Blockbusted! What was the worst film of the summer?
Blockbuster season is almost over, and while it wasn’t as bad as last year, there were still some real stinkers
Transformers: The Last Knight - the stench will remain for centuries
Since the late 1970s, when Jaws and Star Wars changed everything, the American summer has been defined by a “blockbuster”. The word originally meant any film that makes a lot of money. Fifty years ago, The Graduate was described in those terms. Now, we mean a big, expensive film aimed at those seeking brash sensation. A movie can lose a fortune and still be so defined. (We’re talking about you, Assassin’s Creed.)
For many, those films come to define the cinematic year. Twelve months ago, after Batman Vs Superman, Independence Day: Resurgence and Warcraft, we were assured that it was the worst year ever for cinema. Away from the mega-dross, it was, in fact, a fine 12 months.
Takings were down on the previous summer, but cash is rarely any great measure of quality
If we do use the summer season as a measure, then 2017 looks to be a vast improvement. Spider-Man: Homecoming was a delight. Wonder Woman was pretty good. Dunkirk just about justified its hype. War for the Planet of the Apes had style and intelligence. Takings were down on the previous summer, but cash is rarely any great measure of quality.
Let’s get to the meat. What made us really want to poke out our own eyes lest we ever see anything so awful again? We don’t really include The Emoji Movie in this. For some reason, animated movies don’t feel like full-on blockbusters. The hopeless pursuit comedy Snatched, starring Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer, doesn’t really fit into the category either.
Alien: Covenant wasn’t so much awful as relentlessly ho-hum. It says something about expectations when so many punters – this one included – expressed regret that the picture wasn’t a shameless retread of the first episode in the series.
Too many critics were bafflingly tolerant of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. There was something of Barbarella in Guardians 2, but we need look to Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets for the most exhausting retread of that camp classic. Besson’s film was far too convinced of its own irreverence to bother offering anything like character or coherent plot. We will see no sequels.
Some would nominate Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword for the title, but we were relatively forgiving of its folly. If nothing else, it proved to be a better Assassin’s Creed film than Assassin’s Creed. Also it features the line: “I need you to go to Londinium and get the lads.” Absolved!
It comes down to an ignominious battle between two impressively undeserving combatants: The Mummy and Transformers: The Last Knight. The Mummy. is that rare example of a bad idea executed even more badly than initially seemed possible. The executive who thought we needed to re-imagine Universal’s classic horror films as action extravaganzas deserves the corner of hell to which he has been exiled.
Tom Cruise managed to turn the thing into a Tom Cruise film: plenty of running and smirking. Russell Crowe was insufferable as a yellow-pack Dr Jekyll. The so-called Dark Universe has now managed terminal decline before it has even begun. Universal’s Wolfman, Dracula Untold and The Mummy have received successively worse reviews.
No other film series is so shamelessly wretched on such a grand scale
For all that, we cannot deny Michael Bay and the Transformers their due. Of course, The Last Knight was no more terrible than whatever the previous two were called. The horrible sexist jokes directed at Laura Haddock were no more horrible than those directed at Nicola Peltz or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in years past. But The Last Knight is as bad as anything we have seen this year. “No other film series is so shamelessly wretched on such a grand scale,” I wrote in June. “Few make quite so much money. If they were all washed down the universe’s greatest drain, the stench would remain for centuries.”
Mind you, neither film made much money in their home country. It was up to “overseas” to deliver the sums that might just keep those franchises going. Keep that in mind the next time you slag off the US electorate for giving us Trump.