2008 was a year of ups and downs, of economic doom and gloom, and in terms of the US election, a year of new beginnings and hope for the future. Cinematically speaking though, 2008 was far from a vintage year for film.
It was an unpredictable year of surprise box office hits and flops. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Mamma Mia. In a year when even Star Wars flopped, Mamma Mia destroyed box office records in the United Kingdom, surpassing even Titanic in box office receipts and DVD sales. As silly as it undoubtedly was and featuring a cast of non-singers, Mamma Mia nevertheless managed to garner a massive, mostly-female, audience through the magic of positive word-of-mouth and crowd-appeasing Abba songs.
It was also a year for big-screen reunions. Mulder and Scully graced our movie screens for the first time in ten years, the Sex and the City girls finally made their big screen debut, and we had the not-so-triumphant return of one of cinema’s greatest heroes, Indiana Jones.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was for many, one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Lame CGI gophers and monkeys aside, it was an enjoyable pop-corn flick, but it was far from the lofty heights of the other films in the franchise.
Ironically, the Dark Night shone the brightest in 2008, becoming one of the highest grossing movies of all time while simultaneously winning praise from most critics. The film managed to walk the line between comic book super-heroics and serious, multi-layered drama, tragedy, and thriller. Heath Ledger’s chilling portrayal of The Joker not only entered pop-culture, but joined the pantheon of classic movie villains, alongside the likes of Hannibal Lector and Darth Vader.
It was a great year for children’s films too, of course, with Wall E garnering huge critical applause. Madagascar 2, Hannah Montana, and Kung Fu Panda were popular with the kiddies, while the High School Musical phenomenon continued. Tween vampire romance Twilight also graced our screens in 2008, and is already being talked about as being the next Harry Potter franchise.
It was a great year for Robert Downey Jr. too, who perfectly embodied billionaire playboy Tony Stark in Iron Man, and despite the controversy, was the real star of Tropic Thunder, playing a black man. Another bad boy, Mickey Rourke, came back swinging in 2008 with The Wrestler, a movie he was born to star in.
Genre-wise, it was a good but not great year for comedy. We had more of the same from the likes of Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler, but Judd Apatow and his merry men (Seth Rogen, Jason Segel et al.) continued to deliver laughs and push the envelope somewhat. It was an average year for horror, and a particularly average year for science fiction, although with Star Trek coming out in 2009, this could be a great year for sc-fi fans.
The past has shown us that cinema is cyclic, and with an array of highly anticipated movies slated for release this year, 2009 will (hopefully) be a great year for movies.