MUELLER: The (summer movie) season of my discontent

No matter how many times I sleep through my morning classes (and maybe some of the afternoon ones, too), there’s no ignoring the fact that we’re officially a week into the new school year. Labor Day has passed, football season is about to kick off, life has become more hectic and the weather has … well, we’re still waiting on the weather to cool off a bit.

Yep, summer has ended. And I couldn’t be happier. I’m like Leonardo DiCaprio in the beginning of “Titanic,” ecstatically waving and yelling goodbye as I set sail for fall (hopefully without the tragic irony).

Confused analogies aside, the summer of 2012 was almost a complete sham, mainly because it might be one of the weaker movie seasons we’ve had. While the oppressive heat in Milwaukee was a large contributor to my anger, the films were where my disappointment really lay.

True, we started off with a bang in “The Avengers,” one of the better action movies to come out in a while. It was light and not without its imperfections, but it was also wildly entertaining, cleverly written and improbably came through on the years of hype leading up to it.

“The Avengers” should have been the first grand, colorful explosion at the start of an exciting firework show. Instead, it was a big bang followed by a few dim sparklers.

One could easily blame the vampire craze, which led to not one but two bloodless features – “Dark Shadows” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Neither film could figure out whether they wanted to be ridiculous campy fun or serious entertainment, and as a result failed at both. This was especially the case with “Lincoln,” which seemed to miss the punch line of its own joke.

High expectations might also be the culprit for my disappointment. “Prometheus,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and even “The Expendables 2” came into the summer riding lots of buzz and excitement. Unfortunately, they were all met with mild enthusiasm at best.

“Prometheus” was entertaining and interesting but startlingly sloppy with some storytelling basics (I’m being generous as well; I know several people who think Ridley Scott’s film is the cause of Nazism and most cancers). “Expendables 2” was fun, but still not as wildly entertaining as it should have been considering its cast (Schwarzengger, Willis, Statham, Van Damme – pretty much anyone who ever punched something on screen). The less I say about “The Dark Knight Rises,” the better. Let’s just say that I wish Batman had some anti-plot hole spray on his tool belt.

When it comes down to it, though, the problem with this summer is the problem with Hollywood as a whole: Where’s the imagination? Bad or disappointing movies are nothing new for the film industry, but this summer, there seemed to be an increase in movies that were just, well, useless. Movies that existed only to exist and to make money.

“The Bourne Legacy” played like deleted scenes from the previous films, albeit directed by someone in a coma. The “Total Recall” remake didn’t feature a single element that wasn’t derivative of another movie, eliciting words like “soul-sucking” and “an insidious kind of horrible” from critics.

For me, the most shamefully useless movie of the summer was “The Amazing Spider-Man.” It was already dubious to reboot the franchise barely ten years after the first film, and the movie didn’t convince me otherwise. A decade after “Spider-Man,” Sony offered up audiences a nearly identical movie. The lone unique idea – Peter Parker’s true origins – was seemingly removed from the film, under the promise of (get this) using it in the sequels. It’s almost as though the studio is actively avoiding progress and innovation.

I know summer is usually the time for brainless action movies and light fare, but there’s no reason for Hollywood to continually play down to exceedingly diminished expectations, especially as ticket prices continue to rise. There were a few gems mixed in with the trash – “Moonrise Kingdom,” for instance – but the stench of withering Hollywood imaginations overwhelms my memory of the past four months. I’m not saying everything the mainstream film industry makes has to be great or revolutionary. It’d just be nice to know that they’re at least trying.

So I say let’s wipe the slate clean and bring on the fall. It’s got a lot of making up to do.

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