The summer of 2013 was filled with surprises and disappointments. Surprisingly, the majority of the disappointments were also the movies with the most hype, biggest budgets, and a good amount of star power. This summer's feature length failures are just more signs that the golden age of Hollywood is over. With or without hefty budgets, big stars and dazzling visual effects, many of the summer's best films rose to the top on the development of story, characters, and supportive visuals. Contrary to what some directors, Hollywood's studio heads, and marketing teams appear to think, audiences appreciate good storytelling and big visuals. But all too often, directors get so caught up in making their film look pretty, that they neglect the very thing which inspired their initial interest in the project, the characters and their story.
1. Man of Steel
Directed by Zack Snyder, "Man of Steel" showed lots of action and some amazing CG effects. But, unlike the original Superman movie, Snyder treated the story like a supportive element, enabling him to transition from one fight scene to the next. This movie was all brawn and no brain. Filled with minute snippets of story and almost no character development, the mystique and depth of what once made you believe a man could fly, is not there.
2. After Earth
Directed and co-written by M. Night Shyamalan, "After Earth" is the story of a father and son, trapped on a hostile planet. Even though this film tried to cultivate its characters and their story, much it was tedious and somewhat forced. The interactions were mostly stiff and disconnected. Where there was emotion, it was misplaced and did little to clarify anything related to the situation. This and the spaceships made from recycled paper, made this movie very difficult to swallow.
Directed by Robert Schwentke, "R.I.P.D." is the tale of a corrupt cop who finds himself inducted into an undead police department, tasked to keep the dead from disrupting the living world. Overall, not a horrible movie, but too many of it's concepts and character development reminded audiences of the "Men In Black" franchise, making it difficult to enjoy this film's unique twist. A fun movie, with the beginnings of interesting ideas, but very little payoff. It was just a repackaged M.I.B.
4. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Directed by Thor Freudenthal, "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" is the story of a modern demigod, who goes on a quest to save Camp Half-blood, the home of demigods. Unfortunately, the financial difficulties of the visual effects studio (Rhythm & Hues) show in this movie. Even though the first movie in the franchise sported a modest number of visual effects, this second film seemed determined to do away with them all together. Anyone familiar with the book, upon which this edition of the franchise was based, knows that the film was missing at least 90% of its monster population. Despite several glaring omissions, the director managed to hit all major story points, just to keep things on track for what will hopefully be a fully funded followup. At best, this film was a summary of what the movie should have been.
Directed and written by Neill Blomkamp, "Elysium" gives us a twisted peek into a future where the rich live in a space station, while everyone else struggles to survive on a depleted Earth. Best known for his work in visual effects films like "District 9", Blomkamp seems to have a knack for politically charged drama, mixed with modern sci-fi. Unfortunately, where his other films succeeded, this one fell short. In this case, pacing and a good number of seemingly crucial characters are thrown out in favor of a good CG fight scene. Unlike " District 9" this film lacked the cohesive storytelling and had a big, but somewhat unfulfilling ending.