2015 In Review: What The Top 10 Films Say About The State of Cinema

What the past tells us about the future.

popcorn and ticketsIf there is one constant in Hollywood, it’s that money gets things done. So, if we want some idea where Hollywood is going in the future, we have to look at the highest grossing films of the past year. What secrets do they hold? What truths do they tell? Let’s find out.

Below is the list of the top ten films of 2015, as of January 1, 2016, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

2015 top tenSo, what does this tell us?

1. It’s Disney’s world, we just live in it:

disneystudiologoLook at the list above under studio. See all those “BV’s”? That stands for Buena Vista, which stands for Walt Disney Pictures. Yes, Disney and it’s various shingles (Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar) have accounted for 40% of the top ten films of last year.

So what, you might say, Universal has THREE films in the top ten, which adds up to 30%. Well, Universal has no films coming up in 2016 for any of those franchises. Disney, however, has another two Marvel films (Captain America: Civil War & Doctor Strange) in the pipeline, another Star Wars (Rogue One), another Pixar, this one a sequel to one of its most popular hits (Finding Dory), two films from its resurgent, in-house animation studio (Zootopia & Moana), a sequel to one of their live-action fairy tale adaptations (Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass) plus a brand new one (The Jungle Book), a remake of their off-period animated fare (Pete’s Dragon) and other in-house live-action films (The Finest Hours and The BFG). It could be very well possible that Disney holds all ten spots on the 2016 list.

Mock this if you will, but I, for one, welcome my new, mouse-eared overlords.

2. Bow down the the mighty and powerful Star Wars:

star-wars-rogue-one-logoIn just two weeks of release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has made enough money to become the second highest domestic grossing film of the year. What’s more, it came within a hairs breadth of being the highest. It has already made $1.3 billion worldwide. Star Wars is back, and it is back in a big way.

Which is good, because Disney has a plan of a Star Wars film a year from now until the end of time. The $4 billion investment likely has already paid off when you add in merchandising and tie-ins, so the billions Disney will make down the line becomes just gravy. This already is one of the savviest acquisitions of all time.

Luckily, if The Force Awakens is any indication, the steady stream of Star Wars product being given to us will be of a high quality and completely enjoyable. So we got that going for us.

3. Stop moaning about the lack of originality, because quality original product always finds an audience:

inside out wistful JoyYou can look at this years list and only see a plethora of remakes, sequels, adaptations, and spin-offs, and bemoan the lack of originality in cinema. The failure of Jupiter Ascending and Tomorrowland earlier this year adds fuel to this fire. Well, stop it. Because nestled in there between two sequels is one of the most original films to come down the pike in a long time: Inside Out.

For all of you screaming “Herman’s Head” at your computer screens right now, yes, giving a face to different aspects of a person’s personality is not new. But Inside Out is not Herman’s Head Jr. It is a heart warming and heart wrenching look at growing up filtered through bright and shiny cartoon characters. It features concepts that would be hard for some adults to grasp, but is presented in such a way that both kids and adults can understand and enjoy. And the results of this original presentation is a spot at number four of our top ten list.

Complaining that your half-baked original concept can’t get any traction because everyone wants to see the latest sequel shouldn’t garner any sympathy. Create something original that is of a high quality and people will find it. This is proof of that.

4 & 5. The Fast and Furious and James Bond franchises are at a delicate crossroads:

FastandFurious7Both franchises are frequent visitors to the year-end top ten lists, so more sequels are a no-brainer. But both films feature shake-ups this year in creative personnel that would have other franchises weak in the knees, although none that they haven’t faced before.

The Fast and Furious franchise suffered a major blow when principal actor Paul Walker lost his life in a automobile accident while on a break from filming Furious 7. The project was delayed as rewrites were done to work around Walker’s absence and to give him a graceful send off from the franchise. The film essentially became one big good-bye to Walker.

Normally, this is a franchise that has survived a actor walking away from it. Both Walker and Vin Diesel did so and the franchise survived. But what if fans consider Walker’s good-bye to be a good-bye to the franchise? There will be a new installment, called Fast 8, with a new director, F. Gary Gray, on board as well. Will the fans come back in the number they used to?

Bond23HeaderDaniel Craig gave the Bond franchise a shot in the arm when he took over the lead role with 2006’s Casino Royale and Sam Mendes lifted the franchise to new heights, both creatively and financially, when he signed on as director six years later with 2012’s Skyfall. However, last year’s Spectre had an air of finality to it, as it wrapped up a number of plot lines from Craig’s era as Bond.

The air of finality continued after the film was released. Sam Mendes announced that he wasn’t coming back as director, and Craig has made very vocal grumblings about how tired he was playing the Bond role after all these years. It could be that both the Mendes and Craig eras of Bond have come to an end.

Of course, the Bond franchise has set the bar at replacing personnel. After all, Craig is the sixth man to officially play Bond and Mendes was the eleventh man to direct a film in the official franchise. So, the franchise has a healthy history of dealing with turnover. But the pairing of Mendes and Craig has been the one to make the film a regular visitor to the yearly top ten grossing lists. Who know if the next in line will have the same success?

6. Jurassic World proves that Hollywood would never stop looking for a potential sequel and/or reboot:

Jurassic-World-Pratt-HowardThe Jurassic Park franchise was pretty much killed dead with its third installment in 2001.  Nobody was mourning its demise nor clamoring for its return. It had not stayed in the public consciousness like Star Wars, Indiana Jones or even Ghostbusters has. And when Jurassic World was announced, the collective moans from the film commentators was deafening.

And so what happened? The film was made, released, and became the biggest hit of 2015.

This is why Hollywood goes through the dusty shelves of their past success looking for moldy old concepts to renovate and renew. This is why Spider-Man is getting its second reboot in ten years. This is why Fox is so reticent to get rid of the rights to the Fantastic Four. This is why Sony is willing to have a go at an all-female Ghostbusters. One refurbished hit can turn a moribund franchise into something that will fill their coffers for years to come.

7. The Martian shows that highbrow fare can also score at the box office:

martian still

The other thing most movie fans complain about is how toyetic blockbuster extravaganzas dominate the box office and more literate, mature fare have a hard time busting through. However, The Martian, adapted from a novel by Andy Weir, shows us that a film can marry the special effects laden mega films with the more adult fare you find near awards time.

Of course, the film had help from a great story and an all-star cast, but its success shows there’s room for more of these kinds of films on the year end list. One has to wonder if next year’s list might include The Girl on the Train, the adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ breakthrough debut novel, which also hits theaters in early October, like The Martian did.

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About William Gatevackes 1593 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.

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