2015: Cinema Feels the Force

Though the year has been a triumph and with, released on Thursday, predicted to be the biggest film of all time in the UK, it's all set to have a climax unrivalled in recent cinemagoing history.

This time last year, I wrote a summary of 2014 in cinema for this very blog and I waxed lyrical about the biggest film of 2014, The LEGO Movie. While, it was undoubtedly a wonderful movie, which capped a year with some great films, in commercial terms, with the biggest film of the year grossing £34million, the year was a mild disappointment. 12 months later there's no such disappointment. At the time of writing the top seven highest grossing films of the year have all out grossed The LEGO Movie, and with a trip to a galaxy far, far away still to come, that figure will undoubtedly be at least eight by 31 December. I've spent a great deal of time prior to 2015, talking this year up but I think it's fair to say that it has exceeded expectations.

Records have been broken numerous times throughout the year but January, whilst delivering a typically excellent set of awards films, gave no hint of the spectacular feats still to come. In terms of awards, Whiplash was the stand-out film, delivering the purest adrenaline rush of any film that I can remember and confirming Miles Teller as one of the best young actors around. January also saw the release of Alex Garland's Ex-Machina, a striking, tense sci-fi with a trio of perfectly judged performances.

There was much speculation in the run-up to February over whether Fifty Shades of Grey was old news and that the film may fall flat on its (slightly red) bum. As it happens, after just nine days in cinemas, it had become the highest grossing 18 certificate film of all time and at the end of its run had broken that record by a throbbing £12million. The best film of February though was low-budget horror, It Follows, which had an ingenious concept and enough style and spooky moments to ensure you didn't start picking its inconsistencies apart until the second or third viewing.

A huge year for family films had a great start in Q1 with Disney doing what they do best with Big Hero 6 and Cinderella, while Home became one of the surprises of the year, by outperforming them both. The biggest April this century was mainly down to two films. Fast & Furious 7, which beat the previous best in the series by over £12million, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, which delivered the biggest April opening weekend of all time. While it couldn't compete with them at the box office, Ruben Östlund's Force Majeure was brilliantly observed, forensically composed and one of the year's best.

It's easy to forget that there was a huge amount of trepidation around Mad Max: Fury Road but George Miller blew away any doubts with a stunning, kinetic action spectacular. It went toe-to-toe with Pitch Perfect 2, which trebled the box office of the first film. At the time of writing, Fury Road is ahead by less than £2,000.

Whilst June saw Melissa McCarthy cement her status as one of the best comic actors working today in Spy (if there was any justice, she'd get Oscar nominated), the month was dominated by what became one of the biggest films of all time. Jurassic World opened with the fourth biggest opening weekend in UK history and finished its run with over £64million, firmly establishing it in the top ten highest grossing films ever.

In July, Marvel again showed that perhaps their greatest assets are their less familiar characters, as Ant-Man delivered their most purely pleasurable film since, say Guardians Of The Galaxy. Tom Cruise returned as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, and thanks to a bumper August, it became the first film in the series to crack the £20million mark. August also saw the release of one of the year's most pleasant surprises, from horror-specialists Blumhouse. The Gift was a genuinely queasy thriller, which confounded and surprised and was expertly played by Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and director, Joel Edgerton.

While September is traditionally one of the quieter months for cinema, it didn't stop Legend becoming StudioCanal's second biggest film of all time, and Everest delivered a thrilling action adventure that made us even more grateful for the comfort of the cinema environment.

The Martian took advantage of the calm before the SPECTRE-storm but when the much-anticipated Bond duly arrived, it didn't disappoint. A seven day gross of £41.3million is by far the biggest opening week in UK history, eclipsing Skyfall's record. It may not top Skyfall in the long run but that it got pretty close is a fantastic achievement. While The Hunger Games again was the biggest film released in November, Brooklyn, Bridge Of Spies and Carol offered contrasting cinema experiences, but all of the highest quality.

I still haven't mentioned the year's two biggest family titles either. The family audience is key to cinema, and this year they've attended in their droves. Minions proved to be just as popular as Despicable Me 2 and Pixar released arguably their best film yet in the incomparable Inside Out.

It's not always been hit after hit though, and there have been some noble failures too. Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, a hugely ambitious, inventive sci-fi failed to find an audience, but it's ripe for re-appraisal on home video. Steve Jobs, while exhilarating at times, again showed that no matter the talent involved, you can't make an audience invest in a subject they have little interest in, and arguably the year's best big screen experience, Robert Zemeckis's The Walk, struggled to convey to uncertain cinemagoers, just how jaw-dropping the spectacle of Joseph Gordon-Levitt walking between the twin towers of the World Trade Center really was.

Ultimately, though the year has been a triumph and with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, released on Thursday, predicted to be the biggest film of all time in the UK, it's all set to have a climax unrivalled in recent cinemagoing history.


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