As the ‘00s (Are we calling them "the oh-ohs?" The "zeroes?" The "naughties?") come to a close it's time to look back on 10 films and franchises that launched movies into the 21st century. This was the decade of CGI, motion capture and 3-D, where the amazing and invincible worlds of comic books, science fiction and fantasy could be realized like never before.But with great power comes great responsibility for today's filmmakers and just because you can bring stunning visuals, you still gotta bring your "A" game with regards to story. With that in mind we find our first selection:
10. Let the Right One In
An international sleeper from Sweden, this 2008 movie is squarely a horror film, dealing with a lonely young boy named Oscar who falls for the girl next door, who also happens to be a vampire ("...I've been 12 for a very long time"). While it definitely delivers some inventive visuals the movie succeeds on the emotional subtleties of a love story between two kids who need each other.
When it comes to the new wave of CG cartoons, Pixar gets all the love, and deserves most of it. But let's not forget that DreamWorks has flexed plenty of fun-loving muscle in their animated efforts with the centerpiece being the Shrek franchise. Launched in 2001, the film blended classics storybook fables with a modern pop-culture vibe and a strong message about self-esteem. As a result, it won the hearts of audiences everywhere. Nine years later, DreamWorks is set to release the fourth installment of the still-bankable franchise.
8. Iron Man
The first of many great super hero shows on our list, Iron Man is significant for many reasons. It's the movie that rocketed Jon Favreau into the stratosphere of A-list directors. It's the movie that marks Robert Downey Jr.'s return as an A-list movie star. It's the first movie produced by Marvel and established the once-troubled comics publisher as an A-list studio. And it's just a freakin' blast to watch. Not too bad for a B-list super hero.
7. Pirates of the Caribbean
"Lame!" That's what we thought when we saw the teaser trailer a 2003 movie based on a Disney World theme park attraction. How wrong we were. Pirates of the Caribbean turned out to be one of the most fun movies of the summer, showcasing witty characters, amazing effects and huge set pieces. Hats off to Johnny Depp's swaggering performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. After years of top-lining Oscar-bait art movies, Depp finally got his first academy nod for a Jerry Bruckheimer popcorn blockbuster.
6. The Incredibles
Riding the wave of the comics-to-film phenomenon is a Pixar's 2004 movie The Incredibles. While it isn't actually based on any comics, it may stand as the movie that's been the most true to the spirit of the comic book super heroes we all know and love. It proved that powered crime-fighters don't have to be watered down to find acceptance among the broader movie-going audiences. Colorful costumes, super powers, giant robots, secret headquarters, a shared universe of heroes and a rich back story are now undeniably part of the nomenclature, built-in audiences be damned!
5. Star Trek
The 21st century easily could have started with the death of the one of the most iconic science fiction franchises of all time. The Star Trek movie franchise fizzled out with 2002s Nemesis. The last Star Trek TV series, "Enterprise" ended with whimper in 2005. Then producer/director J.J. Abrams hatched a plan to breathe new life, not by looking backwards or carrying the ball forward, but rather by starting anew. Call it "Crisis on Infinite Enterprises" but team Abrams' novel reinvention caught fire with a wide audience of newly-discovered Trekkies without disrespecting the staunchly loyal core fans. That is a feat for the decade to be sure.
4. Children of Men
They say the best special effects are the ones you don't notice. Witness then Alfonso Cuarón's wildly innovative 2006 film Children of Men. It excels at conjuring up the illusion that star Clive Owen must have risked his life every day to film hair-raising action scenes on an ever-exploding battle field. Even more subtle is Cuarón's ability to capture impossible camera moves, seamlessly stitched together as continuous takes made possible by today's technology, all the while keeping the grungy, gritty mood of the film's tattered world intact.
3. Spider-Man 2
Marvel was already gaining cred as a bankable intellectual property house when Sam Raimi hit a grand-slam with the first Spider-Man. Then he upped the ante with 2004's Spider-Man 2. More intense action, a better realized villain, and evolved characters that actually moved forward, Raimi pushed all the levers to 10. The result is a movie about love, commitment and the enduring human spirit dressed up with all the color, action and F/X fans demand.
2. The Dark Knight
The struggle for comics to be taken seriously as an art form is perhaps encapsulated best by Hollywood's treatment of Batman. The 1966 TV show ridiculed the character because they just didn't know how to take it serious. Comparatively, the Tim Burton run seemed like an art-house masterpieces, before descending back into camp and spoof. What a revelation then, was Christopher Nolan's uncompromising, relentlessly bleak 2008 movie The Dark Knight. The movie threw away the rule-book for super heroes and turned the conflict between Batman and the Joker into a study into the sociopathic mind and terrorist tactics, told in a dead-serious narrative. The result was non-stop buzz, a box office explosion, numerous accolades (including two Oscars) and the best performance of Heath Ledger's tragically short career.
1- Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Peter Jackson was certainly a respected director with a growing fan base before the zero-zeroes. And New Line Cinema had carved out a reputation as a mini-major who made edgy, lower-budget films. So most of us were caught off guard by 2001's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. The movie yielded enough Oscar trophies to fill a stadium and enough bank to keep the Shire stocked up with pipe-weed for the next decade. It also presented the richest fantasy world ever seen in a live-action movie. From snow-pummeled mountain passes of Caradhras to the volcanic depths of Mount Doom, Jackson's vision of Middle Earth dazzled us every step of the way. The franchise also gave us Gollum, perhaps the first fully-convincing mo-cap character interacting with real-world co-stars.
After three outings the Lord of the Rings movies stand as a fantastic film epic that feels just as classic and ancient as J.R.R. Tolkein's imagined lands and they indisputably mark Peter Jackson as the greatest filmmaker of the first decade of the 21st century.
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