Wimpy box office returns in August have cast a shadow on the 2017 summer movie season. From a financial standpoint, it was a dud season. From a creative standpoint, it was more of the same.
If you missed out on any of the early summer flicks, don’t worry. Many of them are already available on home video. The summer’s second- highest-grossing film, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” made it to digital stores at the beginning of August.
Some of the summer’s biggest box office disappointments are also on home video — “Snatched,” “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” “Alien: Covenant” and “Baywatch” can all be found inside your local Redbox. None of them are good, but the “Baywatch” movie especially belongs in the “things that shouldn’t be movies” pile, with or without Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s completely wretched.
Three of the most successful films, as expected, centered on superheroes, from the misfit space cowboys of “Guardians” to the return of a friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. Both “Guardians” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” work fine enough, but like recent entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not much makes them particularly memorable alongside previous MCU installments. It didn’t help that the marketing campaigns for both films overloaded fans with content months in advance. Stop showing us everything in the previews, Marvel, we already bought the ticket.
In a welcome surprise, it was the DC brand that owned the summer — “Wonder Woman” delivered in almost every sense. Director Patty Jenkins balanced the hero origin story with smart characterizations, efficient plotting and enough spectacle to give DC fans a ray of hope for the future of their frazzled shared movie universe.
Coming into the season, I was especially excited to see new projects from three of my favorite filmmakers. Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” thrilled audiences and critics alike, and while I appreciated seeing Wright’s stylistic spin on the crime caper, I found myself wishing for more of the character-driven work he made with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
I haven’t warmed to Christopher Nolan’s last couple movies, but I can’t turn my back on the love I have for “The Dark Knight,” “Inception” and his other earlier work. Stellar reviews and a propulsive marketing campaign suggested “Dunkirk” would be the movie to rekindle the love affair. Sadly, the film’s time-bending narrative never clicked with me, though I admired Nolan’s technical ambition.
Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” also seemed to be primed for my love — both “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Hurt Locker” were personal favorites of their respective years. “Detroit” is, like “Baby Driver” and “Dunkirk,” extremely well made, but its humdrum third act deflated all the good stuff that came before it.
You can lump “War for the Planet of the Apes” into this category of pretty good films I unfairly expected to be great. Obviously, I forgot this was summer movie season, and I should celebrate “good enough” when it comes along.
Those movies are at least more memorable than the likes of “Cars 3,” “Atomic Blonde,” “It Comes at Night” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” It might be that I’m sleep deprived from having a newborn at home, but I don’t remember much from any of these movies. Unfortunately, I remember way too much of “Transformers: The Last Knight,” which is probably the worst of an already terrible franchise. Full disclosure: I missed the first 30 minutes of “The Last Knight,” and who knows, maybe those 30 minutes are brilliant. I don’t care to find out.
On the other end of the expectations spectrum, I had (enough) fun with the absurdly convoluted “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and the 1990s action throwback “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” Both aren’t very good, but they also aren’t trying to be anything more than diverting genre films. I like to see some scrappy nonsense from time to time.
When it comes time to make year-end lists, not much from summer 2017 will probably find a spot. Maybe the problematic third act of “Wonder Woman” won’t bother me as much on home video. The only other contenders are smaller entertainments — Steven Soderbergh’s low-key hillbilly caper, “Logan Lucky,” and the hilarious rom-com, “The Big Sick.” Both are smart about subverting their genre limitations while also understanding what makes certain storytelling conventions so compelling. “Logan Lucky” is still lingering in a few theaters, and “The Big Sick” arrives on home video Sept. 19.
Now the focus turns to the film festival circuit, where a bunch of critics will rave about 5-10 movies we’ll all have to wait until December or January to see. At least you’ll probably have summer duds like “The House,” “The Dark Tower” and Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy” on home video to hold you over until then.
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Tyler Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.