The lows and highs of 'the worst summer' for movies since 1997

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 3 2014 3:25 p.m. MDT

In "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," a growing nation of genetically evolved apes is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.

Twentieth Century Fox

This year, movies had “the worst summer since 1997,” as reported by Brooks Barnes for the New York Times. Just to put that in perspective, that’s the same summer that “Batman & Robin” came out.

Of course, that's only in terms of box office. There could have been a lot of things that kept audiences out of theaters this summer: the World Cup, all the PlayStation 4 consoles that were being sold and, well, the fact that there just weren’t enough good movies aimed at a wide demographic.

But there were also a lot of things that went right this summer, so let’s take a look back at some of the lows and the highs from this past season.

The lows

One thing that can’t be ignored is the fact that, for the first time since 2006, there wasn’t a new Pixar movie in theaters.

The studio’s “The Good Dinosaur,” pitched as a revisionist history where dinosaurs weren’t killed off by a meteorite millions of years ago but instead evolved to coexist with humans, went missing in action due to some creative stumbles during production. Initially just pushed back to November of next year, the whole film has since been “dismantled” and “completely reimagined,” according to John Lithgow (via Collider), who was tapped to voice one of the main characters.

This isn’t exactly unusual for the studio, so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern. But the absence of “The Good Dinosaur” still left a big, gaping hole in the summer box office.

Pixar movies have ranked in the top 10 end-of-summer grossers every year since “Cars” in 2006 when the studio first switched its release calendar from the holiday season to summer.

Just as importantly, though, the lack of a Pixar film also left a noticeable hole in family-oriented entertainment — and this in an already gloomy summer that, between movies like “Edge of Tomorrow” and Michael Bay’s latest Transformers installment, must have set some kind of record for the number of onscreen explosions.

Without anything to take Pixar's place, there just weren’t as many reasons for families to go out to the movies.

Films not explicitly aimed at younger audiences, for the most part, tended towards the overly grim and dystopic, emphasizing urban wastelands, destruction and distinctly un-summery, end-of-the-world scenarios, as in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Godzilla,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and the aforementioned “Edge of Tomorrow.”

Although “Guardians of the Galaxy” was maybe Marvel’s most lighthearted movie to date — and, in most ways, a welcome bright spot at the tail end of the season — even it, on occasion, was not very kid-friendly in terms of things like language and violence. One joke in particular about a certain mid-century artist probably had parents hoping, for once, that their kids hadn’t paid attention in history class.

Another low this summer came from the dwindling quality of sequels, as noted by Barnes’ article.

Despite huge box-office ambitions for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (Sony had initially predicted something on the order of “Marvel’s The Avengers”), it was in some ways a fiasco — even though, by most normal standards, it might have seemed like a runaway hit.

The problem is, while successful on its own, it was a significant drop-off from previous Spider-Man movies. This has thrown the whole future of the Marc Webb Spidey films into question.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere