'Elysium' Wins, But Where's This Summer's Critically- and Commercially-Acclaimed Blockbuster?

There's not a whole lot of summer left, and critics and audiences still can't seem to agree on a movie. This week, critics enjoyed Elysium while audiences — despite giving it the box office win with $30.5 million — just thought it was okay, while audiences loved previews of Planes, despite critics hating it. And, with Elysium needing good word-of-mouth in order to recoup its $115 million price tag, we're left wondering: Where is our critically- and commercially-acclaimed summer blockbuster?

The past few summers, we've had blockbuster movies that brought explosions and action along with interesting plot and witty dialogue. In 2012, it was The Dark Knight Rises (arguably) and The Avengers, and in 2011 it was X-Men: First Class and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2While not all of these movies were the most successful for critics and audiences, they were movies that both generally agreed on.

But this summer, audiences and critics are at odds. The well-made, critically-acclaimed movies of the summer hardly had mass appeal: they were out-there sci-fi movies, heartbreaking dramas, or female-driven comedies (sad, but true). The movies you'd expect to be hits with everyone, like Man of Steel or World War Z, were massive hits, but failed to really make the grade when it came to critics — the Superman reboot only scored 56 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, while World War Z could only score 67 percent (a disappointment, considering its strong cast and buzz). 

Inevitably, someone will bring up that this failure to achieve consensus is just a symptom of out-of-touch, film buff elitism from critics. While that may be true of a few critics, any reviewer worth his or her salt will know that a good movie is a good movie, despite its mass appeal. And audience tastes haven't changed — there's still a hunger for big action, big laughs, and the ultimate escapism during the summer. The truth is, critics' and audiences' tastes have always operated as a sort of Venn diagram, and this summer, movies just fell short of the middle (not to mention that a lot of people weren't going to the movies this summer anyways). Summer audiences will always need over-the-top, and critics will always need quality. But this summer, Hollywood just couldn't reconcile the two.

Image: TriStar Pictures

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