It's not often that I get a chance to go to the cinema, so when I do get the opportunity to spend some quality time with a bucket of popcorn, it has to be for something pretty special. Don't get me wrong, I'm a film fanatic, but usually tend to catch things on DVD/Netflix/Amazon Instant Video (other services are available!) a little bit later than the crowd- and from the comfort of my own sofa. With that in mind- and given that we're in the midst of film awards season proper, now seemed like the perfect opportunity to reflect on something which I've been musing on for a little while- namely why two of the biggest films of last year have been so significant.
Rest assured, these are two I did manage to catch in the cinema- Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As well as sharing an obligatory colon in their respective titles, these films have both been unqualified successes, with rapturous critical reactions, Oscar nominations and box office bounty in buckets. More than that, however, both share something which has been all too rare in cinema over recent years- female characters taking centre stage in the narrative.
Whether it was Furiosa and her War Rig, or Rey and her lightsaber, both Fury Road and The Force Awakens reclaimed the female action hero and cemented her celluloid presence for a new generation. In short (and I'm sure there are many more expert analyses available on this elsewhere on the interwebz!), these are characters who are the chief architects in their own respective stories- not merely objects on the periphery of the plot supporting the conventional male hero. In an age of big budget, testosterone-driven franchises, seeing these two strong, independent and savvy female characters at the heart of the action, whether it be in a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a long time ago in a galaxy far far away was a breath of long overdue fresh air.
Now, don't get me wrong, these landmark movies haven't been without incident. Rey, although a leading presence on screen in The Force Awakens was largely absent from the tie-in merchandise, prompting the #WheresRey campaign, the outcome of which saw her (however belatedly) included in the Star Wars Monopoly created to coincide with the cinema release of the film. And, no matter how many miles of progress characters like Furiosa make, there are still a few Immortan Joe types around who seem to struggle with the idea of female action heroes- in such situations, deploy Tom Hardy in full journalist shutdown mode..!
Of course, these are only two films in a sea of millions- and for every Rey, for every Furiosa (at least for the time being), you'll have a handful of Bonds, Bournes and Boyhoods. I suppose the exciting prospect is what will happen from now on- if you're growing up with this vision of Star Wars, then hopefully characters like Rey will become the rule rather than the exception. I know that when I watched the original films, I wanted to be Han Solo (so sassy, so cool!) when I grew up, but to have a generation who want to be Rey will be truly transformative. The force will be strong with those ones...
(Image credit: Pinterest.)
(Image credit: Pinterest.)