Good sequels keep theaters fresh


Photo credit: Kaitlyn Curry

Even if summer’s not quite over, I’m of the belief that there’s a significance to summer movies and their general role. In these hot months, the movie theater becomes a haven of sorts not just from the sun and the aridity, but also from the summer blues that result either from a busy work schedule or nigh paralytic unproductivity. Summer movies can provide a special kind of spiritual respite from both, depending on how okay or how awful the actual films are.

Despite the efforts of “The Big Sick” and “Baby Driver” (the two best-rated movies in this category), the summer 2017 catalog of movies was generally panned. Perhaps this is due to the amount of poorly received children’s animation there was, such as “The Emoji Movie,” “Despicable Me 3,” “Cars 3,” “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature,” as well as the more anticipated movies beyond the summer of 2017. According to Rotten Tomatoes’ scorecard for summer movies in 2017, 32 out of 59 listed films received a “passing” freshness score. In other words, a little over half of that catalog was worth the sweaty drive to the local theater, if we were to subscribe to this freshness paradigm.

So how have people received the summer movies of 2018 that have been released? From my personal experience, I along with people around me have been satisfied with this summer’s catalog. Movies like “Sorry to Bother You,” “Eighth Grade,” “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” “Incredibles 2,” “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and several other highly anticipated action and comedy films already cement this summer as probably pretty dang good.

This is just my experience though — what does Rotten Tomatoes’ summer movies 2018 scorecard say about this catalog? At the time of my writing this, 56 movies have received freshness ratings from critics and fans all across the United States, and 35 out of the 56 passed.

So, now we have confirmation that this summer has been a better time for movies by a seemingly insignificant margin — a margin that, upon further thought, doesn’t actually indicate anything until I consider how movie ratings work as a whole.

Aside from the fact that the quality discrepancy between two “fresh” movies of scores 60 and 100 could be significant, Rotten Tomatoes’s statistics suggest that, in terms of the overall impressions of movies, this summer season has done a little better than the previous summers, especially since 2016’s summer scorecard rates 35 fresh movies out of 63, a ratio that likewise just hovers over half. But why does 2018’s slight deviation feel like it indicates a much more significant year for movies?

One reason could be the value of franchise movies and how well summer 2018 did theirs as opposed to 2017’s “Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2” and the three panned children’s movies listed earlier. Think of how much hype early promos for “Incredibles 2” garnered before its release this summer, and then consider “The Nut Job,” which I vaguely understand to be like “Over the Hedge” but bad. Or think of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” and how thrilled fans were to sing along to ABBA once more. Or even back in the children animated movies camp, “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” did fairly well, despite not many people expecting anything from it.

This is not to say new and original works like “Disobedience” or “Leave No Trace” —the top-rated movie this summer — haven’t done well, but maybe the reason there were so many exciting franchise movies is because the familiarity of them is so appealing to moviegoers. And this familiarity complements the aforementioned things that make summer movies special.

At the end of the day, I can’t be too sure on my own. And I think that’s the correct answer, at least for now. This is a question best answered through open discussion between peers, and I hope the summer’s given us enough time to mull it over before the fall season begins.