2015 will be remembered as the year Star Wars returned to planet Earth.
But there was much more to the movie year, from pay issues for women in Hollywood to kinky sex breaking into the film mainstream. Here are some of the highs and lows:
‘The Force’ re-awakened
Anticipation for the seventh Star Wars instalment was already intense when April’s second teaser trailer arrived, featuring footage of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Wookiee Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) on the beloved Millennium Falcon. When Solo announced, “Chewie, we’re home,” the world erupted in a deafening, joyous cry.
After that, it was an eight-month guessing game of just how massive The Force Awakens tidal wave was going to be. Every trailer shot was dissected, every star utterance parsed and for God’s sake, why was Luke Skywalker never seen? Amy Poehler and Tiny Fey didn’t even put up a box-office fight, opening Sisters the same day in the US and popularising the #YouCanSeeThemBoth hashtag.
The Force Awakens somehow lived up to the super-hype – pleasing die-hard fans, scoring with critics (a 94 per cent positive rating on aggregate site RottenTomatoes.com) and hitting US$1 billion in worldwide box office in just 12 days. It seems the franchise is assuredly alive and well for a generation to come.
Jennifer Lawrence got real about her paycheque
Ever since the Sony Pictures hack last December, we knew Jennifer Lawrence was paid less (way less) than her male co-stars in American Hustle. But it wasn’t until The Hunger Games star wrote an essay for Lena Dunham’sLenny newsletter that fans got an inside perspective on how the gender pay gap works in Hollywood.
“(When) I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with (penises), I didn’t get mad at Sony,” she wrote. “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that … I don’t need.”
The backlash was swift, with some calling the 25-year-old’s stance a “bratty display”. And that characterisation, said Lawrence, was exactly her point.
Hollywood finally figured out a way to turn Fifty Shades of Grey into a movie
The process of transferring author E.L. James’ X-rated sensation to film began with an incredible bidding war, followed by the inevitable casting woes (we still wonder what a Fifty Shades with Charlie Hunnam would have looked like). Not to mention speculation that stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson couldn’t stand each other.
But amid all the hubbub, Universal rolled out Fifty Shades of Grey, whips, restraints, blindfolds and all, and raked in US$166 million at the box office. Fans left theatres panting, lapping up themed merchandise (including handcuffed teddy bears and branded lubricant) along the way.
So what if its screenwriter now wants nothing to do with it? Hotly anticipated sequels are expected in 2017 and 2018, and Marlon Wayans’ parody, Fifty Shades of Black, hits theatres Jan. 29.
Many major stars flopped in a big way
Our favourite stars were far from safe in a record box-office year. Johnny Depp took a major hit with the too-quirkyMortdecai (US$7.7 million total box office and a 12 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), his fifth flop in a row. Sandra Bullock tanked as a political strategist in Our Brand Is Crisis (US$7 million total and 32 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes).
Hugh Jackman walked the plank with the big-budget disaster Pan (US$35 million total, 26 per cent Rotten Tomatoes). The Secret In Their Eyes managed to bring down both Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts (US$20 million, 41 per cent). But the ultimate star-studded bomb came courtesy of director/writer/star Angelina Jolie and her husband/co-star Brad Pitt, whose artsy-fartsy drama By the Sea never broke a million in the US (US$538,000, 32 per cent).
We said goodbye to a few favourite stars onscreen
Paul Walker was taking a break from filming Furious 7 when he was killed in a car crash on November 30, 2013. But fans were able to say a final screen farewell when the high-octane, family-themed Furious 7 opened in April with Walker appearing through existing footage and CGI.
The result was emotional as fans paid respects to the tune of US$1.5 billion in worldwide box office. “We made a film that made the whole world cry with us,” co-star Vin Diesel told the crowd in tribute at the Hollywood Film Awards.
Another power franchise saw the final film moments of Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died February, 2, 2014. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 featured Hoffman in various scenes as rebel leader Plutarch Heavensbee. Others had to be cut or changed.
“I regret to have that kind of label of it being his last film,” director Francis Lawrence said. “Because obviously, there’s not quite enough of him in it.”