandler
Our first repeat offender is back at it! Last year I wrote that “Honestly, Adam Sandler can be considered a loser for several summers, not just 2014.” That same sentence can be applied to 2015. He “starred” in Pixels this summer, the latest of Sandler’s “comedies” to fail. Sure, it made a slight profit, but it performed disastrously with critics and is generally regarded as an unfunny mess. I wonder if the higher-ups at Netflix are regretting their deal with Sandler.
Winner: The Mission Impossible Franchise
Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation released to stellar reviews and a solid box office performance and the fifth MI film might be the best in the franchise’s almost 20-year history. It was one of my favorite movies of the year and I enjoyed it more than films that grossed more than it, like Jurassic World and Furious 7. The action, the cast, the plot, and the badassness of Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson were all great in Rogue Nation.
Winner: Inside Out
Transitioning from one of my favorite films of 2015 to another, Inside Out is Pixar’s latest stellar film. It has grossed almost $700 million and holds a near 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes at 98%. Inside Out has one of the best Pixar casts yet led by Amy Poehler, along with great animation, entertaining comedy and Pixar’s signature tear-shedding moments that will hit adults where it hurts. If you refuse to see Inside Out because you’re too cool to see a “kid’s movie,” then you’re missing out. You should
probably definitely check out last year’s Big Hero 6 as well. Stop depriving yourself, hypothetical reader!
Loser: The Terminator Franchise
After two of cinema’s greatest films were made, the Terminator franchise has struggled to emulate that success. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, and now Terminator: Genysis have all tried to piggyback on the success of the first two films (which were released 31 and 24 years ago) and failed. The timeline of the series is all kinds of muddled and confusing. These films also have terrible marketing strategies, with the latest being that Terminator Genysis’s huge twist was given away in the trailers. Genysis is an attempt to reboot the franchise with a new cast, including Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke in the leading role of Sarah Connor, and now I wonder what the future of the franchise holds as Genysis has barely eclipsed $350 million gross and only holds a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Loser: Teddy Bears
2012’s Ted was a surprise hit — it grossed almost $550 million and received praise from audiences and critics alike. Because Hollywood would rather greenlight a sequel to anything rather than come up with an original idea, Ted 2 was made. Success begets success, right? Not in the case of Ted 2. The film was released two months ago and currently sits $20 million shy of a $200 million gross, which is a far cry from the original film’s gross. Critics weren’t impressed either and it seems like the Seth MacFarlane train is coming to a halt. Ted 2 is by no means a failure, but it is a loser compared to its predecessor.
Loser: John Green
John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars was adapted into a movie that released last year and was a surprising hit. It was one of my favorite movies from 2014 and it made over $300 million (with a $12 million budget) against stiff summer blockbuster competition. 20th Century Fox was hoping that Paper Towns would achieve similar success with Paper Towns, an adaption of Green’s fourth novel. Paper Towns has only earned a bit more than double its budget and has received mixed reviews, so at this point, it has yet to achieve the level of success of TFIOS. Paper Towns isn’t a commercial or critical failure, but it is a disappointment for fans who had high hopes after TFIOS.
Winner: Straight Outta Compton
The N.W.A biopic has been a massive success, earning over $60 million in its opening weekend (for comparison’s sake, Ant-Man, a Marvel superhero movie, earned $57.2 million its opening weekend). The films has been adored by critics and audiences and has already become one of the most successful musical biopics of all time. The success of Straight Outta Compton may prompt more biopics on rappers, as rumor has it that a film based on Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and other West Coast rappers might get developed as a follow-up to Straight Outta Compton.
Loser: Video Game Movies
Hitman: Agent 47 is the latest in a long line of movies based on video games that have failed. Judging from the trailers, Hitman: Agent 47 abandons the stealthy elements of the game series and instead goes all Michael Bay on the source material. Reviews have been generally negative for the Hitman reboot and consensus says that it’s a generic action movie. Video games movies have struggled to succeed at the box office and with critics, with the average Prince of Persia: Sands of Time maybe being the best of the bunch. This precedent leaves me worried about the future of video game film adaptations, which includes Assassin’s Creed, which was, at one time or another, supposed to release this August. In Fassbender I trust, but history has a way of repeating.
Marvel Studios continues to rule the superhero genre with its competition playing catch-up. Last year it was Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy this year it’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, and next year it’ll be Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. Just pencil in Marvel as a winner for next year too. Sure, Age of Ultron wasn’t as well-received by critics and fans as its predecessor and Ant-Man hasn’t made as much money as one would expect from a Marvel film, but the brand is still strong and the movies are still good fun. I don’t know when Marvel’s reign of dominance will come to an end, but for now, I’m just going to enjoy the studio’s work.
Since the summer movie season began in April, only four times did a movie with an original idea end up on top of the weekend box office. Four weekends out of 21 (April 5 to August 23). Tomorrowland, San Andreas, Spy, and Inside Out were the only films with original premises that topped the box office this summer in between being dominated by sequels, reboots, spin-offs, and adaptations. Tomorowland was strictly okay, San Andreas was an entertaining disaster film with little substance, and Spy was a Melissa McCarthy comedy (I’ll let you decide if that’s a good or bad thing). The only original film that really “won” was Inside Out. This is another trend in Tinseltown that doesn’t bode well for the future. Studios are taking less chances on original scripts and when they do, they are marginal box office successes even with great reviews, like Ex Machina. Blockbusters based in original ideas are lacking on today’s world and I hope that changes.
Winner: Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer went from being a successful comedian to a celebrity over the course of this year and was further propelled into stardom with the release of Trainwreck, the latest Judd Apatow dramedy. I think she is a rising star in the comedy world, one that is dominated by males. I found Trainwreck to be very funny, although it did at times stray too far into drama territory, but Amy Schumer was very funny nonetheless and did an excellent job writing the screenplay. There were some unexpected funny parts to it like…
Winner: Lebron James
… how hilarious LeBron James was! Damn! James was the definition of “scene stealer” in Trainwreck. I think he had some of the funniest lines in the movie and his delivery was that of a seasoned comedic actor. He nailed his role in the film. I could see The King branching out further into acting and who knows, maybe someday James will star in Space Jam 2. It could happen, folks.
Winner and Loser: Leading Ladies
There has been a lot of talk this summer about women in media. I think it’s no secret that women don’t have as many opportunities as men in the film industry and their roles are usually second fiddle to men, oftentimes just being a love interest. Avengers: Age of Ultron and Disney made a lot of headlines with the way Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was used in the marketing and portrayed in the film. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of the “I’m a monster because I can’t have kids” (paraphrasing, obviously) line? Not to mention the slut comments from Jeremy Renner and star Chris Evans. Ant-Man was very well made, but wasted Evangeline Lily’s character and put her in a sidekick role even though she was probably the most badass character in the film. Then there was the Joss Whedon comment on how Bryce Dallas Howard’s character Claire from Jurassic World seemed liked a 70s era sexist cliche. I don’t think he was necessarily wrong; while Jurassic World was tons of fun, the writing for Claire was very lazy and needed major work.
But this isn’t to say that all women this summer movie season were poorly written or underutilized. Pitch Perfect 2 boasted a largely female cast and made a strong box office return, Melissa McCarthy carried another successful comedy, the aforementioned Amy Schumer flipped romcom cliches in her Trainwreck script, and the true star of Mad Max: Fury Road was Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, the female lead. I think if more people speak up and if more actors/actresses challenge the status quo, then Hollywood will get the message that more well-written female characters are needed.
Who/what do you think were 2015’s summer movie season winner and losers? Leave your thoughts below.
Austin is in his final year at the University of Florida studying English. He enjoys binge watching on Shark Tank, winning the Mortal Kombat, and occasionally stepping in for Batman when necessary.