The 2014 summer blockbusters: A first-half review

The summer movie season is upon us, with many of the most-anticipated ones already released. This summer, Hollywood stuck with the trend of the last couple years in making comic or superhero movies the norm and main stars. But unlike past summers, the majority of the movies have not disappointed. After mediocre reactions to Superman and Thor 2 last year, it looked like studios were beginning to go through the motions, and that perhaps the next great superhero movie, outside of future Avengers sequels, was not to happen. But with the release of “X-Men Days of Future Past” and “The Amazing Spiderman 2”, two of the big four first half action-blockbusters, along with April’s very impressive “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, the future looks just fine, for now. These two, plus “Godzilla” and Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow” are the biggest and most anticipated blockbusters of the first half of the summer.

But just what did I think of these films? If you have not seen them all, and I know as college kids most of us cannot see every big movie, then read up to see which ones are worth your time, money, or internet downloading speed.

The Amazing Spiderman 2

The most peculiarly reviewed of this summer’s films, Spidey was actually my favorite movie of the summer so far. But critics were split down the middle on this one, as were users for the most part. I was not a big fan of the first reboot of the series, as I thought it just a little too familiar, safe and bland. As such, my expectations for this one were pretty low. But it only took the first action-sequence minutes into the film to make me drop those thoughts completely. The massive-ness of the first couple scenes, the colours, and the acting kept me glued to my seat, happily taking in this spectacle. I loved Jamie Fox, I loved the creep guy from “The Chronicle”, and I loved the story. It seemed to stay pretty true to the comics while finding a way to make it work as a movie and set up future sequels and possibilities.

The reasons some critics did not like the movie were the same ones that I loved it. Complaining that a superhero movie tries to do too much and has too many characters and villains is not a respectable critique. Film makers are not blessed with the guarantee to make a movie for each villain and each storey-arc, nor are they able to please the die-hard fans with simple, one villain, one problem movies. And let’s face it, even though these fans are a very small percentage of the actual audience, they seem to carry a lot of weight behind what comics get turned into movies and how they are received. Or, if the story was too hard to focus on or understand, well pay more attention. If you got confused watching “Inception”, that does not make it a bad movie. Not all comic-book movies are able to include that “darkness” that we long for after “The Dark Knight”, or a real sense of emotion, but this one comes very close while still keeping that light-hearted Spiderman feel. If there’s one movie you see this summer, make it Spiderman.


Godzilla was a movie that I could not avoid. The trailer just looked way too cool and huge, and like every remake, you always convince yourself that this time they will get it right. And I was not completely sold that this movie would be awesome, but I really liked the cast and the visuals enough that I was determined to give it a try. The result? Well it was not horrible, but it really did not seem to live up to its potential.

Like everyone that is even somewhat in the know with pulp culture, I love Bryan Cranston. And he really helped bring credibility to this movie. He is as good as I wanted him to be, but as I thought, he’s not as big a character as I wanted him to be, and as the film needed him. Never-the-less, the first act of Godzilla is too cool. I was so hooked, following the random time and setting jumps and filtering through the science mumbo-jumbo. I also loved Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s acting in this one. He was great, and aside from his face looking familiar, it’s very easy to forget that he is the same geeky, annoying kid in “Kick Ass.”

But ultimately the movie suffers from being too much about Godzilla. As ironic as that sounds, a movie with a monster as its main character, no matter how beautiful it is portrayed, can only impact you so much. Much of the film is of Godzilla fighting other monsters, and while it is cool to watch an awesome action, it seems to come up short. The monsters remind me of “Cloverfield”, a movie I loved, but which was all about human survival. Godzilla needed to be about human survival and emotion, instead of the heart of a giant lizard. Nobody wants to watch Jurassic Park that has T-Rex as its main character instead of Jeff Goldblum.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days was definitely the most anticipated movie of the summer, and it did not disappoint. One of the cooler concepts in recent blockbusters, especially for superhero movies, the newest X-men film combined ensemble casts with time travel and a massive plot in a near flawless way.

This film was loved by critics and viewers alike, and I was one of them. If you have yet to see it, I strongly urge you t go see it this summer. If you liked any of the X-men films, this movie feels like coming back home. It creates such a strong, warm feeling inside you, yet provides stirring moments, as we watch younger versions of characters struggle with huge, history-changing decisions.

Bryan Singer steers the ship, and nobody was better suited to direct this movie than the guy at the helm of the first two. Hugh Jackman is great once again, but it is really James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence who do the heavy lifting.

There are points to nit-pick over. The film could have benefited over a better storyline in the “future” setting, but ultimately X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the best films of the series, and a great end of one story, and perhaps a beginning of a new storyline.

Edge of Tomorrow

Just a week old in theatres, “Edge of Tomorrow” is one of the best movies of the best 5 summers, let alone this one. It has everything you want in a summer action movie – Tom Cruise, aliens, amazing action, stunning 3D and lots of laughs. At first, the concept, as it cool as it is, appears that it would prevent the movie from realizing its potential. But that is what is so great about this movie- you know Tom Cruise keeps dying, you know he keeps waking up, yet you are just as tuned in regardless.

The fact that there is no big twist in this film does not take away from it at all, as I feared it might have. It is also great to see Tom still doing what he does. Fresh off of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and “Oblivion”, Tom steals the summer season again with a movie just as good, if not better. It is so refreshing to see a movie that is all about real stunts, and real, frantic action. Emily Blunt even stepped up and did her own stunts alongside Cruise.

One of the more stand-out features of this movie is the 3D and visual presentation. The battle scenes are shot from the soldier’s eye-view, and at times you almost feel like the combatants are talking right to you, like a video game or one of those old-school Turbo Rides at Wonderland. But it is nowhere near as cheesy as it sounds, and it provides a very unique viewing experience.

Simply put, Edge of Tomorrow is Tom Cruise and 3D film making at their finest. Go and see this movie as soon as you can. Although, if you choose to watch 22 Jump Street instead, I guess I can’t blame you.

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