2017 Summer Blockbuster Season: Theatrical Edition (collaboration with Quickfire Reviews)

Gather one and all for after last year's successful summer blockbuster season breakdown in collaboration with Quickfire Reviews (which you can see here), we have decided to reunite to cast our eyes over the latest flock of tentpoles and properties thrown to audiences over the past three months.

Using the same questions as last year, we have picked our favourites, least favourites and everything in between across a variety of categories. Be sure to join in on the fun - post your own in the comments below or join us on social media to debate our picks - we'd love to hear from you!

Quickfire: Last year’s blog post was my first collaboration, and it was an immensely enjoyable experience to discuss the highs and lows of summer at the movies. Henceforth, I was very eager to carry on this tradition, and see how this year’s crop of films compared to last!

1. Favourite film of the summer?

Nathan: Dunkirk is my pick for film of the summer and current sits at number two or three (depending on the day) on my list for the year so far. To no one's surprise, Christopher Nolan delivered yet another stellar addition to his impressive filmography to date (you can see mine, Quickfire and a bunch of our friend's thoughts on all of his films over here) - but this is most certainly my favourite of his yet. Incredible smart and sophisticated, merging three different timelines absolutely seamlessly across the course of the film, Dunkirk provides audiences with a gut punch of emotion that could not have felt more timely if it tried. The action is brittle and intense, the performances are very often outstanding and the cinematography is outstanding, topped off, of course, by Nolan's extraordinary direction. Almost impossible to fault, Dunkirk will go as far as making my favourite films of all time. In a close second place comes A Ghost Story, a beautiful, haunting and harrowing story wise beyond its time.

Quickfire: Wonder Woman is my favourite film of the summer and, at least so far, my favourite picture of the year. This far surpasses the rest of the DCEU, and is more than traditional superhero fare. Wonder Woman is refreshing. It uses its setting marvellously, is extremely dramatically effective, exciting and powerful, yet also riddled with moments of charisma and humour. From the cast led by the impeccable Gal Gadot to Patty Jenkin’s stunning directorial effort, Wonder Woman feels like the type of blockbuster that will be appreciated and remembered fondly in years to come, not just for having thrilling sequences but a thoroughly investing story, that I feel deserves icon status.

2. Least favourite film of the summer?

Nathan: The god-awful Diary of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (which I reviewed over on Film Inquiry) is my least favourite film of the year, going so far as beating out the dreadful The Emoji Movie for the accolade. By quite a distant the poorest excuse for family entertainment witnessed, The Long Haul is an excruciating watch and makes 90 minutes feel like an absolute lifetime - I jest ye not, I actually ran out the theatre as soon as the credits began to roll, in an attempt to get myself as far away from the film as possible. Be it the horrific performances or the horrendous script, the embarrassing name-dropping or the inability to restrain itself from a new turd joke every 30 seconds, the latest Diary of A Wimpy Kid is not only a stain on the summer blockbuster season but on cinema itself.

Quickfire: My least favourite release brings us back to late March, where Ghost in the Shell hit theatres and I witnessed, a visually remarkable, but otherwise a dull, stale, uninteresting and thoroughly hollow action film. Thankfully, at least for me, 2017 has not provided that disaster of a film that 2016 supplied with Independence Day 2, but Ghost in the Shell comes close, with not even its glorious visuals being able to perk one up from a near snooze-fest.

In the days after this was written I watched Death Note. More on the later...

3. Biggest disappointment of the summer?

Nathan: Baywatch takes the award for biggest disappointment of the summer this year, mainly because it is so damn lazy. A desperate cash grab trying to mimic the tone of the previous two Jump Street film but falling terribly short, Baywatch is forced to get by on the natural charm of its cast because the jokes and laughs leave them stranded out at sea, struggling against the tide of writers refusing to provide them with anything to work with. The makers picked the most predictable, laziest route to proceed dow: almost everything about this film screams conventional and cliched and idle and disappointing.

Quickfire: As much as it pains me to say, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales/Salazar’sRevenge was a true let-down. The series has grown tired and the energy and bombastic nature I so loved seems to have wined down. As the original trilogy of films were and remain some for my all-time favourite films, it’s safe to say I thought this latest release ultimately failed at capturing the original’s energy and magic. As a fan, I would so appreciate the series go out with a bang, instead of dying a horrible death at our cinema screens. It’s not without its moments, but nothing comes close to the brilliance of Dead Man’s Chest.

4. Most overrated film of the summer?

Nathan: American Made (TBA), one of the last films released across the summer, is really, painfully average - but its 88% approval rating would tell you otherwise. It's 6.9/10 average rating tells the story a little more truthfully (and once again highlights the misconception with Rotten Tomatoes), but that's still on the very kind, over-rated side. In places dull, with only sparks of a decent film cropping up now and then, American Made is an overrated piece that demonstrates Tom Cruise's growing inability to star in good films.

Quickfire: This may be a controversial pick. I may be making a bold move, but hear me out. Dunkirk is a good movie. It may even be a very good movie. For me at least, it’s in no way fantastic or a masterpiece, and the term overrated seems justified in my mind. It’s plenty intense, unforgettably immersive and overall stellar craftmanship – it just lacked that core thread that compels me to deem it to be worthy of the praise it has enjoyed.

5. Most underrated film of the summer?

Nathan: Their Finest is a completely charming, authentic and bittersweet war-romance that did well for itself in the UK but struggled to find muscle elsewhere. Complete with fantastic performances from Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin - two of Britain's most underrated performers - a wonderful story brimming with emotion and meaning, solid direction and impressive production design, Their Finest remains one of my favourite films of the year. Please see Their Finest - it will break your heart, make it sore, then make it soar. Miss Sloane is also deserving of a mention here and, after failing to win award season success, was relegated to an inconsequential May release date.

Quickfire: It may be hard to justify the $750million plus grosser and the 92% Fresh receiving Spider-Man:Homecoming as underrated, but I felt in online chatter and in terms of hype, Spidey was deemed a little less impressive than other MCU fare. What makes this Spidey outing enjoyable, far more so than this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is how earnest, funny and downright fun it is. As great as it is to see comic-book films be ambitious and take chances, its wonderful for films like Homecoming to remind us of the kid inside, and let us enjoy two-hours of charismatic fun, that also manages to feel relatable and fun. Spidey fatigue may have set in with some audiences, but I assure you, this outing is a diverse, youthful ride, that easily eclipses, at the very least, Marc Webb’s series and Raimi’s franchise closer.

6. Standout performance of the summer?

Nathan: Andy Serkis' turn as Caesar (War For The Planet of the Apes)  leader of the apes, is not only an astounding showcase as to the powers and opportunities presented to us by motion capture technology but a masterful performance in emotion, nuanced and control too. I am firmly in the 'get Serkis an Oscar nomination' camp this year and his performance this summer, easily a standout, confirms that The Academy should overcome the bias that has prevented him from glory before to award him recognition for achieving the impossible in his performance as Caesar. 

Quickfire Ala Ghost in the Shell, I take you back to March for standout performance, and I can’t commend the decision to cast Emma Watson (Beauty & The Beast) as Belle enough, I feel Hugh Jackman deserves this, for seventeen years of phenomenal work. A true professional on and off-screen Jackman has cemented his performance as Wolverine iconic Hollywood, and in Logan he gives his darkest, tormented and most brutal performance yet in a haunting, gritty and ultimately touch swansong to the beloved mutant.

7. Biggest surprise of the summer?

Nathan: Wonder Woman would be my pick here, but for the sake of variety, I'll go for Girls Trip. Who really expected a comedy as flat-out hilarious as it was? With all due respect, the trailers looked poor, the poster were lazily thrown together and the prospects were not at all high for it - but no one need have underestimated, for Girls Trip may just be the most fun I've had at the cinema for ages. Audiences were running riot with laughter and it provided the diversity Hollywood has wholly lacked. It was an absolute treat, as was The Big Sick, a tremendous romantic comedy that surprised me with its poignancy earlier this summer after an Odeon Screen Unseen screening.

Quickfire: Of course, my pick for favourite film of the year surprised me; Wonder Woman was far better than I think most of us, myself included expected. But, the truly delightful surprise and one of my favourite theatre experiences of the summer comes in the shape of Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. A two-hour infectious, up-beat and inventive piece of cinema, Baby Driver went from a film I was casually interested in seeing because of strong word-of-mouth to one of my favourites of the year thus-far, for its infectious and refreshing nature

8. Biggest franchise misfire of the summer?

Nathan: The Cars series spluttered out for good, despite delivering Cars 3, the better film in the sup-bar Disney Pixar series to date in my eyes (although that's not saying too much, as all three entires register at the bottom of my Pixar ranking). The animation giants returned with a sequel not many people actually asked for and the underwhelming box office receipts confirmed as much, forcing what really should be the final nail into the Cars' coffin.

Quickfire: I was never a Despicable Me obsessive, though admittedly I was entertained by the first and especially loved the second. Minions completely left adult audiences in the dark, bar a few crude jokes, and now Despicable Me 3 appears as a franchise mis-step not having (again like Pirates) that magic, that brings in older viewers, as Toy Story has always done. If Universal wanted hey could have created a series that is a solid as said Disney series, but in a world of spin-offs and prequels, Despicable Me 3 suggests an animated series that can bring home box-office dollars, but may not remain a critical darlin for much longer.

9. Winning genre of the summer?

Nathan: After last year's dreadful crop of superhero recruits inspired me to write the article '2016: the year the superheroes fell?', 2017 has facilitated a massive change, providing four enjoyable pictures to date - Logan, Guardians 2, Wonder Woman and Spiderman: Homecoming are all sitting comfortably in my top thirty (out of ninety films seen) to date. Each of the four cultivated a tone unique to them, inspiring audiences with its variety through a slight deviation on genre and infusion of sub-genres into the main body, rewarding audiences - after last year's almost embarrassing crop - with quality film-making to be enjoyed by a wide audience. While I remain skeptical about Justice League and Thor: Ragnorok, this could be the best year for comic book films in quite some time.

Quickfire: Unlike the bitter disappointment of last year, comic-book movies are this year’s winning genre. Despite being thoroughly underwhelmed by Guardians, Spidey’s latest outing was a vibrant spectacle and Wonder Woman along with Logan come the closest to being on par with The Dark Knight. If film-making and story-telling as seen in Wonder Woman and Logan can be found in future comic-book adaptations, it seems like the genre is in no way slowing down, at least critically. If they make them this good, bring on the rest!

10: Film that deserves multiple viewings?

Nathan: Spider-Man: Homecoming nabs this one for me. After the first watch, I found myself largely underwhelmed, unable to come to terms with the lower, unsubstantial stakes which, matched with the lacklustre 3D conversion, left me feeling somewhat empty - an unnecessary reboot that amounted to little. On second and third watch though, you come to appreciate the diversion in tone and pace it brings to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, accepting the slightly-off centre Marvel world it exists within. I ended up enjoying the film (hence a further two watches!) and Tom Holland proved himself to be a truly excellent choice as the web-slinger - even if my heart is still with Andrew Garfield. War For The Planet of the Apes and Atomic Blonde are both worthy of mentions here too and my opinions improved on both with multiple viewings. 

Quickfire: I attempted to not gush about it too much in this post, but I can’t help it. Wonder Woman has all the makings of a blockbuster classic. Both traditional and progressive, its comparisons to the original Christopher Reeve Superman is not unwarranted. In an age of downloading and Netflix, Wonder Woman seems like the type of film that people will want to purchase and watch for years to come for all the charm it has to offer.

11. Best franchise next step?

Nathan: Wonder Woman has single-handedly saved the DCEU; we are not completely out of the woods just yet (and with Justice League around the corner, I do still worry) but she ran with the series in the right direction and installed it with the energy it needed to continue. It felt refreshing, invigorating and thrilling, with the Patty Jenkins comic book adaptation firmly putting us on the right path after three mediocre to downright dreadful attempts before. When we look at where we were last year, the DCEU is a million miles away and like Diana, I feel hope moving forward. Don't let us down JL...

Quickfire: Spidey’s big-screen come back, a collaboration between Marvel and Sony, is the best franchise next step of the summer in my eyes. For the first time in a decade it didn’t feel like a product of studio manipulation nor did it feel overstuffed. Homecoming brought Spider-Man into the MCU with an innocent dose of colourful fun and wit for a new generation of kids and beyond.

12. Biggest game-changer of the summer?

Nathan: Okja stoked the Netflix vs. Theatres debate well and truly when the well-received social-change picture landed on the streaming service. Known more for its television original series, a successful mega-budget feature-length appearing on Netflix changed the game for individuals looking to fund their ideas on a wide scale. With splashy production designs, a A-list cast including Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal and a thought-provoking set of themes and premise, Okja changed the game this summer - and it will be interesting to see how it changes Hollywood's infrastructure next summer!

Quickfire: The biggest game changer of the summer is between two films – and interestingly both for the same reasons. Ghost in the Shell and Netflix’s Death Note were two adaptations that failed to work, in the eyes of long-time fans of the original animes and for viewers like me who weren’t familiar with the original property and witnessed – in both cases- two hours of dry, lifeless characters in a story with little to no interest. Audiences have spoken through reviews, blog posts and box office numbers. These adaptations aren’t working, these adaptions seeming to signify that. It’ll be interesting to see if Hollywood continues with this trend in the coming years.

13. 'Against all odds' success of the summer?

Nathan: Baby Driver, one of the summer's only original numbers, thrived in a critical and commercial sense, demonstrating the need for fresh ideas within cinemas - and how audiences will lap it up if you deliver the goods. Edgar Wright's action-thriller come musical-romance was an exciting blend of genres that provided something for everyone to appreciate and has earned $200+ million so far for its troubles. In an era where everything seems to live and die quickly, Baby Driver stuck around, won audiences over and came out with acclaim and profit to boot. It will hopefully inspire more original, refreshing projects in the future too, succeeding against the odds of tentpoles, sequels and remakes galore.

Quickfire: Against all odds, The Circle from director James Pondsolt who helmed the exceptional Spectacular Now, didn’t reach the standards most would have assumed financially and critically. Who would have thought that a film based f an acclaimed book and starring Hermione, Woody and Finn would end up being a box office underperformer earn a minute 15% on Rotten Tomatoes and be dropped straight to Netflix in the UK and Ireland. As surprising as it is, The Circle just didn’t attract audiences, making film fans question if star-power exists in 21st century cinema.

14. Dead-on-arrival film of the summer?

Nathan: Valerian, I'm sorry, but you never really stood a chance. Wacky sci-fi never really sticks anymore (outside your George Lucas-helmed franchises) and this, the biggest French-production of all time, looked set to continue that trend from the minute promotion started. It lacked any big names, was an unknown property where it mattered and didn't win reviewers over to support it - even the promise of visual grandeur on IMAX screens was a wash-out with Dunkirk's prolonged success. Little was going to convince audiences to see a film that had little going for it in the first place; it seemed like a perfect storm of mediocrity and it crippled Valerian early on.

Quickfire: Finally, the dead-on-arrival film of summer 2017 is Valerian. As visually gorgeous as it is, the story was far too incohesive. Yet, reviews aside, most everyone saw its dreadful financial prospects a mile away. A film based on a relatively unknown property in the states (still the biggest movie going business in the world) starring the wooden Dane DeHaan wasn’t exactly the makings of a hit. Factor in its whopping 200million plus budget and it seems the most optimistic of cinema fans could have seen this flop looming for weeks in advance.

Nathan: mother!, The Snowman, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Stronger are my most anticipated films to come from the rest of 2017 and, like many, I'm very excited to settle my eyes over the genre fare that will slowly start to unfurl over the coming months.  In terms of next summer, I am keen to indulge in Avengers: Infinity War, Ocean's Eight, Purge: The Island and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (please don't judge me).

QuickfireThere’s plenty to look forward to for the rest of 2017 such as mother!, Murder on the Orient Express, Thor: Ragnorok, Justice League, Star Wars: The Last Jedi & The Greatest ShowmanLooking ahead to next summer New Mutants, Avengers: Infinity War, The Incredibles 2 (!) & Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom have me most excited for those nights at that cinema. 

Nathan: Well, that's that - thanks for reading! Thank you to Quickfire for joining me on this chat and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more collaborations - one may be coming sooner than you think...

Quickfire: Thank you as always to Nathan for allowing me to collaborate in sharing my thoughts on summer 2017, a superior summer than last in my opinion.


You can check out Quickfire's channel here and find links to full reviews by clicking on the title of the film you're interested in! Again,  be sure to send us your picks - we would love to hear them!