Friday, September 18, 2009

Summer 2009, A Retrospective

Summer of 2009 was something of an off year.  Last year was strong; too strong, in fact.  Several excellent movies in 2008 performed poorly, vanishing almost immediately from theaters.  We wonder if the studios which made Speed Racer, The Incredible Hulk, and Hellboy 2 now wish they'd held off a year to release them.  Had any of those been released this June, we have little doubt they'd have been blockbusters.

We don't mean to imply that there were no good movies this year: in fact, there were several.  Pixar's Up was the standout of the season, Star Trek was as good an action movie as any released in years, and District 9 was dark science fiction at its best.

At the beginning of the season, we offered our predictions on how various films might be received by critics.  And so, we turn now to the cold eye of impartial mathematics to judge us.  Here, then, are the results:

Movies where we predicted within 5% of actual Tomatometer: 5
Movies where we predicted between 5% and 10% of actual Tomatometer: 2
Movies where we FAILED to predict within 25% of actual Tomatometer: 7

In layman's terms, we did poorly.  Piss poorly, one might say.  Our future, it seems, lies not in fortune telling.

Let us take a moment more to reflect.  This was, first and foremost, a summer of science fiction: of the nine movies we saw in theaters, six were of that genre (seven, if you count Wolverine).  The remaining two, Up and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, were both fantasy.

Of the nine movies we saw in theaters, two had the number '9' in the title.

Three of the movies featured robots attempting to exterminate humanity.  Of those, the robots failed once, were partially successful a second time, and succeeded wiping humanity from the face of the Earth in the third.  On a similar line, an alien, seeking vengeance for the destruction of his home world,  nearly destroyed the Earth in another movie (though he wasn't a robot: perhaps this is why Kirk was able to beat him).

In fact, robots or cyborgs were at least one of the main characters in three of the movies (four if you count the dogs in Up).  Aliens were protagonists in three (note that Transformers is counted both times).
Two of these films ended with one formerly evil robotic (or cybernetic) protagonist sacrificing their life to literally give their heart to the leader destined to save the world.  Other major characters sacrificed their lives in three more, and, in a fourth, the main character sacrificed everything to stay behind so an alien father could take his son home.

Two of the movies open with the death of the main character's father (three if you count 9).  Two other movies begin with the deaths of the main character's military unit.  Another opens with the death of the main character's wife.

Two of the movies use special effects to make an old actor appear young.  A third has an old actor travel back in time to meet his younger self, now played by a new actor.

Two of the movies include literal manifestations of one or more robot's soul.  A third, while lacking a visual manifestation of a robot's spirit, is thematically about the spiritual redemption of a cyborg.

Two were live-action films, based on cartoon shows, which were based on toys.  A third was a cartoon which featured toys as the main characters.

For those of you still reading, what follows is a breakdown of every movie we discussed in our four-part "Futures Market" series, whether we saw the movie or not:


X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Actual Tomatometer: 36%
Estimated Tomatometer: 62%
Minimum Tomatometer: 35%
This is, in our opinion, hands down the worst movie we saw this summer.  Most reviewers seem to be offering that honor to Transformers - and not without reason: Transformers had the least coherence.  However, Transformers and GI Joe were both a constant barrage of bizarre entertainment.  Wolverine was simply a string of mistakes tied together with a solid cast.  If you asked us a year ago, we would have told you that, at the very least, a Wolverine movie couldn't possibly be boring.  Sadly, we were mistaken.

The Battle for Terra
Actual Tomatometer:  46%
Estimated Tomatometer: 71%
Minimum Tomatometer: 88%
Critical reaction fell well short of our expectations, so we skipped this one.  There was a time when we'd have said we'd likely catch it on DVD, but that time has passed.  No: it is unlikely we'll ever get around to this.

Star Trek
Actual Tomatometer:  95%
Estimated Tomatometer: 77%
Minimum Tomatometer: 55%
Our expectations were high for this going in, but apparently they weren't high enough.  This movie was our second favorite of the summer.  We can't wait for the sequel.

Terminator Salvation
Actual Tomatometer: 32%
Estimated Tomatometer: 80%
Minimum Tomatometer: 60%
The actual Tomatometer was barely half of our "minimum," yet we went to the theater anyway.  And, ultimately, it wasn't a complete waste: between the robots, the fight scenes, and a CG Arnold, there was a decent quantity of entertainment to be found.  Was it a good movie?  God, no.  But it was fun.

Drag Me to Hell
Actual Tomatometer:  92%
Estimated Tomatometer: 65%
Minimum Tomatometer: 90%
This is a movie that, by all indications, we should have seen.  The critical response was almost entirely positive.  But, when it was out, we just didn't feel like horror.  For what it's worth, we feel bad about it.

Actual Tomatometer:  97%
Estimated Tomatometer: 94%
Minimum Tomatometer: 40%
And so, at long last, we've reached a movie where our estimate was within the right ballpark.  Of course, it's a Pixar movie, so ANYONE could have predicted it would receive better than a 90% approval.  This was our favorite film of the summer, by the way.  As of right now, it's neck and neck with Coraline as our favorite of the year.


Land of the Lost
Actual Tomatometer: 26%
Estimated Tomatometer: 77%
Minimum Tomatometer: 85%
Didn't see it, estimates way off.  Who cares?

Dead Snow
Actual Tomatometer: 67%
Estimated Tomatometer: 79%
Minimum Tomatometer: 88%
We demand a great deal of zombie movies, and, by all indications, while this was supposed to be good, it didn't sound GREAT.  So we skipped it.

Actual Tomatometer: 80
Estimated Tomatometer: 85%
Minimum Tomatometer: 88%
This movie still intrigues us, but, at the time, we weren't interested enough to track down a theater playing it.

Year One
Actual Tomatometer: 16%
Estimated Tomatometer: 65%
Minimum Tomatometer: 85%
Sixteen percent is pitiful.  We skipped this, as well.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Actual Tomatometer: 19%
Estimated Tomatometer: 50%
Minimum Tomatometer: 35%
Once again, we ignored our own metrics.  However, as we said at the time, there were a number of action scenes in this movie justifying the price of admission.  This was a truly awful film, but not entirely in a bad way.


Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Actual Tomatometer: 44%
Estimated Tomatometer: 34%
Minimum Tomatometer: 95%
This did better than we expected but not as well as we required.

Public Enemies
Actual Tomatometer: 67%
Estimated Tomatometer: 65%
Minimum Tomatometer: 85%
This did almost precisely as well as we anticipated.  Statistically, something had to, we suppose.

Actual Tomatometer: 68%
Estimated Tomatometer: 80%
Minimum Tomatometer: 95%
For us to bother, we would have needed assurance this was as good or better than Borat.  Without such assurances, we stayed at home.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Actual Tomatometer: 83%
Estimated Tomatometer: 85%
Minimum Tomatometer: 60%
This was an enjoyable afternoon at the theater.  The Harry Potter movies have really come into their own as episodic entertainment.  We will no doubt miss them when they're gone.  Also, our estimate was almost spot on.

Actual Tomatometer: 24%
Estimated Tomatometer: 45%
Minimum Tomatometer: 85%
We were not surprised to hear this was abysmal, but still The Middle Room continues to wait for the next great anthropomorphic animal adventure.  There is an opportunity here, we think.  Hollywood needs to read Mouse Guard.


GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Actual Tomatometer: 37%
Estimated Tomatometer: 50%
Minimum Tomatometer: 35%
At least it wasn't boring.

District 9
Actual Tomatometer: 90%
Estimated Tomatometer: 94%
Minimum Tomatometer: 85%
Our estimates were in the correct ballpark at least.  This was a great movie; one of the summer's best.

Inglorious Basterds
Actual Tomatometer: 88%
Estimated Tomatometer: 80%
Minimum Tomatometer: 90%
Our estimate wasn't far off.  This was supposed to be a good film, and we expect we will see it eventually.

Actual Tomatometer: 56%
Estimated Tomatometer: 78%
Minimum Tomatometer: 40%
This film had such potential, such promise.  But it squandered its story, and so, 9, we could only sit back and enjoy your visual environments and designs.

At this point, we assume NO ONE is still reading.  If you are, you have our sincerest of apologies.  Come back next time for something which may or may not be better, but will almost certainly be shorter.


Jesse said...

Ha! I love reading that no one thinks I should be reading when I am still reading! I win! My prize? Never getting those four minutes back! Woohoo!

Zak said...

I'm fedexing you the four minutes Jesse.

Cool format. I'm quite looking forward to Terminator coming out on DVD so I can see it.