It’s been quite the marathon, but with Vin Diesel sprinting across the finish line with his space puppy, the 2013 summer movie season finally comes to a close. So how did genre films do this season? Do we dance with kaiju in the pale moonlight or do we wish for the glory days of Avengers and Dark Knight Rises?
Although we have fun tweaking at each year’s blockbusters, we generally come away glad that we saw them. 2013, however, has been a surprisingly different story.
Note: All reviews should be assumed spoilery unless specifically marked as non-spoilery.
Jack the Giant Slayer (March 1)
Emily says: So cute, but sadly so forgettable. The giants could have done with a little less grossness, and Ewan McGregor should have been on screen the entire time. Fun to rent maybe, but not shaping up to be a family classic by any means.
Ryan says: This came out this year?
The Tor.com review: History to Legend to Myth by Emily Asher-Perrin
Oz the Great and Powerful (March 8)
Ryan says: As bad as this is, it’s possible that without it the James Franco roast would have never happened. So, there’s that.
Emily says: Oh, look! We took a story that is normally all about powerful, awesome women and made it all about one guy! Astounding.
The Tor.com review: A Prequel That’s More Fanfic Than Canon by Natalie Zutter
The Oz expert dissection: Filmmaking in Fairyland by Mari Ness
Upside Down (March 15)
Ryan says: I love that part where he sings all those Beatles songs really emo-style. Oh wait.
Emily says: Yeah, this Across the Universe sequel was so layered.
Chris says: I liked the part where they were upside down.
The Tor.com review: Their Fearful Symmetry by Natalie Zutter
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (March 29)
Ryan says: Too bad it wasn’t revealed that Magic Mike was a young version of Bruce Willis. Missed opportunity?
Emily says: It’s great how they tried to make this one seem legitimate by putting more big names in there, and not a single person bought it.
The Tor.com review: There wasn’t one! But why?
The Host (March 29)
Emily says: There’s the weird thing going on in Hollywood where all these YA heroine movies that are not The Hunger Games seem to get no real advertising and then no one knows they even came out. See also: Beautiful Creatures this past February. See also: City of Bones this August.
Chris says: I was briefly intrigued by this by the fact that Andrew Niccol was adapting it and how interesting it would be if he could redeem a Stephenie Meyer story. Alas, it looked not to be.
The Tor.com review: “So, We Just Stop Being Human?” by Natalie Zutter
Evil Dead (April 5)
Carl says: BOO! I’m under the floor!
The Tor.com review: Shut Up, Linda! by Alex Brown
Upstream Color (April 5)
Ryan says: I liked how easy this movie was to follow. So direct.
Leah says: While it lacked the spiritual depth of Iron Man 3, it was still my favorite this year.
The Tor.com review: Without a Philosophical Paddle by Danny Bowes
Oblivion (April 19)
Irene says: Not even Iceland could save this one for me. A movie about two women totally pining over Tom Cruise? Nevermind all the plot holes, I couldn’t get past that.
Ryan says: I loved this movie. My Tom Cruise Oblivion doppleganger must have written this review.
Emily says: Does anyone still buy Tom Cruise as the “serious business action hero” anymore? Because I haven’t in over a decade.
The Tor.com review: Oblivion Destroys Itself by Ryan Britt
Iron Man 3 (May 3)
Ryan says: All I keep thinking of is the “where’s my sandwich?” joke. But seriously, this is a better movie than The Avengers by a lot. I was surprised by what happened, the characters changed and the emotional stakes mattered. No irony for Iron Man 3. Loved it.
Leah says: I really loved Iron Man 3. I think this was the only film this summer that ended up being a good summer movie for me—there was just enough humor and actual emotion to cut through all the explosions. Tony’s love/hate thing with Harley was the best onscreen relationship I saw this year, and Pepper saving Tony in the end is a great coda to the trilogy! It ties up their trust-issue arguments in The Avengers, without…well, OK, they do kind of beat you over the head with it, but by then I didn’t mind.
Emily says: This movie. I will cuddle it close to my
arc reactor heart and never let it go. I actually had to go see it a second time; on the first run, I wasn’t prepared for the ending and it hurt too damn much. Probably because I wasn’t ready for the majority of Tony’s story to be so effectively completed. Which might mean that I have an unhealthy attachment to the guy, but whatever, I’ll fight you. Also, Pepper is just perfect. And I love Shane Black scripts. So. This movie.
Carl says: I loved this movie, and also use its Vice President as an excuse to tie together the Marvel cinematic universe with Twin Peaks canon.
The non-spoiler Tor.com review: A New Spin on a Favorite by Steven Padnick
The spoilery Tor.com review: Your Pal, The Mechanic: How Iron Man 3 Stripped Tony Stark of His Armor For Good by Emily Asher-Perrin
The Great Gatsby (May 10)
Ryan says: Leo was great. Toby was great. Carrie was great. Elizabeth Debicki stole the show as Jordan. Unfortunately, Baz Luhrmann thinks people are stupid and can’t understand where a narration is coming from, so he ripped off his own narrative conceit from Moulin Rouge. Nice try, old sport.
Emily says: I’m a fan of Baz Luhrmann being Baz Luhrmann, so I went in with those sorts of expectations. Still not my favorite, though it was very pretty to look at.
Chris says: Thank you, Leo, for always playing to type and allowing me to write the below.
The Tor.com review: There, um, was sort of one? The Great Gatsby is an Alternate Timeline Where Jack Survived Titanic by Chris Lough
Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17)
Leah says: WHY THE HELL IS SPOCK PUNCHING KHAN? WHY.
Ryan says: Here, I’ll say something nice: there are some really funny moments in this one: “You giving me attitude, Spock?”
“I am expressing multiple attitudes simultaneously.”
This is how I feel about this movie. It was entertaining, but it didn’t live up to the first one, which wasn’t a real Star Trek movie anyway. And because this was a copy of a copy, the movie came out mumbling and silly like a Michael Keaton clone in Multiplicity, which I’d rather watch anyway.
Emily says: I wasn’t happy about them bringing back Khan, but there were many things about this film I enjoyed that mostly came down to “Yay, characters I love learning to work together and being themselves!” The movie didn’t give me the Fan Outrage Vapours, but I think they would have been better served telling this story as a third film, once we’d had a fun adventure with the new crew for the second film. Hopefully we’ll get adventure next time. And they better give Doctor McCoy about 500% more screentime—he’s the other corner of the Kirk Support Triangle, and it’s distressing when he’s left out.
Irene says: Boldy go and tell new stories. Please? I nearly hit my movie partner when Scotty says “Aren’t we supposed to be explorers?” It was as if Abrams just said fuck-off to anyone that wanted a story out of this.
Carl says: Into Darkness was fun and all, but mostly what it proved to me was that new Trek doesn’t deserve Khan as a villain. He’s supposed to be scary because he reintroduces the concept of brutal war to a peaceful galaxy, but these days Starfleet solves 90% of its problems with fisticuffs.
The Tor.com non-spoiler review: A Captain is Born by Chris Lough
The Tor.com spoilery review: Shall We Begin? by Keith DeCandido
Fast and Furious 6 (May 24)
Ryan says: There was a mass hallucination at Tor.com two years ago that David Tennant was in this movie. He’s not. The movie as a result lacks the fury of a Time Lord.
Emily says: How did we decide it was Tennant again? Maybe we were willing it. Our will lacks a certain reality-making.
Chris says: I think I just wanted Tennant to do well after leaving Doctor Who for no good reason. And there was briefly a rumor he would be in this.
The Tor.com review: There wasn’t one! We were 2 sad and 2 furious that they weren’t able to work the number into the title.
Epic (May 24)
Ryan says: Whenever I saw the preview for this movie, the audience always laughed when it revealed how many famous people were in it. I think there were 200 celeberity voices in this movie.
The Tor.com review: There wasn’t one!
After Earth (May 31)
Ryan says: More movies where Will Smith says “Earth,” please!
Chris says: More movies where Will Smith say, “Welcome to After Earth,” please!
Emily says: I skipped this one for a pretty simple reason—it looked so very dour. The Will Smith I grew up with was all snark and punching aliens in their maybe-faces, and this looked so un-fun by comparison. Here’s to the Independence Day sequel? (Not really.)
The Tor.com review: We thought we had seen this movie but it turned out we had all just gotten really drunk and danced to the Wild Wild West soundtrack.
The Purge (June 7)
Chris says: The subway ads for this alone were so off-putting, essentially goading people into harming each other when really all we want to do is go see something shiny and fun like Epic or Iron Man 3 or Pacific Rim. Considering how poorly this and the Evil Dead reboot did, I wonder if audiences are just tired of movies that go out of their way to visualize that terrible shit will happen to them and they can never do anything to stop it.
Much Ado About Nothing (June 7)
Ryan says: Hey. Joss. It’s a movie. You can do some close-ups. I understand you’re proud of your house. The house is not a character.
Chris says: No kidding. I was so distracted by ALL THE IRONWORK EVER during the first half of the film. Also all the drinking. Apparently, nobody ever stops drinking at Joss’ house.
All in all, this movie was kind of a fluffle. The people who are good in their roles are really good, and the rest are entirely forgettable, but it doesn’t add up into a cohesive whole. Sure am glad I paid money to watch people get invited to Joss’ house.
Emily says: I was impressed by certain turns (Sean Maher!), and it certainly looked pretty. But seeing as Benedick and Beatrice are my favorite Shakespeare characters, I’m less excited when any version of the play chooses to make them sideshows to the main action.
The Tor.com review: All Your Favorite People Do Shakespeare by Emily Asher-Perrin
Man of Steel (June 14)
Leah says: The only thing I liked about the entire film were the last two lines. Granted, part of that was just joy at knowing the fucking thing was ending, but I also thought they were decently witty.
Ryan says: Best 3-hour long trailer I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait for Batman Loves Superman.
Emily says: Sigh. I have become the office Man of Steel apologizer. Loved Lois. Loved Clark. Agree that you don’t let your dad back out into a tornado to save a dog that is probably going to die in a year. But I still really enjoyed it, and you can’t change my mind about that.
Chris says: I’ve made Emily responsible for saving me from tornadoes thanks to this movie…this enjoyable to watch but infuriatingly stupid movie. Why did Clark not save his dad? Why does the entire staff of a Pulitzer-prize winning newspaper just stare out the window when the biggest story in the history of humankind breaks? Why didn’t Zod travel to one of the hundreds of other unpopulated worlds he knew about when he finally got Clark’s blood? How did Lois find him time and again? After the Kryptonians are dead, why isn’t anyone pissed at Superman for breaking Metropolis? Did Zod destroy the concept of cause and effect? None of the story in this film makes sense, so none of the emotional beats make sense, either.
Although, it is fun to randomly tell your co-workers that they’re the answer…they’re the answer to are we alone in the universe.
Carl says: This wasn’t the movie I wanted it to be. However, it’s a compelling exploration of Zod as a “protect Krypton” flowchart. Is there Krypton? If yes, protect Krypton. If no, create Krypton. Return to start.
The Tor.com review: The “S” Stands For Hope by Emily Asher-Perrin
The polar opposite Tor.com review: Man of Cold, Cold Steel by Steven Padnick
And then this happened: Warner Bros. Announces Batman and Superman to Clash in Man of Steel Sequel
This Is The End (June 14)
Ryan says: Franco is the real phantom menace of the summer. He’s everywhere!
Emily says: Watch Tropic Thunder. It’s funnier.
Carl says: This isn’t The World’s End?
Chris says: You guys, we really need to stop telling Carl that things are actually other things.
The Tor.com review: My Only Friends, the End by Danny Bowes
World War Z (June 21)
Emily says: I’m one of those people who saw 28 Days Later and refused to ever see another zombie film where the zombies could run. Sorry, guys.
Chris says: I think what infuriates me the most is how the book was so tailor-made for television or cinema and still the producers couldn’t get it right. The format of the book is an integral part of its overall appeal. How did they not understand that? NERDDDD RAAAAAGE.
The Tor.com review: World War Zzzzz…by Alex Brown
Wait, someone liked it!: World War Z and Happy Endings by Mordicai Knode
This article is more fun than the entire movie: Ten Characters I Love (But Don’t Expect To See) in World War Z by Bridget McGovern
Monsters University (June 21)
Ryan says: No one liked Saved By the Bell: The College Years. Think about it.
Chris says: I did. Before Zack somehow out-chunked Slater.
Emily says: Someone pointed out that one of Randall’s lines in Monsters, Inc. is clearly shown on a motivational poster in his dorm room. Randall, you’re such a loser.
Chris says: I seriously did watch Saved By the Bell: The College Years. I need people to know this. I need it to matter.
The Tor.com review: Scream School: Classes are in Session by Nancy Lambert
The Lone Ranger (July 5)
Ryan says: A poet friend of mine said it best: “I don’t know what is more offensive, Johnny Depp playing Tonto, or the fact there is someone named Armie Hammer who is NOT a porn star.”
Emily says: It’s really hard to get away from the fact that Johnny Depp played Tonto. That said, the film seemed to make every disenfranchised group into the heroes of the film. That said, maybe that’s the new way we handle those Avatar-like stories, in which case, everyone stop. Just stop.
Despicable Me 2 (July 5)
Chris says: I find it amusing that this movie was such a runaway success and yet none of us here had any inclination to see it. I personally meant to see Epic and Monsters U., as well, and just never got around to it. I wonder if, by this point in the summer, I was too overwhelmed by apathy from a string of bad movies?
The Tor.com review: There wasn’t one!
Pacific Rim (July 12)
Ryan says: This movie and I were totally drift-compatible. I wish there were more girls in it. I wish Idris Elba was my space dad.
Emily says: This movie was so unfairly beat up on the playground, and it really seems as though the culprit was everyone insisting they had seen it before they had actually seen it. So go actually see it. Then you can decide whether or not you should be wrecking its sandcastle.
Carl says: This movie managed to convince me that 3D was a valid choice. I love this movie! Make more of it! Make it at least two more times!
Leah says: Loud! Explodey! RZA’s theme song! Ron Perlman! Why didn’t Ron Perlman get his own personal gold-plated Gundam? I do have one actual, semi-serious thing to say about this deeply unserious film, though: Why were the mathematician and the biologist comic relief? Why was this movie, of all movies, pulling the “Let’s laugh at the nerd” card? In case this wasn’t clear: Your movie is about gundams and kaiju. We are all nerds here. I guess they do save the day in the end, but still. Points off, movie.
The Tor.com review: Pacific Rim, You Are So Stupid and I Love You For It by Chris Lough
Maybe “stupid” is the wrong word: Simple Does Not Equal Dumb, and Other Assorted Thoughts on Pacific Rim by Karin L. Kross
I just want more monsters: A Spotter’s Guide to Kaiju: Seven Predecessors of the Creatures in Pacific Rim by David Moran
R.I.P.D. (July 19)
Emily says: Do not want. Please, don’t make me relive it again. I’ve suffered enough.
Chris says: I really wanted to see this and was so bummed out by Emily’s review. It had everything I want: Mary-Louise Parker, someone being a cowboy, Mary-Louise Parker, and Men In Black/Ghostbusters style paranormal humor. And then somehow it wasted all three of those things.
The Tor.com review: The 5 Crimes Committed by R.I.P.D. by Emily Asher-Perrin
The Wolverine (July 26)
Ryan says: Oh god, that scene on the speed train was so awesome. A friend of mine didn’t understand that Jean Grey was dead. Neither did Wolverine’s new girlfriend. SPEED TRAIN.
Leah says: It was better than I expected? I liked the relationship between Mariko and Yukio, especially in light of the class issues surrounding Yukio’s role as the adopted playmate not-quite-sister. None of that had to be included in a Wolverine-based action movie, so I appreciated that they took the time to put it in there. But: why does Mariko have to sleep with Wolverine? If Mariko’s motivations had been more like, “Ha, I’m breaking away from my rigid family and awful fiancé by using this beast-man!” while Logan’s were all “I SWEAR I CAN FORGET YOU, JEAN!!!!” I would have been fine with it, but it seemed like they were attempting some sort of…emotional payoff? That’s not what I need in a summer action movie, okay? Save that shit for October.
Emily says: Don’t make me relive this one either. There was just so much stupid in one place. At the start, I almost thought that Mariko and Yukio were secret-girlfriends, and in those five minutes THE MOVIE WAS PERFECT. Then it deconstructed my fragile reality and everything was pain once more.
Chris says: More like BOREverine. I do appreciate the film periodically driving Logan insane with Creepy Dream Jean Grey, though. Those and post-credits scene were my favorite parts. Also everything that Yukio did. And whenever some idiot with a gun thought he could take on fucking Wolverine.
Actually? This one’s growing on me.
The Tor.com review: How Do You Make a Good Wolverine Movie? by Chris Lough
Europa Report (August 2)
Ryan says: I want to see this! I am a bad person!
Chris says: Oh, Ryan, don’t be so hard on yourself. Not seeing this movie isn’t what makes you a bad person.
The Tor.com review: Going To Space, Economically by Danny Bowes
Elysium (August 9)
Ryan says: The fact that the real villain of the movie isn’t in the previews makes me think he’s someone’s friend and Elysium is just a conspiracy to launch his career. The exo-suited elephant in the room here is this: Blomkamp ain’t deep ya’ll. Not at all.
Emily says: I have been frightened out of seeing this because I love District 9 so much and everyone I know says that this was terrible. I’m not sure I’ll agree, but for the moment, I’m hiding in the brush.
Chris says: Same here. I was really hopeful that this would turn out to be the best movie this summer and anytime—ANYTIME—you put Jodie Foster in space I am sold, but I never saw it thanks to the wave of bad reviews.
Unfortunately this also, for me, confirmed the trend of 2013’s genre films just being really poorly done, overall. Iron Man 3 and Pacific Rim seem to be the only ones bucking that trend.
The Tor.com review: …Nor Heavy Storm, Nor Ever Rain, But Disappointment by Danny Bowes
The other Tor.com review: On Elysium, SF Summer Blockbusters, and Geek Outrage Run Amok by Tim Maughan
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (August 9)
Emily says: Anyone who went to see this did so because of Nathan Fillion, and we all know it, so let’s stop pretending.
The Tor.com review: We don’t know how to break this to you….
Kick-Ass 2 (August 16)
Ryan says: Despite my problems with this movie, I still want my own Kick-Ass style superhero name. Maybe The Blog-Nado?
Chris says: BlogJack. Night Writer? OPINIONASAURUS REX!
Austenland (August 16)
Ryan says: Keri Russell is the final Cylon.
Chris says: Working tangentially on the book this movie is based on is one of the first things I did in publishing! If I went back in time and told myself that ultimately I would be photoshopping Keri Russell as the main character into a still of Blade Runner, would I have believed myself? This question may actually be more entertaining than the movie, if you go by Ryan’s review below.
The Tor.com review: Austenland is Secretly a Tribute to Philip K. Dick by Ryan Britt
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (August 23)
Emily says: See: The Host.
Chris says: Don’t see The Host!
The Tor.com review: Taking the Fun Out Of Demon Hunting by Shoshana Kessock
The World’s End (August 23)
Leah says: My initial mini-review was three paragraphs long. I have lots of emotions about this film. So, I’ll just say: best use of “This Corrosion” ever in any movie ever. I loved it, I really didn’t love it, I wanted to love it, my daughter, my sister, I don’t even know anymore.
Ryan says: I loved it! I laughed! I cried! I caught half the references! But, Spaced is still the best Simon Pegg product. THE BEST. As good as everything else is, Spaced is still more pure, original. Well, season one anyway. I know everyone loves Pegg+Frost, but why did Pegg stop writing with Jessica Stevenson? She wrote The Journal of Impossible Things, you know. They made quite a pair.
Emily says: Who is going on this pub crawl with me? Who?!
Carl says: The characters in the Cornetto trilogy grew up pretty poorly. Have you seen how bad Simon Pegg is at jumping over things now? This is not by any means an indication that The World’s End wasn’t wonderful. It was!
The Tor.com review: Blood in the Ice Cream by Leah Schnelbach
Riddick (September 6)
Chris says: See the below review by Theresa DeLucci….
The Tor.com review: Riddick’s Rebirth is Rather Messy by Theresa DeLucci
And there we have it! 2013 has been a massive year in terms of the sheer amount of genre films that have debuted, and it’s not even over. (November alone brings us new Thor, Hunger Games, and Ender’s Game.) Unfortunately, we’ve found most of them lacking, if not downright infuriating, and we’re hard pressed to think of another year in film that has been so consistently disappointing. Have you found this to be true, or are we just getting a little burnt out? Will this repeat come the genre-palooza that is turning out to be 2015’s film slate? Let’s talk in the comments below!
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