The summer box office might as well have been titled Inception. That's how hard it was to figure out. Ticket prices were sky high, but ticket sales were slightly off. Tom Cruise bombed, and then he didn't. And so on and so odd.
It's time to try to sort things out:
The Big Hits
3. Movies Not Based on Anything. Leonardo DiCaprio's Inception, Steve Carell's Despicable Me, Adam Sandler's Grown Ups and Angelina Jolies Salt helped broaden the definition of the summer blockbuster beyond sequels, adaptations and remakes.
4. Sylvester Stallone. So, it turned out The A-Team was a hit, after all. The twist was it was called The Expendables.
5. The Kids Are All Right. This low-key indie comedy-drama grossed nearly five times its $4 million budget, and reminded it's never too early (or hot) for Oscar buzz.
The Big Misses
1. 3-D. For every Toy Story 3, there was Cats & Dogs. And Step Up 3-D. And Piranha 3D. And even the Avatar rerelease. In the end, only four of the summer's Top 10 grossers made audiences duck.
2. The Sorcerer's Apprentice. You can talk about how Jennifer Aniston's The Switch or Katherine Heigl's Killers or Zac Efron's Charlie St. Cloud didn't have it—and they didn't—but this Nicolas Cage film had it much, much worse. Reportedly eyed as the opening adventure in an all-new Pirates of the Caribbean-style franchise, the behemoth has struggled to clear its $150 million production budget worldwide. (Maybe we bury too soon? See No. 4 below.)
3. Critics Who Did Everything Shy of Barricading Theater Doors to The Last Airbender. They tried. They failed. The film made $252 million worldwide. Director M. Night Shyamalan has scripts for two more installments ready to go.
4. Declaring a Movie a Bust Before Waiting to See if It Became a Hit. Cruise's $117 million Knight and Day "flop[ped]" on the way to grossing $222 million worldwide. Jake Gyllenhaal's $200 million Prince of Persia "disappoint[ed]" on the way to grossing $330 million worldwide. The $100 million Sex and the City 2 "[didn't] sell" on the way to grossing $290 million worldwide. We learned this lesson all the way back with Iron Man 2, which did just fine huge not becoming The Dark Knight.
5. Comic-Con "Hits." Scott Pilgrim, Fanboys could've told you San Diego is not the world.