Summer 2011 is winding down, at least as far as the movies are concerned. In times like these, it's fun to look back not only on the summer that was, but also the summer that was supposed to be - i.e. the way film bloggers, culture watchers and other pundits expected things to play out back when the whole slate was still theoretical.
Old Logic: The "nerd boom" is over. It was cute for a while, but mainstream audiences don't actually care about mind-bending sci fi/fantasy premises, costumed superheroes and other assorted weirdness. Iron Man was a fluke, The Dark Knight only works because 90% of the high-concept stuff is drained out of it, and with most of Summer 2011's genre offerings lacking big stars or well-known properties, audiences will finally tire of relentless unreality. One sufficiently huge bomb and the whole trend will be done with.
New Logic: Apparently not. Features built around relative comic book obscurities like Thor, Captain America and a fourth tier roster of X-Men all made money, and just last weekend a movie about an armed uprising of intelligent apes opened to a $50 million take and Oscar buzz for its motion-captured chimpanzee lead. There was a pretty huge bomb, too, in the form of Green Lantern, but it didn't seem to hurt anyone but itself.
Old Logic: Johnny Depp is such a good actor with such an impressive career pedigree that no amount of "paycheck parts" in embarrassingly awful big studio productions can tarnish that sterling reputation.
New Logic: Yes, they can.
Old Logic: Ryan Reynolds is the next major male superstar. Women think he's gorgeous, men think he's cool, everyone agrees he's funny. He seems to have a lot of range and is supposedly a pretty decent guy to boot. The sky's the limit.
New Logic: Everyone still seems to like Ryan Reynolds, and so long as he stays in shape he certainly won't be hurting for magazine cover presence. But as a box office draw? Not so much. The two big success stories of the summer were superheroes and R-rated comedies, and he had a headlining role in one of each (Green Lantern and The Change-Up, respectively) ... both of which failed. Spectacularly. Now, to be sure, people have come back from worse - George Clooney became an A-list star (and Oscar winner) after surviving Batman & Robin - but Reynolds' "brand" has taken a major beating.
Old Logic: 3D and Michael Bay are both blights on the movie business, so putting them together is the end of all things.
New Logic: The bloom definitely seems to be off the 3D rose, but - heaven help us - Transformers: Dark of The Moon offers some alarmingly conclusive proof that using the technology actually improved Michael Bay's technique. Granted, it may be as simple as the added (literal) baggage of a 3D rig being the equivalent of strapping a giant cinder block to the camera forcing Bay to dial back his worst excesses - and it certainly didn't help his screenwriters any - but an improvement is an improvement.
Old Logic: "Nerdstalgia" - AKA films grounded in referencing or recreating films, properties and styles especially beloved by 70s/80s-spawned movie geeks - is done for. Tron: Legacy was a hit, but not the mega-smash Disney expected, and Scott Pilgrim took a box office beating. Revisiting Indiana Jones maybe wasn't the best idea, either. The folks who run high-traffic "movie geek" news sites tend to be thirty-something cinephiles with a soft spot for memories of their own pre-adolescence, and their dominance of the online film news cycle "fooled" studios into thinking there was more money in this sort of thing than there ultimately was.