Shiny Shelf

That Was The Year – Movies and TV

By Jim Smith on 24 December 2005

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Almost exactly a year ago Shiny Shelf’s Lance Parkin wrote that it was easier to review 2005 than 2004 even though the former hadn’t yet happened and the latter had been and gone. Looking back it’s hard to ignore the feeling that he was right, the precognitive swine. What he didn’t quite predict the number of big circular motions Shiny’s brand of pop culture would find itself in this year. If 2004 was, as we said at the time, the year of late arrivals and revivals, 2005 was a year of completing, and contrasting, circles.

The movie big hitters of 05 have been predictable not just in terms of how good they were, but also how big they were. In moviedom ‘Batman Begins’ (something marketed as being set before the other Bat-movies) worked beautifully by aping Denny O’Neil while ‘The Fantastic Four’ worked pretty well by aping Stan Lee and Jack Kirby but neither quite set the wider world alight, though Shiny Shelf approves of them both.

The new ‘Star Wars’ was huge for a while, took a lot of money, re-wrote the book on movie FX, tied up plot loose ends like Dorothy L Sayers crossed with a Tasmanian devil and generated a surprising amount of praise along with the usual ill-thought through criticisms. It was odd, though, to see something that began in 77 being praised for its escapism being embroiled in a stateside firestorm over its perceived attitude to American foreign policy. In an example of those oddly circular movements, one that echoes ‘Star Wars’ and its plot’s own circular nature, the end of ‘Star Wars’ was followed six months on by a re-make of ‘King Kong’; just as the release of the original ‘Star Wars’ had been preceded the same amount of time by a re-make of ‘King Kong’. It’s almost as if that galaxy far, far away is fated to be surrounded by a giant monkey. Surrounded, that is, not eclipsed. ‘Kong’ got stellar reviews and lukewarm box office, probably down to a combination of poor advertising and the picture’s gargantuan length rather than any staggering problems with the movie itself.

Also too long was ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ which, although it had many pleasures within it, was a movie that felt stretched out almost to breaking point by its desire to be epic in a way that its source novel isn’t. This makes, in different ways, both the Lion and the Monkey victims, rather than, as expected, beneficiaries, of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ success. (Rumours that Peter Jackson may decide to make ‘The Hobbit’ asap in reaction to ‘Kong’ would make him someone else embarking on another trip round a loop, in a sense.) ‘Lion’ too, was a movie that found itself at the centre of a row, this one about religion, it’s a measure of the politicisation (that’s political in a very dullardly way too) of our times that not even popcorn from the kids is free of undignified squabbling from supposedly senior people who fail to act in a remotely grown up manner. (Yes, I know, I co-run a site devoted to comic books and popcorn, but at least I know that I’m doing it and there’s a difference between commentary and campaign.) It’s also worth noting that ‘Lion’ has a prequel of its own virtually lined up already.

‘Sin City’ had its own oddly circular shape as drama but that couldn’t stop it being an outright creative failure, a lame recreation of the comic book that copied much of the shape but lost most of the substance and subtlety, creating a vile, seemingly endless mess of misogyny and voyeurism in the process. To be fair it was nearly saved by an outstanding performance from Mickey Rourke but has to be finally damned by the indescribably poor one delivered by Clive Owen. Elsewhere, ‘The Island’ deservedly sank and Romero went back to his ‘Land of the Dead’ and created a corker in the process. Away from the popcorn Shiny Shelf had a very nice London Film Festival and enjoyed the Pet Shop Boys’ new score for ‘The Battleship Potemkin’ almost as much as it enjoyed thinking about the incongruity of the Pet Shop Boys scoring ‘The Battleship Potemkin’.

Back with the space-adventures-for-the-kids, Joss Whedon’s ‘Serenity’ was very fine indeed, if somewhat small compared to the year’s other space movie, but the most remarkable thing about it was that it existed at all, wrongly cancelled TV shows don’t often get a whole-cast-reunion bite of the movie cherry, after all.

This brings us to TV and the end of ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’, the first ‘Trek’ TV show to go unwillingly since 1969. Clearly ‘Trek’s time had come and nothing, not even offering the best season of ‘Star Trek’ for more than a decade, was going to save it. This was rather sad but is also another uncanny, circular process. When ‘Trek’ was, in the late eighties, gearing up for its gargantuan run (18 years) and previously undreamt of heights of popularity, ‘Doctor Who’ was dying in a rubbish time-slot despite being both better than it had been in a long time and better than it had been when much more successful. Now the circle is complete and the tables are turned, while ‘Trek’ died unloved by the public at large, ‘Who’ was the year’s biggest success story bar none, rocketing to a position at the forefront of UK television, never mind its popularity amongst those of us who were probably going to love it anyway. I mourn the loss of ‘Star Trek’ myself, though not as much as I celebrate the spectacular revival of ‘Who’, but it would be nice if more of my favourite things could co-exist, rather than existing in exclusive bubbles of time.

More circles and reversals – James Bond went back to his beginnings twice, once with the January publication of Charlie Higson’s fun children’s novella ‘Silverfin’ detailing the Eton exploits of Fleming’s anti-hero and then again with the announcement of a third screen version of Fleming’s first Bond book ‘Casino Royale’, this time with Daniel Craig in the lead role. (Whether it will work or not remains to be seen, but it’s another example of going forwards by going backwards, of going around and around.) ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ ended in one medium (radio) and began in another (Cinema) with a few weeks and the year biggest US TV success ‘Lost’ showed everyone what can be achieved with a little backwards and forwards shuffling through time. Meanwhile ‘The West Wing’ embarked on its last season by harking back to events set before its first and Ricky Gervais’ new sitcom ‘Extras’ purported to demonstrate how his first, ‘The Office’, had got to screen in the first place.

Lastly, and most importantly, 2005 was the year I got to watch ‘Transformers – The Movie’ at a time after, rather than before, the day on which its events are set.

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