Some movies underperformed, some performed out of their socks. Some vanished without trace, others arrived out of nowhere. Stars were made – arise, Sir Tom Hardy – while others were unmade – sit down, Adam Sandler.
Some movies with high expectations didn’t even make the grade. Paper Towns was supposed to recapture the Fault In Our Stars crowd, that subsequently failed to materialise. Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara will be hoping that the few people who paid to see Hot Pursuit will forget they did so they can pretend it never really happened.
Special mention has to go to Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It might have lacked the killer lines it needed to be a truly great caper, but surely such a classy, adult, impossibly stylish fun night out – featuring the best non-rap soundtrack of the summer – deserved to bring in more than $34m? The scene where Napoleon Solo quietly enjoys a makeshift snack and listens to Peppino Gagliardi on the radio while his partner gets chased and shot at in the background, was the loveliest touch in any action movie this year.
If the summer of 2015 will remembered for anything (other than for the seemingly limitless appeal of dinosaurs) it will be as the summer of women. Mad Max: Fury Road had been acclaimed as a feminist epic from the moment it was released, amid heated press-room discussions. More tellingly, look at the films at 15, 16 and 18: standard bawdy male-centric comedies with misogyny peppered through them and disappointment written all over their box office returns.
Then take a peek much higher in the charts at the films at 12, 11 and 5 (and 3, for that matter). A pattern emerges that makes Paul Feig’s decision to make an all-female Ghostbusters seem very sage indeed. Here come the girls…and here comes the countdown of the top films this summer at the US box office.
(Figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo)
20) Insidious Chapter 3
Horror fans were not well served this summer. The plundering of horror classics from the 1980s continued its merciless homogenising process with the Poltergeist remake which, true to form, nobody came to see. All that was left was Sinister 2 and this third Insidious movie, both of which are frankly interchangeable. Insidious Chapter 3 squeaked ahead with $52m. We need Wes Craven now more than ever, which is especially tragic in light of last week’s sad news.
19) Fantastic Four
Who’d have thought we’d ever pine for the days of Michael Chiklis in a plastic Thing outfit? The summer’s biggest disaster – a piffling $52m take and reviews that often read like death threats, this maddeningly boring and confused reboot made The Lone Ranger look like Avatar. At least the Roger Corman version was fun to watch.
The fall-out and the recriminations between Fox and director Josh Trank are still in full-swing: the behind the scenes revelations at least, made for the most delicious backstage copy since The Island of Dr. Moreau.
The big (genuinely hilarious) laughs in the three trailers and the presence of Chevy Chase made a lot of 40 year old children of the National Lampoon films giddy with expectation.
The realisation that all the comic high points had already been used up in the ads – an increasingly common phenomenon: Anchorman 2 anyone? – drained the audience of any goodwill towards the latest generation of the Griswald family. Best to wait a few months then watch Christmas Vacation on DVD. $54m.
17) Magic Mike XXL
It was great to see this indie crowd-pleaser batting away much more heavyweight competition – with a $14m budget, this sequel was the summer movie equivalent of a student video-blog.
That said, its eventual $65m gross was just over half what the original brought in. If Channing Tatum wants to make XXXL, he might want to rope Matthew McConaughey back into the team.
It was actually a pretty good idea, and there was an inside chance that this high-concept comedy from Harry Potter director (and Gremlins writer) Chris Columbus might be the Ghostbusters of 2015.
Such hopes were dashed the moment it was announced that Kevin James would be playing The President of The United States. Ah. It was that kind of a movie. The $71m take-home looks to be the final nail in the coffin of Adam Sandler’s A-list status. Game over indeed.
An $81m haul doesn’t seem too bad, until you remember that Ted The First grossed $218m three years ago. Alarm bells started ringing once the mirth-free trailer made its online debut.
Ted 2 opened with a collective ‘Meh’ and ran out of steam a few weeks later. In the grand tradition of poor sequels to unexpected smash hit comedies – think City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold and Sister Act 2: Back in The Habit – this is was a film made because somebody had to, not because anybody wanted to. Turns out, nobody wanted to see it either.
It seems that the illiteracy that informed the title infected the entire script. Kudos too to the (hopefully) soon-to-be fired imbecile at Paramount who thought it was a good idea to give away the huge plot twist in the trailer – geniyus.
After the success of Mad Max and Jurassic World, hopes were high for another thrilling return to the spirit of the 80s and 90s. As such, this nonsensical misfire might just be the biggest disappointment of the summer. All of Schwarzenegger’s cute publicity-generating shenanigans couldn’t drag this mess past $89. He’ll be back? Doubt it.
It was the little boy that couldn’t. What promised to be a childhood-defining, franchise creating classic – Clooney, Incredibles director Brad Bird, $190m budget – became the first box office casualty of the summer. Damned by faint praise would be the summation.
Some tedious moralising notwithstanding, there are moments of genuine brilliance in Tomorrowland (which took in $93m and a further $115m overseas) and I suspect that it will be age better than most blockbusters.
What is worrying, is that after John Carter, The Lone Ranger and now this, Disney will most likely give up on non-sequel, non-franchise original live action movies altogether.
I personally thought the poster for Trainwreck was funnier than any comedy released this summer. The film had me discovering loud, rather antisocial laughter that I hadn’t realised I was capable of. Most people seemed to agree with me and so once again Judd Apatow brought in the goods.
Amy Schumer’s arrival as an instant comic superstar was one of the summer’s most pleasing phenomena, and how nice to see veteran scene-stealer Bill Hader get his day in the sun as a romantic lead. As with all Apatow comedies, it was about twenty minutes too long – the Matthew Broderick scene for one wouldn’t be missed by anyone – but when a film is this funny, these are just gripes. Trainwreck took in $105m and deserved every cent.
Not only was this Melissa McCarthy comedy a great return to form after Tammy’s low-jinks last year, but it was shot through with the kind of warm good feeling that’s proved elusive since Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Bill Murray used to dominate the summer movie charts.
Jason Statham did his image no harm whatsoever, showing off deliberate comic instincts that most people had hitherto assumed were accidental. This is director Paul Feig’s third doozy in a row – after Bridesmaids and The Heat. On this evidence, the Ghostbusters franchise couldn’t be in safer hands. $110m.