Fri
Aug 26 2011 1:44pm

The Final Word on Summer SF Movies: Who Rose? Who Fell?

The Final Word on Summer SF Movies: Who Rose? Who Fell?

The influx of summer SFF movies is at an end, but what a season it’s been! Between hammers falling, apes rising, and lanterns winking out, we’ve had plenty to talk about. And all summer long, Tor.com has been right there on opening night, figuring out which of these movies was worth your hard-earned quatloos! Now that it’s over, how did it all go down? Check below the cut to see which summer movies got our thumbs up and which ones we think you ought to skip.

(Click on the film’s title for our original review.)

Thor

Before going into this one, many of us were skeptical. However, Kenneth Branaugh and company won us over completely. This movie not only showed restraint, but also set up the whole Avengers continuity nicely. Hemsworth and Portman were on it, and the script was super-tight.

Verdict: A Full Rocket.

 

Midnight in Paris

One of the more entertaining Woody Allen films in a while; this one had time-travel! If you don’t like Owen Wilson, or Woody, you still might enjoy the Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein time-travel stuff. Funny and light. Sort of the definition of a “feel-good” movie.

Verdict: A Partial Rocket.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

If you’re of the opinion that the world might not need more to be Pirates films, then you’ll likely not enjoy this film. If you’re onboard with the franchise, this movie is a ton of fun. Is the series better for throwing Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly overboard? Probably. However, this whole movie was slightly inferior to the Michael Bolton/Lonely Island “Captain Jack Sparrow” song and video. (The true anthem of the summer.)

Verdict: A Partial Rocket.

 

X-Men: First Class

Making an X-Men movie better than the third film wasn’t exactly all that hard, but this one exceeded expectations. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were awesome, as was Jennifer Lawrence! Our only complaint here was that the film might have moved a little to quickly in putting all the mutants in their familiar roles. Kevin Bacon was also a little meh, and January Jones was very meh, but beyond that, the whole film was enjoyable.

Verdict: A Full Rocket.

 

Green Lantern

Certainly one you could skip. The film was immature and plotless and didn’t help the general public understand why Green Lantern might be cool. (This video from The Onion pretty much explains the whole marketing campaign.) Like the Hal Jordan portrayed in this story, this movie lacked much-needed imagination.

Verdict: No Rocket. Not even a launch.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Seriously, this is the 8th Harry Potter movie. Is it the best of the series? Not by a long shot. Is everything perfect and accurate to the books? Nope. However, if you’ve come this far, you probably should see it. The flashback sequence of Snape’s memories is worth the whole movie. Also, the much talked about epilogue kind of works in a way that is more touching than we expected.

Verdict: An almost full Rocket.

 

Super 8

A vintage throwback movie. We’re kind of on the fence on this one. Some of us liked it, but not with the enthusiasm of maybe some of the other films this summer. It’s J.J. Abrams, so you know it’s going to look pretty. It might not work as well on DVD as in the theatre, but certainly not a bad movie.

Verdict: Slightly more than a partial Rocket.

 

Captain America: The First Avenger

Not the best superhero movie of the summer (Thor!) but certainly not as bad as Green Lantern. Was it fair to have Cap competing with all these other guys this summer? Probably not. But he held his own fairly well, and as a full-on prequel toThe Avengers, this one got us excited.

Verdict: A Partial Rocket.

 

Another Earth

A much praised indie-drama featuring a science fiction premise at its thematic center. However, despite being a decent movie with moving character arcs, this movie came across a little pretentious and shallow. We feel guilty talking smack about “serious” films that attempt to brooch genre stuff, but this movie was just kind of a drag.

Verdict: No rocket. But an special notice for effort.

 

The Future

Though we didn’t review this movie properly, Miranda July’s second film does have magical realism time-stopping action all over the place. It certainly isn’t a genre film, but the way in which The Future employed its fantastical trappings was certainly much better than Another Earth. Like Woody Allen, if you don’t like Miranda July’s style, you might have a problem with the movie. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a very, very good film.

Verdict: A Partial Rocket.

 

Cowboys and Aliens

Probably the biggest letdown of the summer. A movie like this might have been the victim of its own hype insofar as everyone was excited about it from the word go. Did it not deliver on what it promised? Well, it did, but it didn’t accomplish much else. Surprisingly, as cool as many aspects of this movie are, we’re not sure you actually need to see it. Sorry!

Verdict: A Rocket that achieves orbit, but comes down very quickly.

 

Attack the Block

Fun, but with genuinely scary aliens, this SF/horror film was another sleeper hit of the summer.  The deft use of non-CG style special effects also made this movie a bit of a throwback, but not the same kind as Super 8. With great character arcs and tight plotting, this was the alien movie to see this summer.

Verdict: Full Rocket.

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Here’s the big surprise of the summer. This movie looked like it was going to be god-awful, and judging from the early trailers, nothing but a crummy action movie. But nothing could be further from the truth! This movie featured a good script, great performances, awesome special effects, and homages to the original series that made us totally forget the Burton film. A big win!

Verdict: A Full Rocket! Perhaps two!

 

Conan the Barbarian

Well, everyone sort of knew this movie was going to suck. And it did. Insert your Arnold joke here.

Verdict: Didn’t even get off the launch pad.

 

 

Phew! It’s been quite the summer! What did you think readers? Any hidden gems? Films we missed? Let us know below!


Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com. Stubby was offended by the lack of depction of rockets in this summer’s films.

11 comments
Scotoma
1. Scotoma
I was surprised that all the Marvel movies rocked. I had pretty low expectations for all three, but they did not just blew them away, they made me eat them and my imaginary hat. Sadly, I had hoped the Green Lantern movie would be good, after the trailers looked better with each iteration. Man that was awful.
Danny Bowes
2. DannyBowes
Stubby, Stubby, Stubby. Where is Attack The Block, the best SFF movie of the summer, in this roundup? Ahem. AHEM, I SAY!
Scotoma
3. Chris Arthur
I have to disagree on the Thor and Captain America fronts. I liked Thor, but I found Captain America a bit more enjoyable overall. I was surprised by how well Chris Evans played the part. I do however, agree wholeheartedly that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was quite possibly one of the biggest surprises ever and one of the best sci-fi movies made in quite a number of years. I was immensely happy to see it after it was over. The last movie to surprise me this much was Fight Club. I went to see it on a whim one Saturday afternoon and it turned out to be one of the single best movies of all time.
Scotoma
4. Carl V.
Definitely some differences of opinion here. Captain America was one of the best comic book movies in a long time and Super 8 is my favorite movie of the year so far. Maybe Stubby is too young to appreciate all the good fun nostalgia this film offered?
Ryan Britt
5. ryancbritt
@4 Carl
Stubby is so many different ages.

@2 Danny. Good catch. Stubby fixed it.
marian moore
6. mariesdaughter
My only disagreement is Thor--which I hated with a passion and I still bad-mouth. And Green Lantern, which I actually liked, but which I admit was pure fluff. I'm still waiting to see "Attack the Block". No idea when it will make it off the East/West coast.
Marcus W
7. toryx
Super 8 and Midnight in Paris were both awesome and deserve higher ratings than they got. They were certainly better than both Pirates and Harry Potter.
Noneo Yourbusiness
9. Longtimefan
I can agree with the on the fence rating for Super 8. It had good acting and the promise of an interesting plot but it was not actually a good movie.

I think Captain America did very well considering that it had to compete in a pretty full summer of comic book type movies.
Ryan Britt
10. ryancbritt
@7
I tend to agree, but this was sort of our composite of our various opinions.
Scotoma
11. elsquizz
Conan rocked. The epitome of "so bad it's good" movies, everyone at the screening I attended to laughed at the cheesiness of it all and still applauded at the end.

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