It’s been a disappointing summer for me so far. All of the big hitters I’ve seen to date — Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Man of Steel — have left me cold. None was terrible, but none sent me out of the theater with that exultant sense of uplift I get when I’ve seen something that truly transports me. It’s especially frustrating because I see people responding that way to Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel, and I wish I felt the same. I don’t go into a film looking to not like it, and my hopes were high in those three cases. Which made the disappointment all the more stark. The good news is we’re barely into the heart of summer, and a handful of films I have my fingers crossed will live up to my expectations. But this is a week of modest expectations, which likely means I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
For the record, I loved Max Brooks’ novel World War Z. It pulls off the neat trick of feeling tense and immediate even though the narrators are looking years into the past. It’s the details we don’t read, the blanks we fill in ourselves that the characters lived through and take for granted, that really make the world of the book come alive. And it’s something I knew would never make it into a feature adaptation. To capture it, you’d have to go the mockumentary route, a full-on Ken Burns style film that would probably get raves and not make a dime. So instead we get Brad Pitt living through events only remembered in the book. And while I’d love to see the version of the film that plays in my head, I’m willing to give this a chance. For one, it’s doing something with its zombies that I haven’t seen before, portraying them as an army ant wave of carnage. A far cry from George Romero’s lumbering ghouls and Zack Snyder’s speed demons, and enough to put aside my wish for a straight adaptation. Remember, you have to look at the film that got made, not the one you think should have been made.
Speaking of movies that people think shouldn’t have been made, Monsters Inc. becomes the third Pixar film to get the sequel treatment with Monsters University. I don’t remember quite the hand-wringing about Pixar losing it when it was making Toy Story sequels, but some folks are pointing to this as a further sign of the studio’s fall from grace. And considering Cars 2 and the upcoming Planes, they’re not entirely unjustified. Monsters Inc. was an entirely different animal though. My placing it 8th in my ranking of Pixar films was largely due to it being surpassed by what came after it; at the time it was released, I loved it unreservedly. So I’m a little more forgiving about them going back to this particular well. I’m still not 100% thrilled about it being a prequel, since we know where the characters have to end up in order for the first film to have happened (boy would I love a prequel with the guts to undo its own source), but I’m willing to give Pixar the benefit of the doubt.
Yeah, not the giddy eagerness I had going into last weekend, but the fall is guaranteed to be nowhere near as bad.