A decade is a deceptively long amount of time, I mean for the vast majority of us students at this fine establishment the ‘noughties’ constituted half of our fledgling lives. Cast your mind back to the dawn of this new millennium; Pierce Brosnan was still James Bond, hobbits and Harry Potter were little more than words on a page, Batman’s nipple-suit had left the superhero movie dead and buried and we still paid full price for cinema tickets on a Wednesday.
Ten long years later and cinema has a very different face. Avatar will have either just reinvented cinema and set the tone for this new decade (the ‘tennies’?) or shown itself up as simply Dances With Smurfs. So Cameron’s latest aside (at the time of going to print Avatar is as yet unreleased), what defined the last cinematic decade? I decided to conduct a highly scientific poll to gauge Nottingham students’ thoughts on the matter, so with those staggering 29 responses in the bag and my highly biased personal opinions on tap, here we go…
The superhero movie exploded back onto the scene with X-Men reinvigorating our interest in comic book films in 2000, not long after Spiderman’s record-breaking arrival cemented their place at the forefront of popular culture for the first time since Burton’s Batman or Donner’s Superman. Edging out the likes of Wolverine, Iron Man and Peter Parker our overwhelming favourite from the period was Christopher Nolan’s reinvented Batman, The Dark Knight having already developed almost iconic status is perhaps the new watermark for the genre. Each summer is dominated by superhero blockbusters and their sequels in a trend that shows few signs of letting up; more Spiderman, Thor, Venom, The Green Lantern, Deadpool, Captain America and The Green Hornet are all on the horizon.
Nolan’s Batman flicks also provide a great example of the decade’s lust for the darker and the tougher. Describing a sequel as ‘darker’ than its predecessor has proved an effective way of upping the stakes, Daniel Radcliffe’s interviews often lead me to believe I may struggle to even see the newest Potter. But it’s not just sequels, franchises are being rebooted to conform to this belief. It’s proved highly successful for Bond, Star Trek and the aforementioned superheroes whilst the more nostalgic Superman Returns was a relative failure. Bond arguably jumped before it was pushed, the excellent Bourne trilogy forced 007’s hand with its neo-realism, kudos to Paul Greengrass who directed the second and third chapters as well as one of the decade’s defining pictures, United 93. We also embraced the likes of Sin City, V For Vendetta, Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men, undoubtedly the decade shunned the glossier for grittier.
And inevitably we’ve already mentioned that iconic boy wizard, Harry Potter first hit our screens in 2001 and returned at semi-regular intervals from then ‘til 2009. Four films from the franchise occupy spots in top ten highest grossing list for the decade; we simply went mad for The Boy Who Lived. Similarly The Lord of the Rings blew us away early in the noughties, Peter Jackson created an almost flawless vision that won over a new legion of fans, not least The Academy who finally awarded Return of the King the Oscars that Fellowship of the Ring had earlier been robbed of. Throughout the rest of the decade Hollywood had been searching for another novel franchise to emulate Potter and Rings, the divisive Twilight saga may just have cracked it.
Behind its big budget sensibilities, the Potter franchise is essentially a showcase of British talent with the likes of Broadbent, Tennant, Spall, Isaacs, Rickman, Gambon, Staunton, Smith, Oldman and Fiennes all featuring throughout the series. It’s actually been a fine decade for British film culminating in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire gatecrashing the Oscars. Our poll named the hilarious black comedy In Bruges as the British film of the decade just ahead of Billy Elliot and Nottingham hero Shane Meadows’ This Is England. But not only that, our favourite chick flick was the oh so English Love Actually and our favourite zom-com Shaun of the Dead (although it would be hard not to also mention Judd Apatow’s significant contribution to comedy). On the horror front 28 Days Later edged out Saw, perhaps indicative of a decade which saw international horror thrive whilst the U.S. turned to torture porn and shoddy remakes.
On a purely personal note I’d like to draw you towards my very own icons of the decade. Number one is a director who has only created impeccable films over the last ten years, albeit he’s only made two but they are so sublime you can’t really ignore them. Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood are the works of Paul Thomas Anderson, the latter being my film of the decade and containing possibly its greatest character and scene (“I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE”). Second is a man who has contributed to animation more than any other; John Lasseter guided the unparalleled Pixar to greatness and has saved Disney’s animation wing who were limping their way through the decade. Plus he’s also at least partly responsible for bringing us the delightful little robot Wall-E, good god I love that movie.
So looking ahead to the next decade, who or what will we be talking about in ten years time? Well the 3D revolution is an obvious contender, expect Cameron to follow up Avatar with something similarly epic and I’d be stunned if Spielberg and Jackson’s Tintins don’t make waves. Now forgive my partisan views here but trust me, Ryan Reynolds is going to take off in the next few years; with a number of high profile films on his to-do list the former Van Wilder is set to become the new Johnny Depp (a good-looking, blockbuster banker who can also act). Then there’s Duncan Jones who has shown promise as sci-fi’s saviour and Guillermo Del Toro will likely continue to create the very best fantasy as he helms The Hobbit.
So as I draw this retrospective to a close you may notice that I’ve failed to reference a lot of the smaller, lesser known films that have been released. It’s important to keep in mind that whilst the kind of films I’ve mentioned will be what we as a collective remember of a decade, the smaller films can really define our personal experiences and should always be sought out. And hey, Donnie Darko and Amélie prove they occasionally garner the status they deserve too.