2014 Film: That Was The Year That Was…
Van Connor takes a look back at 2014 in film… and ultimately ahead to what he hopes will be a cracking year of cinema in 2015.
Kicking off the year with the return of both the Paranormal Activity and Jack Ryan franchises; 2014 quickly became a year of contrast in film. With an Oscar ceremony that was split between the cutting edge (represented by Gravity) and the more traditional (predominantly 12 Years A Slave, to a lesser extent The Dallas Buyers Club); it was fitting that the Oscars landed alongside the release of The Lego Movie – a film which, as with July’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, would come to perfectly encapsulate the contemporary four-quadrant tentpole picture.
As the summer movie season began with Captain America: The Winter Soldier (in March!), the notion of the more intelligent blockbuster quickly began to overtake the norm. Cap, Guardians and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes may have made less money than the likes of the godawful Transformers: Age Of Extinction (god bless the Chinese box office, eh, Paramount?); but critics and audiences alike lined up to drown them in praise. Sure, Transcendence and Interstellar may have let down the cause on a critical level; but nevertheless, 2014 was the year in which intelligent mainstream cinema began to assert itself as a force to be reckoned with.
Even cheaper exploitation fare got a more thoughtful go around in 2014; with the likes of Cheap Thrills and The Guest each proving to be very engaging and well-crafted grindhouse fodder for a more intellectually savvy crowd. Factor in February’s satirically wonderful Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a midsummer stop-off for the metacentric 22 Jump Street and a brilliant crescendo in warless war-movie The Imitation Game; and it was undeniably the year in which intellect trumped slapped-together popcorn fare once and for all. The big question quickly became whether or not this was the beginning of a new standard of mainstream cinema, or if it was merely a blip on the way to the biggest year in cinema history.
With a year ahead of us in which so much on offer is of the franchise variety, common logic would dictate that it’s back to business as usual; however when you look at the literally dozens of franchises returning to the big screen, intellect may be the only thing to help them stand out from the pack. We’ve all seen Jurassic Park sequels for example; but we’ve yet to see one that could explore the corrupt and capitalist exploitation of its inhabitants that Jurassic World can potentially offer come June.
Outside of the raptors and Chris Pratt meanwhile, Marvel continue their (mostly) unchallenged domination of the comic book movie genre with The Avengers: Age Of Ultron in April; a sequel which promises to go “full Whedon” and has all the makings of the next Dark Knight as regards dark and intense superhero sequels. With Ant-Man closing out July and looking like anything but the calamity its troubled production threatened, things continue to look rosy for the House Of M.
For the few members of the younger generation not into the comic book craze however, 2015 has its share of animated offerings to choose from. With Despicable Me’s Minions getting their own titular spin-off, a Shaun The Sheep movie, a 3D Spongebob Squarepants sequel, video game adventure Pixels, Hotel Transylvania 2 and Pixar’s Inside Out to choose from; the year looks equally bright for the child-friendly animated movie as well.
It’s a year with something for every one. The birth of the “year-round blockbuster”; in which the biggest movies aren’t simply saved for the summer months, and Oscar fodder isn’t relegated to the days of grim weather. Like Dwayne Johnson, the avid moviegoer is going to be kept pretty busy in 2015; but luckily we’re here to cover it all for you.