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With The Avengers making a seismic dent on the international box office and winning almost unanimous critical acclaim, Hollywood’s summer season is already off to a flying start. The excitement across the blogosphere is also palpable with the hugely-anticipated return of Ridley Scott to sci-fi land, and the concluding chapter to Christopher Nolan’s epic take on the Batman myth.
Add to that list a rebooted Spider-Man, further adventures within the ‘Bourne’ universe and with an even bigger cluster of 80’s action icon this time around in the Expendables sequel, and you have one of the most eagerly anticipated blockbuster seasons in a long time.
With that in mind, we asked a selection of our writers which past summers held their favourite cinematic memories.
Loosely expanding summer to include May – September (Hollywood’s ‘summer’), 2011 and 2010 were the best years for me in quantity and quality, respectively.
2011 had a huge volume of fantastic films, including Source Code, Fast Five, Horrible Bosses, Crazy, Stupid, Love, 30 Minutes Or Less and Drive (a film which is now one of my all-time favourites).
2010 had fewer films, but arguably an even better selection. Robert Downey, Jr. returned in Iron Man 2, Kick-Ass was brilliant and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was awesome (deserving a much better box office reception). Emma Stone was terrific in Easy A and Ben Affleck’s The Town was immense. Saving the best for last - Christopher Nolan’s Inception, like Drive, instantly became another of my favourite films.
I saw Inception four times in the cinema – the most I’ve ever seen any movie on the big screen – and for that reason alone, 2010 was my favourite cinematic summer. I can’t wait to see if that changes with the imminent release of The Dark Knight Rises.
The golden summer was undoubtedly 1982 where the likes of Conan the Barbarian, Mad Max 2, Rocky III, Poltergeist, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T, The Thing and Blade Runner were released. The only film in that list I was old enough to see was Spielberg’s earthbound and homesick alien. I can vividly recall the flower/resurrection scene but little else.
It’s funny that everyone comments on the amount of sequels which clog up the summer slate nowadays. The list of films I remember looking forward to years back always seemed to be chock-full of further instalments. 1992 offered the return of Tim Burton’s Batman (although I was a little underwhelmed by the first film) and the second sequels to both the Lethal Weapon and Alien franchise (was that term used as far back as then?) all of which I was thoroughly excited to be seeing.
The summer where one blockbuster alone drove me to distraction was 1991. That film was Terminator 2, and with the Guns ‘N’ Roses track (and video) helping to build serious momentum the month beforehand, I remembered trembling with excitement as I ventured to the cinema with friends. Although I was a few months shy of falling within the film’s ‘15’ certificate I made it in there, where a bold new world of blockbuster awaited us.
While I remember my first trips to the cinema to see a double bill of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back with great fondness, and though the summers of ’85 (with its assorted Goonies and a trip Back to the Future) and ’86 (Labyrinth and big screen Transformers), it was the summer of 1989 which has the most fond memories for me. And I’m not sure exactly why.
The films I saw certainly affected and shaped me as any good cluster of childhood cinema summers should, but looking back I can’t find many which hold up particularly well, nor are they ones I replay much now. Having said that Dead Poets Society, Tim Burton’s Batman, the second Back to the Future film and Indy’s (as it turns out, not the) Last Crusade were all great fun to see and not even Ghostbusters 2 nor Star Trek V: The Worst Film Ever could deny me the pleasure of the cinema.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, I snuck into Heathers as I was too young to see it and that was a pretty great first for me.
So all in all not a great year, but the one in which I had a lot of fun, and that’s the point.
While every summer is noteworthy for a scattering of exciting new releases, I can’t help but compare each new year to another one in particular. The first blockbuster season I spent working at Vue Aberdeen was in 2008, having started just before Christmas the following year, and it saw cocktail making in the foyer, whips confiscated at drop-box and dancing in the aisles. Kicking off with Iron Man, we were then treated to the likes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Sex and the City, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Prince Caspian, Hancock, Kung Fu Panda, Mamma Mia!, The Dark Knight and, perhaps best of all, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Sure, they weren’t all masterpieces – or in some cases even particularly good – but they were massive movies nonetheless, and more importantly, massive movies that catered to everyone. Better yet, there wasn’t a single Transformers movie in sight.
Every summer throws up its fair share of big budget spectacle and although the quality is variable, two summers stick in my memory. From September 1998 to August 1999 I was in Uganda doing a gap year, which almost entirely insulated me from the super-hyped build up to The Phantom Menace. I returned to the UK on a Sunday morning in mid-August and promptly spent much of the rest of the week parked in my local UCI. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were spent watching The Matrix, The Mummy and The Phantom Menace and coming to all three pretty much cold was just great.
Yes, with hindsight Phantom Menace is a wretched film, but the spectacle was wonderful for all three films, especially having been starved of big screen entertainment for so long. Obviously it is the Matrix that of the three has remained in my affections ever since, but it was a great few days and it makes me realise what a difference our present saturation in promotional material does to influence our feelings going in to see a film.
Special mention must also go to the summer of 1991, when I sat in the cinema to watch Terminator 2. A friend had not seen The Terminator so we watched my grainy VHS of it earlier in the day to bring him up to speed. All I knew of the film were the odd clips from the video for Guns N Roses “You Could be Mine” and needless to say, it blew my socks off. I find it hard to imagine that with expectations now so high and teasers, trailers, TV spots and viral campaigns so ubiquitous, I will ever be so delightfully surprised again. Good times.