Mythology 2015 in Review “It Was Time” written by Robert Reineke January 1, 2016 There are many ways to look back on the year 2015. The ubiquitous “Best of the Year” list is certainly a perfectly valid way to do so. But, it’s also fun to just see what common themes ran through the pop culture landscape this year and how they were explored. There was a theme of nostalgia fueled interest this year as dormant franchises like STAR WARS, JURASSIC PARK, MAD MAX, ROCKY, CINDERELLA, and THE EVIL DEAD were revived successfully. THE TERMINATOR, FANTASTIC FOUR, JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. less successfully, and a famous old villain returned to bedevil JAMES BOND. With INDEPENDENCE DAY, THE X-FILES, FINDING DORY, and TWIN PEAKS on the horizon, this trend doesn’t look to disappear anytime soon, for good or ill and likely a mixture of both. Universal’s astounding successes pointed out that the “connected universe” model wasn’t the only path to financial success. Perhaps that will slow the idea that everything needs to be interconnected. Fear of A.I. was also a recurring theme of 2015 with CHAPPIE, EX MACHINA, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, and TERMINATOR: GENISYS all tackling that theme, albeit I think EX MACHINA was the only film that really successfully grappled with that theme. Still, I can’t see the basic framework of FRANKENSTEIN losing any interest in the coming years. But, more than anything, I think 2015 will be the year where blockbuster action adventure films embraced women in a big way and filmmaking was better off because of it. Evangeline Lilly was presented with the Wasp costume at the end of ANT-MAN. after continuously showing she was the most competent and capable person in the film, and declared “It’s about time.” to positive reactions from the audience. I’d argue that 2015 mostly proved that statement to be imprecise as 2015 fulfilled the promise in many ways of that reveal before ANT-MAN even opened. Sure, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. JUPITER ASCENDING, despite a cult following, was one of the bigger flops of the year. I think it’s an interesting film, even if heavily flawed, but the good thing about 2015 was that it was simply seen as a flop, not as a referendum on whether women led action movies can succeed. It didn’t hurt that CINDERELLA and THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT made big money in March, despite the critical drubbing of the latter. Alicia Vikander was also an important part, and the face of the marketing, of the art house success of EX MACHINA. Obviously Michelle Rodriguez is an important part of the ensemble of FURIOUS 7 and certainly helps that franchise, although Paul Walker’s death overshadowed everything else about that enormous hit. Obviously Scarlett Johannson is an important ingredient in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, as was the additional of Elizabeth Olsen, and Black Widow seemed to be part of the flash point of debates when Joss Whedon decided to put the words “I can’t have children” and “I’m a monster” too close together in a monologue. In hindsight, that debate was a little overblown considering the full context of that speech, as was the debate over the final joke in KINGSMAN, but it was symptomatic of the larger pop culture debates this year. It wasn’t just superhero movies where it was prevalent, but the continued abuse of Sansa on GAME OF THRONES seemed to reach a boiling point. The debates weren’t only confined to the internet, as the art house hit THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA noticably grappled with the roles of women in Hollywood and fantastic cinema, in a much more nuanced way than BIRDMAN, and continued in how tabloids treat them with Kristen Stewart, in a fantastic performance, being the mouthpiece defending these roles for women. And then, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD hit and the internet couldn’t stop talking about it. I feel confident in saying that, barring STAR WARS, it was the most discussed film of the year even if it wasn’t the biggest hit. Furiosa, the Wives, and the Vulvalini and their story and meaning amid some of the most kinetic action ever to grace a movie screen was one of the central movie discussions of the year. Maybe because it mattered that these characters were female to the story, but the movie didn’t need to stop and explain it. I’d argue that Max deciding, without complaint, to let Furiosa take the shot is one of the finest scenes of the year in terms of showing instead of telling the meaning of a film. We’re still discussing the film now as it’s seemingly muscled its way into Awards contention. I think it’s a game changer that has changed the terms of discussion. JURASSIC WORLD was an enormous hit, but certainly the role of Bryce Dallas Howard and her high heels were much debated even if audiences couldn’t seem to get enough of all the dinosaur mayhem. Still, the reading of this “strong” corporate woman ultimately needing an alpha male in her life seems decidedly retro. I don’t think a sequel will retroactively fix the problems of the film, but I imagine that they’ll be addressed in some way. Also of note was Melissa McCarthy in SPY sending up the superspy genre, and body type issues. It was the subject of a lot of thinkpieces and turned into a solid worldwide hit, making more abroad than at home. It also proved Jason Statham’s comedic chops in the process. If nothing else, it established that McCarthy is a solid star and capable of carrying a movie on her own. Apparently, you don’t have to be a statuesque blonde these days to get people to turn out for an actress driven movie. July brought us Emilia Clarke picking up for Linda Hamilton in TERMINATOR: GENISYS which, thanks to China, seems to still be a viable franchise but otherwise pretty much disappeared from the conversation after the opening weekend. ANT-MAN was one of the big hits of the month, bringing us Evangeline Lilly’s closing line. Still, as much as we all liked Evangeline Lilly she certainly was held back, especially compared to her role in THE HOBBIT movies. ANT-MAN ended up being more a Paul Rudd / Michael Douglas film with Evangeline Lilly supporting their story. We’ll have to wait to the sequel to see her fulfill her story on her terms. The other big hit of July was MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION which saw the addition of Rebecca Ferguson to the franchise in Ilsa Faust and gave Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt a lead as capable as himself to play off of. Rebecca Ferguson’s wild card factor, as well as a cavalcade of great setpieces, made it a big crowdpleaser that played all through August against decidedly weak competition. Although likely pure coincidence, Rebecca Ferguson making a big deal of removing her high heels before engaging in action, seemed like a rebuke of JURASSIC WORLD while not taking anything away from her character. FANTASTIC FOUR was a disaster critically and financially in all aspects so focusing on the role of women in the film seems pointless. Alicia Vikander escaped THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. intact although its financial performance certainly didn’t help the perception that Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill just aren’t box office draws. SICARIO performed solidly even if it wasn’t a breakout and laid the groundwork for Emily Blunt leading more films in the future. THE MARTIAN was the big hit of October and that was clearly the Matt Damon show, although Jessica Chastain certainly had a meaningful role. It’s nothing new in Mars movies for the mission commander to be female, but it’s a trope that hasn’t become cliche yet. The Gothic CRIMSON PEAK never did quite catch on, even though the women lead in a Gothic story is a classic of literature, but it didn’t seem to be due to anything more than mixed reaction to the effectiveness of the film. Finally, JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS was a bomb, perhaps because nobody wanted a gritty reboot of the 80s cartoon. THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 was the big hit of November, even if it didn’t do quite the numbers of previous installments. Perhaps that’s because PART 1 felt like an incomplete cash grab or perhaps that’s because the reaction wasn’t nearly as strong as other films in the series. Or perhaps, we want the bread and circuses rather than an examination of our own blood lust and its consequences. In any event, THE HUNGER GAMES proved to be a mammoth franchise that seems to have forever closed the debate on whether women could lead action films. The fact that JOY opened despite mixed reviews indicates that Jennifer Lawrence’s star is undimmed. Jennifer Lawrence made news this year by talking about financial compensation for women, and given that she and Scarlett Johansson can open movies while Chris Hemsworth had two of the biggest flops of the year and Ryan Reynolds has yet to prove he can open a movie, good for her. SPECTRE was no SKYFALL, but I don’t think anyone was expecting it to be. Still, James Bond is something of a dinosaur, albeit a popular one, so how the franchise copes with 21st century gender roles will always be worth watching. Finally, STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS opened and immediately started its assault on the box office record books. And, certainly, it’s in no small part to how instantly Daisy Ridley won everyone over as Rey. If there’s one singular standup and cheer moment in the film, it’s Rey summoning the light saber for her duel with Kylo Ren. Sure there may be some somewhat overblown debates about whether she’s a “Mary Sue” character or whether things come too easy for her, but it’s hard to see there being the excitement for what comes next if people weren’t captivated by her. Not that long ago, a major studio head was talking about how the studio wouldn’t greenlight a female led blockbuster because of audience concerns, with possibly some legitimate reasoning, and now that seems totally disproven. We’ve come a long ways in a short time and 2015 certainly seems the point of no return. While I have been concentrating on the movie side of the ledger, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on television. Obviously GAME OF THRONES, despite some controversies, features many juicy roles for women, including Sophie Turner and Gwendoline Christie who are clearly moving into movies. Marvel still has been kind of tentative on the motion picture front, but AGENT CARTER, the female characters on AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., and JESSICA JONES were all featured prominently in 2015. SUPERGIRL, iZOMBIE, and the appearance of female villains and heroes on ARROW and THE FLASH are certainly relevant examples from the DC side of the equation, with the promise of more to come. I’m happy to live in the world where we can choose JESSICA JONE and SUPERGIRL instead of merely settling for one or the other, every few years. All that said, 2016 may be a step back in certain regards. THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT seems to be one of the few female led action films from the first part of the year. Plus we have the strange spectacle of Chris Hemsworth seemingly replacing Kristen Stewart as the franchise lead for THE HUNTSMAN WINTER’S WAR. While the big screen debut of Wonder Woman will be an event, the question of how big a role she will actually play in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is still an open question. Same for how big the roles will be for Black Widow, Sharon Carter, and Scarlet Witch in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR with Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Iron Man also in the mix. Obviously, we can expect women to play a big role in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE and I think everyone expects Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn to walk off with SUICIDE SQUAD, but nothing is guaranteed on the movie front. We’ll have to see about ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY as well which will be the first STAR WARS live action theatrical release without a prominent Skywalker presence. And then there is the female GHOSTBUSTERS which seems to be the subject of some internet controversy even though Harold Ramis has passed away, Bill Murray clearly has no interest in reprising his role, and Ivan Reitman hasn’t made a good movie in the 21st century. But, there are certain to be other stories that emerge in 2016. Just which ones capture our imagination over the year and become part of the cultural conversation is tough to predict in advance, but likely will be different than this year’s conversation. But, this year was clearly dominated by the roles of women. With all apologies to Evangeline Lilly, she’s wrong with “It’s about time”. 2015 proved that the time was already past. 2015 in Review “It Was Time” was last modified: February 20th, 2016 by Robert Reineke Related Agent CarterAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Ant-ManArrowAvengers: Age of UltronCrimson PeakEx MachinaFantastic FourFurious 7Game of ThronesJem and the HologramsJessica JonesJupiter AscendingJurassic WorldMad Max: Fury RoadMission: Impossible - Rogue NationSicarioSpectreSpyStar Wars: The Force AwakensSupergirlTerminator: GenisysThe Clouds of Sils MariaThe Divergent SeriesThe FlashThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Martian 7 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Robert Reineke previous post Weekly Ratings Roundup: December 13 to 19, 2015 next post Weekly Ratings Roundup: January 3 to 9, 2016 You may also like Weekly Ratings Roundup: February 26 to March... March 4, 2017 Weekly Ratings Roundup: March 12 to 25,... March 26, 2017 Open Forum: Is 2014 the Best Year... August 4, 2014 Weekly Ratings Roundup: December 24, 2017 to... January 14, 2018 Weekly Ratings Roundup: April 16 to 29,... April 30, 2017 Open Forum: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR May 5, 2016 Weekly Ratings Roundup: October 1 to 7,... October 15, 2017 Weekly Ratings Roundup: February 12 to 18,... February 23, 2017 Weekly Ratings Roundup: November 5 to November... November 26, 2017 Op/Ed: Marvel’s “Villain Problem” is really an... March 9, 2017 Adrian Edmondson Nice write up Rob . 2015 had some highs and lows , hopefully 2016 will have more highs . stock Well, I must have been mad about somethin’ cuz I’m M.A.D. and I spell it for nothin’ cuz it’s nobody’s business but my own. Nobody’s business but my own. Billy Idol Ok, Robert, I’m pleading with you here. Will you please stop promoting this BS? Now look, fellas, I work with women every day. Some of them I even call Boss. Many, I respect, some I admire, and a few I even love. (Don’t tell my wife.) But women are significantly different from men and there is no proof or reason that they feel otherwise about it. What we have here is a perpetuation of the politics of victimhood. Ordinarily, not a topic for MMM, but I see you’re all on board no matter how much it destroys the very thing you claim to love. I waited with much anticipation for the latest Sherlock Holmes story, which I understood to be set in his original times of Victorian London. Great! I love Holmes in his true time period! Awful! Terrible! The whole bloody thing! Crass, smartassness in place of wit, a false premise of political activism in place of a story. I want to see Holmes mental faculties challenged, not his goddamn conscience! I like Holmes without a conscience! That’s what makes him interesting! I could go on, but as soon as I figured what this propaganda was really about I turned it off. A case of justifiable homicide, I’m sure. Look, I consider my wife a strong, independent woman, but she still needs my girly hands to open up a sealed jar. THAT IS JUST THE WAY IT IS! Get over this crazy crap, cuz like I said it is destroying the thing you love on so many levels–mainly in the freedom of expression! Robert Reineke You’ll have to explain your reasoning to me, but I don’t get what you’re trying to say. I think that the changing roles of women in blockbuster entertainment was clearly the biggest story of the year in regards to movies. With many examples. And many debates throughout the year. There are many reasons for it. I’d argue that simple demographics play a big role. Half the people on the planet are women and if studios are going to be angling to appeal to women more in their big action blockbusters, in ways other than having the ripped male lead take off his shirt, then it’s worth noting. Perhaps it’s also worth noting that Pitch Perfect 2 made a ton of money and that many “traditional” films like Spectre and Jurassic World made a ton of money too, but I can’t think of another year like 2015 for the amount and variety of major roles in action movies for women as anything other than the damsel in distress. If not that, what’s the major storyline of 2015? stock Thanks, Robert. I didn’t see your reply right away. I guess what I’m saying is, the criticism of storylines involving women is beginning to sound Orwellian. So, because Bryce Dallas Howard was not the equal in fighting rabid, man eating dinosaurs, as her macho man counterpart, it’s somehow, a slight against her gender. Do you believe that? Because he flirts with her with a blatant sexual subtext, it’s a slight against her gender. Do you believe that? Do you a 119 lb woman is going beat hell out of a guy whose equally trained in hand to hand combat? We all have to insert a little perspective in our fantasy worlds. And I truly fear a chilling effect on our entertainment world and our real world if we hold some kind of arbitrary rules of literature and film over gender specific guidelines. It’s becoming a thought-crime to have a woman running and screaming away from a man eating dinosaur! Does that make any sense to you? This has been going on for a while now, and when I saw this blatant propaganda foisted on one of my heroes: Sherlock Holmes–it’s too much. It’s not only stifling, it’s bad story writing. I could debate this further, such as pointing out most comic heroines are drawn as Penthouse Pets in pornographic poses, but I guess I’ll leave it at–if the men and women of today want to see how badly a woman COULD be treated–go see Tarantino’s Hateful 8. If society breaks down, it’ll be pretty clear, not every woman is Ronda Rousey. stock I should also note, I’m not disagreeing with your choice of topic regarding storyline of the year. You are probably quite correct about the influence. My problem is more with how it’s now expected that a female character should never be a damsel in distress. I want to be able to write characters as I want them to be presented, not as some societal demand says I can. Robert Reineke I agree that there shouldn’t be a checklist as to what is allowed or not allowed for a character of either gender. Or race for that matter. If you want to write a female as a damsel in distress, you should be able to. As long as they’re interesting. Personally, I find it refreshing that we’re now getting a wider array of roles for female characters. But, I certainly agree that some of the debates and “controversies” of the past year were way overblown. That said, I think Bryce Dallas Howard’s character in Jurassic World was terribly written. Not necessarily because she tromped around the jungle and ran in high heels, but because in one scene she’s supposed to be a strong woman and in the next scene she’s the useless damsel in distress, purely as the plot demands. stock I admit I didn’t see Jurassic World. Maybe I’d feel the same as you did if I saw it, although a strong woman in the boardroom doesn’t necessarily translate to the field. I think a lot of arguments of this nature are fueled by a ignorance of film history. Not you, Robert, I know better than that, but I mean media driven ignorance. There have always been strong female characters and actresses in film. Can anyone say Bette Davis was a pushover? Joan Crawford? Heck, I read things like “finally with Daisy Ridley we have a strong woman in a Star Wars film. What?!!! I don’t have to tell you how crazy that is. And it’s just getting to be some form of mass induced censorship, IMO. Let’s not give in to short or long term memory loss regarding film history. You don’t have to have women throwing guys three times their size around to prove a woman has worth and value in a movie. I think it ultimately makes a person more boring if they can handle everything that’s thrown at them. This goes for Superhero and action films as well.