The $ummer of $uck – J.W. Ward on 2011’s best & worst summer blockbusters…so far.

Summer – has it been good for you so far?
I have to be honest – I don’t think I’ve been getting my money’s worth.

We’ve reached the halfway point in the 2011 summer blockbuster season, making it a good time to take a look back at the big movies that have come out so far and pass judgment. Box office numbers come from our good friends at BoxOfficeMojo.com; analysis courtesy of yours truly.


Thor
Budget: $150 million
Released: May 6th
Worldwide gross so far: $440 million

Marvel Studio’s take on Norse mythology kicked off the summer blockbuster season with the same cartoonish mix of humour, hot actors and super-heroics that helped make Iron Man and its sequel a success. Building on the same shared film universe as Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk makes for easy geek digestion, but wasn’t a huge success despite Chris Hemsworth’s impressive physical presence as the titular hero.

Bridesmaids
Budget: $32.5 million
Released: May 13th
Worldwide gross so far: $189 million

This Judd Apatow-produced chick flick became a surprise hit at the North American box office, combining Apatow’s trademark of lowbrow humour with a stock story about one woman falling apart as her best friend gets married. Feeling like a female-centric version of Old School, perhaps the greatest lesson of the story can be learned from this simple fact: in a movie where a group of women prepare for one of their number to get married, no one cares who the groom is or what he has to say about the day.

If you watch it again, you’ll see what I mean.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Budget: $250 million
Released: May 20th
Worldwide gross so far: $1 billion

Milking a fourth film out of a franchise is virtually unheard of, but you can’t blame Buena Vista Studios for going back to this cash cow. Sticking with the cast that works from the first three films (Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush), tossing out the rest (Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly) and opting for a stand-alone story paid off, but thanks only to the foreign market. Domestically, audiences saw the film, realized they’d been there, done that and didn’t want to come back like they did for the first three films in the series.

The Hangover Part 2
Budget: $80 million
Released: May 26th
Worldwide gross so far: $549 million

According to many, watching The Hangover Part 2 was like experiencing déjà vu – an overwhelming feeling like you’ve been through this before. Many moviegoers walked away dissatisfied with the product, but they were initially curious enough to pay the ticket price in great enough numbers to make the powers-that-be start to think about a part 3.

X-Men: First Class
Budget: $160 million
Released: June 3rd
Worldwide gross so far: $335 million

Balancing a decent story with mostly good actors and some pleasant callbacks to the earlier X-Men films, First Class revitalized what many felt had become a fluff franchise. Most disappointing part of the experience? January Jones’ flat, unimpressive take on the lingerie-clad White Queen, Emma Frost.

I’m talking about her acting, by the way.

Super 8
Budget: $50 million
Released: June 10th
Worldwide gross so far: $156 million

Expected to make a big bang at the box office by combining the cinematic powers of director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, Super 8 came and went with more of a whimper. It’s still on my gotta-see list, and looking at the worldwide gross so far, it seems a lot of folks are of a similar mind.

Green Lantern
Budget: $200 million
Released: June 17th
Worldwide gross so far: $137 million

Arguably the greatest disappointment of the summer of 2011 so far, many fans had high hopes for Ryan Reynolds’ take on the famous ring slinger from DC Comics. Bad acting, a script-by-committee and the weird look of Reynolds’ entirely CGI’ed uniform turned audiences and critics off, and the word spread like wildfire. And there was so much potential…

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Budget: $195 million
Released: June 29th
Worldwide gross so far: $454 million

Director Michael Bay’s latest rock ‘em, sock ‘em robot fightfest is so full of plot holes, bad jokes, poor dialogue and paper-thin characters that a motivated critic could write a doctoral thesis on why Bay should have his camera taken away. Theatre goers and studio execs would disagree however, as Bay’s winning formula of “‘bots, boobs and bombs” keeps pulling in cash by the truckload. It doesn’t make sense, I know, but don’t think about it too much or you’ll end up like this guy:

Faint though it is, there remains hope that things could turn around. Still coming down the pipe are Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night on August 19th, Rise of the Planet of the Apes on August 5th, Cowboys and Aliens on July 29th, Captain American: The First Avenger on July 22nd and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on July 15th.

Lots to look forward to, but will any of it be good?

We’ll have to see.

What are your picks for the best and worst flicks of the 2011 blockbuster season so far?

JW Ward is a Toronto-based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonwardDOTca, through his website at www.jasonward.ca and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop!

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