Decade in Review: Film

By Ryan Pike

The past 10 years of cinema has seen a great deal of progress and peculiarities. In the 2000s, for better or worse, a glut of films have been released. Some of them were flat-out awful.

Unfortunately, because of the sheer number of films released during the decade, a lot of bad films saw the light of day — chiefly among them: Eddie Murphy’s Adventures of Pluto Nash, the atrocious Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez vehicle Gigli and American Idol spin-off From Justin To Kelly.

There have also been a great deal of good things occurring in film. The success of Blade in the late ’90s kicked off a gold rush within the entertainment community as studios flocked to comic book publishers to buy movie rights to their characters. The result? Marvel Comics was dragged kicking and screaming from the verge of bankruptcy and a metric ton of super-hero films were produced. Luckily for filmgoers, a few of these films were actually really good — Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2 and Iron Man in particular. Unfortunately, we also had to suffer through Jennifer Garner’s brain-numbing flop, Elektra.

The comics gold rush also saw a few interesting side-effects. Literary properties suddenly became popular as source material at an increased rate. Once development on Spider-Man finally got underway after 20 years of stops and starts, work also began on Harry Potter and the long-awaited Lord of the Rings adaptation. Lavish remakes of Hollywood classics also occurred, most notably big-budget updates of King Kong and War of the Worlds.

Perhaps most importantly, the 2000s will be marked as the death-knell for traditional cel animation and the beginning of a computer animation renaissance at the hands of Pixar. While Pixar had a pretty good ’90s, the past decade has been simply phenomenal.

Look at it this way: the weakest-performing Pixar film (both with critics and at the box office) was Cars, earning $461 million and a 75 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Every other film made at least $500 million and a 95 per cent rating. Pixar films earned roughly $4.1 billion worldwide and won four Oscars. Not only that, the films defied genre expectation — The Incredibles lampooned and celebrated the super-hero film, while Wall-E made audiences care about romance between two robots.

The decade will also be remembered for a bunch of really great movies. Legendary director Martin Scorsese chased an Academy Award throughout three collaborations with actor Leonardo Dicapiro, finally winning for The Departed. Celebrated auteur director Christopher Nolan made the jump from the critically acclaimed Memento to mainstream success with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Jim Carrey defied expectations in a stunning dramatic turn in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Heck, the guys that made The Big Lebowski and Trainspotting won Oscars for their latest work.

One development that may have effects for several years to come may be the emergence of Fox Searchlight as a major player. Originally established in the mid-’90s as a way for Fox to get involved in independent cinema, the branch exceeded all expectations in the 2000s, distributing at least one audience darling or smash hit every year. Without Searchlight, cinephiles may not have experienced Napoleon Dynamite, Bend It Like Beckham, Little Miss Sunshine or Juno. Only time will tell whether Searchlight will continue to find little-known gems and bring them to a wider spotlight, or if it will eventually become just another mechanism of the Hollywood apparatus.

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