The summer movie blockbuster with half a brain, or the one that suggests its audience actually has one, is often revered like the one-eyed man in the valley of the blind. Especially by critics. The latest Star Trek reboot is a good example of this, as a film that doesn't do much of anything new – in fact it cops a good portion of its plot from the first two original Star Wars movies – but one that supplied audiences with the standard summer-movie thrills minus the usual deadening thud of stupidity we critics would look bad championing.
I personally have never required "that film," and generally just look at summer as my least favorite time at the movies, as part of an increasingly small minority who don't get overly excited about the meal-sized serving of superhero sequels trotted out by the studios week after week for a three month period. Generally speaking, the special-effects-heavy popcorn movies don't give me the charge they do so many people. There are of course exceptions. Some films just sweep me up due to their creator's meticulous attention to detail and their grand scope, a la The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And others manage to straddle the line separating escapist and intelligent entertainment in ways that win me over.
But for every surprise, like Tony Scott's Vertigo riff Deja Vu and the Wachowski brothers' spirited Speed Racer adaptation, there are the countless productions that serve as mere fuel for the action junkie, bereft of both style and substance, and when those two things are lacking, it's hard for me to care. In terms of mere distraction, it's both cheaper and less time consuming to flip on my Macbook's colorful and assaultive screensaver for a few minutes, until I have energy enough to do something more productive.
You can call me pretentious, but I think in order for me to fit that description I would have to be more dismissive towards others' enjoyment of this fare. Star Trek and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra may not be tailor-made to my specific interests, but I don't necessarily consider either to be a bad film. And I certainly wouldn't suggest I'm some how superior to the numerous action fans out there who do get a rush from these movies. That would be pretentious. There has to be something far more trying than mere derivation or unimaginative escapism in a film for me to really get out the red pen. And that's where District 9 comes into the conversation.