Summer is a unique beast, playing with a deliberately mysterious tone that shifts from a grounded coming-of-age story to something eerie and even potentially supernatural. Focusing on four friends who are about to go to college – and who are acutely aware that it could spell the end of their deep childhood bonds – Summer takes them on a journey that tackles the dangers of growing up while finding time to introduce terrified mothers and a corpse into their last days of summer.
Co-written by comic book veteran Benjamin Percy, the film has a very personal side that forms the heart of the story. During an interview with CBR before summer premiering theatrically on August 12, Percy discussed the original intent behind the coming-of-age story. He dove into how he and director/co-writer James Ponsoldt have used the legacy of the genre to explore something new from a female perspective and the driving issues behind his runs on Wolverine and X Force in the Krakoa era.
CBR: It’s pretty much the same tone as coming-of-age stories like support me. What do you think it is about this kind of story that audiences find so captivating, and how did you try to do the script for Summer reflect this while feeling unique in itself?
Benjamin Percy: Talk about support me or other coming-of-age tales – here I am, a dopey father with a daughter who is exactly the same age as the characters in this film. I have shared with her over the years all these stories that I grew up with. I was super excited to read it, for example, The Hobbit, and she loved it. She also turned to me at the end and said, “There are no girls in there. Zero.” I have reviewed the book, and there is only a feminine pronoun throughout the novel. I showed him support me and The foreigners and Where does the red fern grow and The Goonies. We’re sharing all these movies and novels together, and she’s starting to get a little nervous as she recognizes that these boys’ stories are supposed to be universal.
One day she came home from school, and usually she comes downstairs and grabs me at my desk and says, “Let’s go have a snack,” and we decompress. She tells me about her day. She didn’t come down that day. So I went upstairs looking for her, and I found her at the family computer, and she was writing furiously. I asked her what she was doing, and she gestured at the screen. The title of the story was The Hobbit Girl.
The first line – I butcher her, but she goes something like “This story may sound familiar to you, but it’s about a Hobbit girl.” Then he went from there. So it was in that same spirit of revisionism that James and I started talking with the idea of Summer. We wanted to write something that was a coming-of-age tale for our daughters and in doing so, somehow channeled the legacy of coming-of-age movies while trying to reinvent the spirit of them. .
Much of the film is about approaching adolescence, the act of growing up. What was it like juggling not only the universal approach to this and your daughter’s modern views, but also your own personal experiences?
We’ve all seen a child play with a superhero figurine, pony, or doll, and they talk through it. They play a role in it. We’ve all seen children building fairy houses in the woods or pretending to be characters in movies or comic books. They do this because children imaginatively prepare for life, don’t they? They are taught to engage these imaginations through the stories they encounter. So I wonder if my daughter is faced with all these stories — let’s say it’s a crime story, or it’s a horror story where women are victimized, or she picks up adventure stories where women are absent. She saw a broken mirror version of the world, [a] disturbing version of the world. I didn’t like that.
I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to revise this notion. So one of the things we did was let the public know right away what the rules of this project were. If you watch the opening scene [of the film], you have these girls squatting in the shower, and they’re scared. They breathe little. Their eyes flutter. Something, someone approaches, and a shadow looms over the curtain – and it’s a friend of theirs, wearing her mom’s goofy sleep mask and a ridiculous pink bathrobe, and she’s got a DustBuster.
This scene is obviously reminiscent of something like psychology. We’re trying to say to the audience, “You think you know what kind of movie this is, and then we’re going to pull the rug out from under you.” The girls then bounded out of the bathroom and down the hall and out into the yard and into the sunny space. Throughout the movie, there are these different moments where we kind of tip our hats to other stories. While trying to make this story his own, there are moments that channel Bridge to Terabithia. There are moments that channel Halloween. There are moments that channel support me.
This story channels everything that came before it while trying to say it wasn’t quite enough for us. It wasn’t quite enough for our daughters… We wanted to try to write a story that spoke to children and also spoke to adults — that there was a kind of multi-generational fluidity, but that there was also kind of a feminist lens so that the only dude that appears in this whole movie is basically dead.
I also think it’s worth talking about how the film not only addresses the girls at the heart of the film, but also their mothers – it’s the kind of pacing that other stories like this generally do not address.
It’s sort of the stages of life that you witness. Here are these girls, but here is the older sister, the teenager, and then there are the parents. These girls wait with trepidation because the teenager is laughing at them, and here are the mothers who try to put limits around them and keep them safe, but also look back on this time with a kind of nostalgia and forget that they were so close to anyone, [that] they had those kind of friends.
They all talk to each other in different ways, in conflict and harmony. We wanted it to be a story that was as much about moms as it was about daughters, even if moms only get a fraction of the screen time…especially since the main cast is stepping off the asphalt. As they head into the woods, as they sort of cross Terabithia, the magic almost takes over. We’re kind of like the fantasy lens of what an 11-year-old might see. So there are different things in the story that push the boundaries of reality.
I also have to ask some x-men questions, otherwise I will explode. You’ve had a solid few years in this corner of the universe with titles like X Force and Wolverine. You spent a lot of time with Logan as a character. What do you think surprised you the most about him while you were writing it?
I’ve been writing Logan, whether for the podcast or the comics, for, I think, five years now. As some kind of stocky, hairy, grumpy, smelly guy who lives in the frozen north, in a way, I feel like I’m writing a thinly veiled autobiography. I feel a lot of connection with Logan. This character has always been my favorite. So it’s a total privilege to be his guardian right now. Of course, I don’t want to just walk on familiar ground. I don’t want to do karaoke. I want to try to put a unique stamp on the franchise. In doing so, I ask a few different questions. One is with Krakoa, a place he can finally call home with his family – his adoptive family as well as his biological family – does he actually have a chance at happiness?
Wolverine is a character defined by pain. So I thought that was an interesting emotional algorithm to get it across. At the end of my run, this question will be answered, but I also wanted to do something – and you see this from the very first page of my run – I wanted to do something that addresses its long and complicated history. It’s about Canada, Madripoor, New York, Krakoa, Japan, his time in the lab with Weapon X, his time teaching at Xavier’s School… How do I approach all of this?
In this I came with this time shredding mission, X lives of Wolverine and X Wolverine Deathswho took you on this mind-blowing tour of the character’s history while weaving your way into that nightmarish impossible future… The entire future of the X-Men is in jeopardy because of some of the things we’ve seen on the horizon.
Honestly, I love the depth and variety that recent leadership has given to this corner of the Marvel Universe, and having an X-Force in the CIA is part of that.
Yeah, mutants have long been targeted, marginalized, victimized community. They were a stand-in for “the other”. I think what distinguishes this era from x-men is that it reflects the cultural moment. If you watch movements, like Black Lives Matter [and] Me too, you have people who stand up and say enough is enough.
That’s the case with mutants right now — they’re rising. They stood up and said to the world, “Enough is enough. It’s a book about nation building, and groups like X-Force are the equivalent of the mutant CIA. So, you know, this is the book that, from the start, I said would be the poisoned book.
Summering makes its theatrical debut on August 12.