Pottermania, Tolkein-mania, Twilight-mania…it’s fair to say that the noughties have been a strong one for different kinds of mania. Moreover, it’s also been the time for some pretty awesome movies.
2000 marked a particularly promising start: American Beauty, the directorial debut from Sam Mendes was a unique critique on the American dream that attracted widespread acclaim, being nominated for 8 Academy Awards and winning 5; including Best Picture. His next project, Road to Perdition proved this success to be no fluke. Apparently this was a good time for new directors, as further evidenced by Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, and Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich.
Not that the decade was limited to low-budget concept flicks. Box office-smashing comic book adaptations became the name of the game; ranging from the great (Spider-Man, X-Men and Hellboy), to the not so much (Daredevil and Fantastic Four). It became (almost) socially acceptable to wear lycra and spandex in public. Really. I think…
Elsewhere, advances were made in the field of animation. Pixar continued to wave their star-spangled banner with Toy Story 2, which was followed by Monsters Inc, and the brilliant Finding Nemo. Dreamworks kept up the rivalry with Shrek, Shrek 2 and Ice Age. More traditional 2-D fayre continued to be showcased, such as Titan A.E, and Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo and Stitch.
Meanwhile, George Lucas was continuing to both amaze and frustrate fans and critics alike with the second part in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones (2002), which while mercifully reduced the loathsome Jar Jar Binks to a mere cameo, continued with the over-reliance on CGI that gave the last film the feel of a big space cartoon. At least we finally got to see Yoda with a lightsaber…
Lucas wasn’t alone in underwhelming. The Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix was one of the most popular Sci-Fi films of all time, and expectation was high for a sequel. Moral of the story; be careful what you wish for. The Matrix: Reloaded, whilst as visually spectacular as its predecessor, was a confusing myriad of waxing philosophy and psycho babble (has anyone worked out what the Architect was on about yet?), and Revolutions wasn’t much better.
This decade also saw the enhancement of the acting chops of a certain Matt Damon. In Paul Greengrass’s adaptation of the books by Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity saw Damon take on the role of amnesiac secret agent, spy, and all round guy’s guy Jason Bourne as he traverses the globe attempting to unlock his broken mind, beating up a wide variety of bad guys in the process. Sequel The Bourne Supremacy continued this winning formula, helping cement Damon’s status as one of Hollywood’s leading men.
With hype regarding a certain bespectacled young sorcerer spiralling out of control, a foray into the world of film was always inevitable. The first half of the decade saw three of the Harry Potter novels make it to the big screen: The Philosopher’s Stone (2001); The Chamber of Secrets (2002) and The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). With likeable youngsters, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson cast as the leads, and just about every British thespian given some form of role, the result being packed cinemas all around the world adorned with exciting children adorned with wizard hats and wands – as well as the realisation of the most profitable (and entertaining) sagas of all time.
One of the biggest surprises of the decade however, was the much-hyped adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Many an eyebrow was raised at the appointment of Peter Jackson (formerly known for directing low-budget video nasties), and many more were concerned that such a project was, to flog to death a cliché, unfilmable. Thankfully, the end result was to defy all expectations, with Jackson producing a tour de force in visionary filmmaking on an epic scale that won the acclaim of critics, moviegoers and hardcore Tolkien addicts alike. Galvanised by strong performances from the likes of Sir Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, and especially Andy Serkis as the creepy Gollum, it scooped 17 out of the 30 Academy Awards it was nominated for, with Return of the King becoming the second highest-grossing film of all time behind Titanic.
If hilarity and high-jinks were your game, then again you were spoiled for choice; think back to the likes of Me, Myself and Irene, Meet the Parents, Shrek, American Pie 2, Zoolander, Austin Powers: Goldmember, School of Rock, Shaun of the Dead and Dodgeball, and laugh hearty belly-laughs.
Making use of the woefully insufficient space I have, to refresh your memories, here are some of the other classics of the decade that I have neglected to mention, to name but a select few: Gladiator, The Green Mile, Boys Don’t Cry, High Fidelity, Billy Elliot, Memento, Talented Mr Ripley, Snatch (2000), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Requiem For a Dream, Almost Famous, Moulin Rouge, Amelie, Castaway Ghost Town (2001), Mullholland Drive, Ali, Donnie Darko, Vanilla Sky, Ocean’s Eleven (2002), City of God, About Schmidt, Goodbye Lenin, Mystic River, Kill Bill (2003), Lost in Translation, Passion of the Christ, Oldboy, Garden State and I Heart Huckabees (2004).