12 Lessons We Learned From 2014’s Summer Movies

1. Marvel cannot be stopped.

Marvel Studios came into the summer from a position of strength, having scored the year’s first big smash with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. (Globally, the star-spangled sequel grossed $350 million more than the first Captain America.) All of Marvel’s Phase 2 sequels have outgrossed their immediate sub-franchise predecessors: proof of the Avengers halo effect. But what would happen when Marvel stretched outside of its Avengers wheelhouse? Could they launch a new franchise with zero name recognition—especially when that franchise looks nothing at all like their other movies, or hell, any other movie on the market right now?

And so Guardians of the Galaxy stormed into theaters. It made all the money. It earned raves from critics—and Iron Man! In a year or so, we might retroactively decide that Guardians also hit the market at a moment when moviegoers suddenly learned to love space movies again—one year after Gravity, we’re cusping on Interstellar and a new era of annual Star Wars movies. But for right now, the only thing that’s really certain is that Marvel turned one of their fringiest fringe franchises into a megahit.

2. Michael Bay also cannot be stopped.

Good news for humanity: Trans4mers grossed significantly less domestically than Trans3mers. Bad news for everyone: Age of Extinction is the year’s only hit to top $1 billion worldwide. Bay took a victory lap in August by producing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a canny Nolanization of a nostalgia-bait franchise that joined Guardians in lifting up the end-of-summer doldrums. You could argue that Bay’s success is just an example of savvy franchise profiteering—he’s not making any movies about weird raccoons—but 2014 reconfirmed his status as the demon god of teenage boys everywhere.

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Fun Fact #13: Being deferred from a college means that your admissions officer has deemed you a worthy candidate to mentor for the upcoming Acceptance Hunger Games. Be prepared to duke it out against fellow students armed with nothing more than your wit and a pencil sharpener. Good luck, and may the stats, extracurriculars, and legacy statuses be ever in your favor