Spider-Man: Homecoming

Fan Favorite Performances From Blockbuster Season

There’s no better time to be a movie fan. This year there were plenty of fantastic films released during the summer, which means a number of notable acting performances that will have us talking throughout this awards season.

In case you missed them, this is your call to catch up on recent stand-out blockbuster performances:

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman”

These days there’s no shortage of movies based on our favorite comic book heroes. In fact, it’s now normal to have several superhero movies release during the summer. But if there’s one actress who many thought didn’t have what it takes to become the next DC Comics superstar, it’s Gal Gadot. Of course, the Israeli actress and model proved everyone wrong by impressing with her performance as one of the most iconic female superheroes we know.

While Chris Pine’s performance as Steve Trevor was praised, Gadot proved she was the perfect fit as Wonder Woman by making the heroine feel strong yet genuine and compassionate.

Fionn Whitehead & Harry Styles in “Dunkirk”

If there’s one thing the industry can agree on, it’s that Christopher Nolan knows how to make good movies. His latest, a World War II epic about the British military’s celebrated evacuation, already has more than $166 million in box office and nothing but positive reviews. One of the most remarkable things about “Dunkirk” is that it was the film acting debut for two of the main characters.

Although it was their first major acting gig, both Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles impressed with their roles as young Allied soldiers. Like many celebrities who reached stardom in another industry, there were low expectations for Styles. Instead, most reviewers praised his convincing performance.

Andy Serkis in “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Ever since his critically acclaimed role as Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, Andy Serkis has become the top motion-capture actor on the planet. Working on big films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Serkis’ movies have grossed more than $8 billion dollars worldwide. Did we mention you’ll also see his work in the upcoming “Black Panther” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi?”

Reprising his role as Caesar, Serkis once again blew audiences away with his performance as the leader of the apes.

Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

This summer was not good for fans of R-rated comedy. From “Trainwreck” and “Snatched” to “The House” and “Baywatch,” several movies that promised to keep us laughing during the hottest months of the year ended up underwhelming. Only “Girls Trip” delivered thanks to its many comical situations and well-chosen cast.

Despite working alongside renowned co-stars like Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish managed to steal the show and keep viewers laughing throughout the film. Her role in the film is considered Haddish’s breakout role and one of the reasons the R-rated comedy has earned more than $100 million

Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

There will always be skeptics when a new actor takes the role of a beloved superhero. Considering that the last film, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” underperformed at the box office and received mixed reviews, there was even more pressure on Tom Holland to bring Peter Parker to life in yet another attempt at a Spider-Man film reboot.

Tom Holland received acclaim for his performance as the Webslinger in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which is considered by many to be the best film in the franchise to date. Holland’s good looks and acting abilities also helped him win “Choice Summer Movie Actor” and get nominated for Choice Breakout Movie Star at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards.

Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick”

It just wouldn’t be summer without a few romantic comedies thrown into the mix. On paper, “The Big Sick” sounds like the many other movies in this genre that you’ve already seen. There’s the nice guy falling in love with a girl he thinks is too good for her but goes for it anyway, resulting in a rollercoaster of emotions.

But what makes this movie unique, hilarious, and worth watching even if you hate romantic comedies is Kumail Nanjiani’s performance. His excellent chemistry with co-star Zoe Kazan and knack for melding humor with heartwarming moments is one of the reasons “The Big Sick” is seen as a revitalization of the genre.

The Rise of Superhero Films

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“Wonder Woman.” “Iron Man.” “The Avengers.” “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The past decade or so has seen an influx of superhero films based on comic books — major big-studio movies starring the highest-paid actors in the world (think Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey, Jr.) and outperforming any other movies released. This week, the world will enjoy a new addition to the superhero film repertoire: “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” featuring the work of NYFA alumnus Francesco Panzieri on special effects!

While 1990s blockbusters like “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” and “Braveheart” were standalone epics based on books or historical events, today’s highest-grossing films are primarily superhero movies, based on a combination of factors such as escapism, cutting-edge special effects, and an older, wealthier population of comic-book fans.

The most significant, and grim, factor behind the rise of superhero movies has been the economic crash of 2008. There were popular superhero movies prior to this, such as “Spider-man” and Christopher Nolan’s excellent “Batman” series reboot, but following the economic downturn — in which many people lost their jobs and homes — superhero movies went into orbit.

People suddenly wanted escapism into a different world where the hero always triumphed and where distinctions between good and bad were easy to tell. Blockbuster epics with tragic endings like “Braveheart,” and “Gladiator” fell out of fashion, as no one wanted to compound the grim economic situation with an equally depressing movie. Comic-book superhero movies, in which the hero triumphs over evil, became more appealing to the general public. (While our economic downturn is not as severe as the Great Depression, it’s notable that the popularity of comic books in the 1930s mirrors the popularity of superhero movies today.)

With the rise of computers, special effects have become more realistic and believable — something that previously limited superhero movies. Compare the stiff, lumbering shark of “Jaws” — a movie that had exceptional special effects for its day — to the beautifully computer-generated creatures and atmospheres of today’s superhero movies.

Special effects designers have a wider range of options to work with, as well as better software and technologies, than they did 20 years ago. Need Captain America to soar to the heavens? Stand the actor in front of the green screen and virtually create the sky behind him. Need Ant-Man to fly through Iron Man’s suit and sabotage it? That can be achieved realistically as well.

Whereas “Titanic” required a replica ship, today’s computer generated imaging can produce entirely believable superhero action scenes through the digital manipulation of pixels.

The third factor in the popularity of comic-book superhero movies is the older age of the audience. Today’s superhero movies — even if they’re rated PG-13 — are primarily made for adults who grew up on comic books and now have a disposable income. These adults are mostly Generation X-ers and Millennials who read comic books as children during the 1970s-1990s and now have the money to see films and buy paraphernalia. While kids can beg Mom and Dad to buy movie tickets and Mom might possibly agree, adults can always purchase tickets and attend films — creating a great source of potential viewers who have fond childhood recollections of their comic book superheroes and villains.

What are your favorite superhero films? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about creating incredible films, study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.