By Thomas Simpson
There have been a lot of murmurs among film fans and critics that 2015 was a poor year for films. While I disagree, this past year has seen originality put to the side in favor of the reboot/sequel, a trend that has seen two films alone set box office records.
Not that Hollywood was devoid of any new ideas, 2015 saw new directors make their debut while Pixar continued to prove why nobody can tell a story quite like them, even if their latter effort fell short of the mark.
With Oscar season on the horizon, the heavy hitters are being released yet I felt this year was more about spectacle, excitement and fun. I’m a fan of all cinema including low-budget indies, and while Slow West and MacBeth are must see films, they are omitted from this list as I lean towards this year’s blockbusters.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It didn’t take long for the knives to come out for the long awaited sequel to Return of the Jedi. Was it just a rehash of Episode IV, was Rey a Mary Sue, why does Han insist a parsec is a measurement of time? The majority didn’t care and with good reason. More than just a nostalgia trip, J.J. Abrams ensured that Disney’s first entry to the Star Wars saga was an exhilarating and thrill packed ride that appealed to old and new audiences.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Matthew Vaughan’s comic book flick injected some life into the British spy genre. Based on the comic by Mark Millar, Kingsman is ultra-violent, controversial and an incredible amount of fun. Colin Firth turns in his best performance in years while the relatively unknown Taron Egerton is captivating and charismatic as the young delinquent turned superspy. It’s silly and over the top yet it’s layered with enough depth to keep you interested beyond the bloodshed. Worth seeing for the Church scene alone.
Joel Edgerton decides to step in front of the camera for his directorial debut. The Gift is a rarity for top films of 2015 as it’s based off of an original screenplay, also by Edgerton. It’s creepy, tense and a little absurd towards the end but it’s a compelling thriller. Jason Bateman shrugs off the funny man routine to help create a hateful character. There are many twists to be had resulting in a shocking climax that you can’t help but suppress a twisted smile at.
Mad Max: Fury Road
One of the most talked about films of the year, but for some of the wrong reasons. Like Star Wars The Force Awakens, Mad Max Fury Road was a sequel/reboot of a much-loved franchise that managed to piss off a lot of fanboys by daring to have a strong female character. Charlize Theron is the star of this gas-fuelled maelstrom of carnage while Tom Hardy’s Max offers more of a supporting role. Non-stop from start to finish, Fury Road is an insane roller coaster that delivered quite the cinematic experience.
It’s easy to argue that Pixar has never made a bad film, however it’s also easy to make the case that their output in recent years has been below their usual standard. That was all rectified when Inside Out hit screens and reduced adults to sniveling messes as they were forced to relive their childhood onscreen. A wondrous film with stunning animation to complement its beautiful script. There are many laughs to be had but Inside Out cuts deep in a manner not seen from the company since Toy Story 3. No other film released this year came close to evoking the same emotions while telling a wonderful story with such charming simplicity.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.