After last year’s disappointing crop of summer movies, I wasn’t exactly hopeful for this summer. Unfortunately, as of writing this, this batch of movies has not stood out in any way. There have been a few very good films, but they have been outweighed by a swath of duds—for every Wonder Woman, there has been a Transformers: The Last Knight and a King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. That said, I have enjoyed a few movies so far, and have even been pleasantly surprised once or twice. Here are my thoughts on some of the summer’s films.
Baby Driver: Edgar Wright’s newest work was brilliantly made, with beautiful film and sound editing. Jamie Foxx’s turn as Bats is my current personal pick for Supporting Actor from what I have seen so far this year. Jon Hamm and Jon Bernthal play complex and amusing characters, and Ansel Elgort is understated but solid in the title role. While the plot is nothing special, the action and soundtrack more than make up for the standard story. Wright’s attention to detail is as present as ever, utilizing strong yet subtle foreshadowing. Note that I have not by this point mentioned any female actors or characters, which is a shortcoming of the film. Lily James and Eiza Gonzalez are as good as their roles allow, but each is shoehorned by what is written for them, with James’ love interest for Elgort not getting much development besides just happening to be extremely similar to him. Gonzalez, similarly, is defined in her role as “Darling” as exactly that: she is the darling to Hamm’s Buddy and nothing more. Even with its flaws, I would say that, so far, Baby Driver is one of my favorites of the year.
Wonder Woman: No doubt my biggest surprise film-wise, Wonder Woman was a solid, enjoyable film. I have had terrible experiences with DC Comics-based films, so my expectations were not sky-high going in despite excellent reviews. However, I now mostly agree with the consensus: Wonder Woman is a fun, though imperfect, movie. With good performances from most of the supporting cast, Gal Gadot does not have too much pressure on her. However, she certainly has the physicality and presence for the role and utilizes these well, grabbing attention easily and making the “out of place” gimmick land. Chris Pine shines as usual in the role of Steve Trevor and the film does not force the romantic subplot even as it clearly acknowledges its existence. The film generally did a good job with stereotypes and clichés, handling the first female-led superhero film in awhile quite well. I can only hope Marvel and Disney take some lessons from the movie to Captain Marvel and, to a lesser extent, Ant Man and the Wasp.
Obit: The best (and only) documentary I saw this summer was on the topic of the Obituary section of the New York Times. While the pacing could certainly have been better, I thought the topic was handled with care, with most of the film consisting of interviews of the writers in the title section. The tales of circumstances surrounding the obituaries of both famous and rather obscure subjects made for a healthy amount of entertainment in a film that could easily have been downright depressing. Despite not being able to recognize nearly any name, I appreciated the effort of the journalists in giving important figures recognition for their life’s work. This film may have been slightly boring at times, but I appreciated the insight into a portion of journalism that does not get nearly as much attention or appreciation as it should.
Spider-Man: Homecoming: Far and away my favorite film of the summer so far, Homecoming is exactly the film that Spidey fans have been waiting for. With shoutouts to the comics but no heavy leaning on the source material, a new story is spun and new and old characters are fleshed out, some better than ever before. The new take on Liz Allan is especially fresh and is not too much of an affront to the character, although the actress is certainly a weak spot in an otherwise brilliantly acted film. Tom Holland is near-perfect as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man himself (spoilers!), Hannibal Buress and Donald Glover get small but funny roles, and most of the young actors do a fine job portraying the ins and outs of high school life in the twenty-first century. Additionally, Michael Keaton is intimidating and down-to-earth as Adrian Toomes, also known as the Vulture. Robert Downey Jr. has a mercifully short role as Tony Stark and, of course, stands out for his incredible charisma and acting ability. The film was clearly going for an 80’s vibe and hit it well, with a few great homages to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The film was a testament to all the great qualities of Spider-Man as a character, finally getting both Peter Parker and the friendly neighborhood hero right at the same time, with plenty of comedy as well.