A Great Year for Blockbusters
With so many great blockbusters this year, it looked like all of the smaller films were going to get smothered, so I decided to split my Top 10 lists, allowing the indie flicks to shine in all their glory, but the blockbusters to tower in their own megalopolis.
Undoubtedly it has to be one of the best years of all time for blockbusters, with a stomping collection of big budget titles - many of which are prequels, sequels and even sequels to prequel reboot remakes - and most of which boast strong stories to match up to their spectacular action and effects. Most of these I had on my 'Films to Watch in 2014' list, but many have been rearranged from the anticipated order. Although, in my opinion, Nolan's the master of the true perfect blockbuster - from The Dark Knight to Inception - he doesn't hit perfection every time, but it's not Interstellar that shocked me this year. No, it's Winter Soldier, which wasn't even in my list. It may have been another great year for sci-fi, but it was also another great year for Marvel too!
I’m reluctant to fill the final spot with Gareth Edwards’ sophomore vehicle but there are only so many blockbusters in one year, and Godzilla arguably did a fair amount more right than it did wrong. Edwards’ handling of the monster was superb, finally doing him justice, but the story – and, in particular, the characters – were pretty poor by comparison. Still, there’s plenty of room for them to improve next time, and it’s good to see Godzilla finally done right.
9. The Lego Movie
Bold and irreverent, and far more than just a kids’ movie, The Lego Movie is great entertainment for all ages, and works on so many different levels, having something new to give with every successive viewing. Wildly innovative, it’s got a whole lot to offer, in terms of story, action and hilarious comedy.
Disney’s Angelina Jolie-starring spectacle does for Sleeping Beauty what Wicked did for The Wizard of Oz; reinventing the age-old classic and giving it a new perspective and added depth. Unexpectedly dark – it’s essentially a thinly-veiled rape-revenge thriller – it’s great to have Jolie back, and easy to see why she embraced this surprisingly involving fairytale effort.
7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Whilst the human counterparts let it down somewhat, there’s no denying that Dawn excels in the ape department, giving us CG creatures who are fully evolved and, fully developed and wholly involving. With a strong fable of apes struggling to resist their instinct to become more human in their increasing acts of greed and betrayal, this is another rare sequel that bests its predecessor and brings life back to the Apes franchise.
Although technically yet to receive a full release in UK cinemas, this Korean-French production boasts a strong international cast led by Captain America himself – not that you’d recognise him – and is founded upon a clever sci-fi concept which provides some welcome depth to match up to the supremely tense setting. Evolving from one scene to the next, there’s plenty of distinctive Korean flavouring to this piece, as well as some truly memorable action set-pieces. How it’s been kept from UK (and, to a lesser extent, US) audiences for so long is unfathomable.
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Kudos to Singer for bringing us not just one of the best X-Men movies, not just one of the best superhero movies of the year, but one of the best movies of the year, and one of the best superhero flicks of all time. Action with impact, epic events with significance, stories with structure, and characters with depth. All in all, a blisteringly entertaining, breathtaking, and utterly satisfying blockbuster epic which brings together old and new storylines seamlessly to rewrite the flawed past in favour of a brighter future.
Bold and audacious, Nolan’s latest masterpiece depicts near-unattainable concepts like wormholes, relativity, and five-dimensional thinking with consummate skill; it’s arguably what all blockbusters should be – ambitious almost beyond their means, so that even the evident flaws it carries are forgiven in favour of seeing something which not only visually impresses, not only provides sheer spectacle and entertainment, but which also draws out emotion and intellectual intrigue within you. Not quite this year’s Inception, it’s easily the most ambitious movie of the year nonetheless.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
A sci-fi fantasy romp across the galaxy – written and directed by the guy who wrote the Scooby-Doo movies and directed the low-budget horror Slither and the low-budget Kick-Ass-riff, Super; starring a guy from a TV comedy (Parks & Recreations’ Chris Pratt), a blue-green alien Zoe Saldana, a WWE wrestler, a CG raccoon and what looks like a miniature tree ent – turns out to be Avengers meets Star Wars with some Indy-flavoured full-throttle sci-fi-western-fantasy hi-jinks in the vein of Whedon’s Serenity thrown in? Did anybody see this coming? Not just one of the best blockbusters of the year, but also one of the absolute best of the Marvel entries too.
2. Edge of Tomorrow
Blending Groundhog Day with Starship Troopers, the ingredients to Cruise's frustratingly retitled sci-fi actioner are undeniably familiar, but the dish is still refreshingly different. With sharp wit, punchy action and superb pacing - as well as Emily Blunt kicking ass and looking gorgeous doing it - this is another strong original work from Cruise following on from last year's Oblivion. It's just a shame that they went from All You Need is Kill to Edge of Tomorrow to Live Die Repeat to whatever it is now and confused their target audience in the process. A pity because you don't want to miss this summer gem, whatever it might be called.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Iron Man I can understand. The first film was excellent. Downey Jr. owned it. Thor was quite funny, and had a fish-out-of-water quality to it, along with some nice otherwordly fantasy. But Captain America. All it had going for it was the steampunk WWII setting. Cap himself was the weakest of the main Marvel characters. And Captain America was the weakest of the introductions. So when Winter Soldier was announced I really didn't expect much. I hadn't read the book. The trailer looked interesting, but then again most trailers do. Nobody on the planet could have, at the time, convinced me that it was going to end up being my favourite movie of 2014.
If you felt the same way; if you were never really sure about Cap, and if you hesitated in checking this out as a result. Rectify that mistake now. It's not only one of the best Marvel superhero movies, and one of the best movies of the year, but one of the best 12A/PG13 action-thrillers full stop. Taking its cues more from Bourne and Bond than from its superhero blockbuster brethren, The Winter Soldier delivers on all counts; providing a superior conspiracy-style spy thriller narrative packed with interesting characters, driven by a relentlessly oppressive score and defined by a quintet of exceptionally-staged action sequences. Breathlessly entertaining, it thunders from one brutal set piece to the next with relentless determination and undeniable foreboding. And it changed the Marvel universe forever. Outstanding.
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