The Film...Star Wars Episode ll Attack of the Clones
I had successfully completed the first step in my master plan to bunk off school and be in the first showing for Attack of the Clones. Back then I was convinced that the midday screening meant a better experience which I now know to be false. My friend and I had snuck down beneath the window as our bus crawled past our school and towards the paradise that was 'the city centre.' As Samwise Gamgee once said... "If I take one more step, it will be the farthest away from home I've ever been." That was how it felt. Our bus travelled down roads and streets I had never seen or at least never felt as alive and filled with other humans, most of whom wouldn't know a Wookie if one came up and pulled their head off. Once inside screen 1 and temporarily safe from the prospect of expulsion, Clones provided me with one of my best cinematic moments ever when Master Yoda pulled out a lightsabre and fought Christopher Lee.
Looking back, my school could care less about my dalliances with a galaxy far far away and the film itself was wholly average but when you're under 18, every film you see in the cinema is the best you've ever seen, although I had already disproved this theory three years prior when I saw Wild Wild West. We had all left raving about Big Willie and the giant ass mechanical spider and I just said "it was shit." That was the day I knew I loved the movies.
However, would I bunk off work this summer to see the new Ant Man movie or the Fantastic Four reboot? Not a chance. Seeing a film at 11.30am doesn't hold that thrill anymore and I would much rather see it in a sold out theatre filled with people who may or may not have 2 for 1 tickets because they bought car insurance off a over zealous meerkat.
2002 was the year that my mandatory time in education was coming to an end. It was also the year I discovered Texas Hold'em poker, lost £100 on one hand and spent the next 12 hours winning it back. The Wire made its television debut years before it was cool to watch it whereas The X Files ended years AFTER it was cool to watch it. It was the year Virgin Records bought out Mariah Carey's contract for $28 million, essentially paying her to not record any more music. They should have asked me, I'd be quite happy to not record music for half that!
But it was in 2002 that I had begun an experiment that would become my lifes' work. I decided to make a note of every film I saw. By year's end I would have seen 312 films which essentially means I saw a new movie every 1.16 days. That pace was never replicated in the 13 years that have followed. For example back in those days, by this point of the year I would have seen around 135 movies. At the time of writing, in 2015, I have seen 26.
For the most part, 2002 was a terrible year for the movies. Where there was a schoolboy named Harry Potter, there was also unfortunately a schoolboy named Van Wilder. For every Eighth Mile there was also an Eight Legged Freak.
It began in the worst possible way but with it, an understandable reason. Four months prior, the world had seen the events of September 11 burned into their retinas for all time and most Americans simply didn't fancy going to the movies and having a good time while people lay still forever under concrete and steel. Some attempts had failed by releasing their movies regardless of the tragedy. Donnie Darko had a pivotal and unfortunate scene involving a falling airplane engine whilst Zoolander was set in New York and had a plot that under the circumstances just seemed trivial at best. These fine movies eventually although were celebrated and acclaimed on home video and became cult classic due simply perhaps to timing. The first set of rescheduled releases came in the spring of 2002 and were critically mauled. Collateral Damage starring Arnie featured a bomb attack that struck too close to home but the film was a hot mess however you spun it. A remake of the cult movie Rollerball performed worse than Pete Doherty sober and Britney Spears attempt at acting in Crossroads left us in no doubt which way we wanted to drive in...the opposite direction.
March was the turning point for Hollywood and for me personally. I noticed an advert in Heat magazine (don't judge me) that gave you a chance to go to a preview screening of a film free of charge. It was a way of providing positive word of mouth amongst the youth that cinemas craved. This was a revelation that I utilised several times through the years although on this occasion I had to take a bus and train to get to the selected multiplex. The film was titled Panic Room and the audience, as was I, were absolutely captivated. It remains one of my top 5 movies of 2002 and one that I can't turn off if I come across it channel hopping.
Other movies released may not seem groundbreaking but had lasting effects on what we love today. Even though X-Men was released at the turn of the millennium, Spider-Man captured the spirit and the heart of comic books and the current MCU should thank Tobey Maguire in part for the riches they enjoy today. Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar) continued his cinematic training with Insomnia which was distributed with Warner Bros, the studio he has stayed loyal with ever since. We may have laughed at The Rock's attempt to be a legitimate actor in The Scorpion King but skip ahead 12 years and millions call him by his real name and that name is now a respectable one. The same can be said for Matt Damon. We all believe that he can kick our asses with a rolled up newspaper because of The Bourne Identity and that franchise went from strength to strength. This also holds a special memory as I have seen all four films with my best friend and we have maintained that we will continue to do so for any future instalments. There is no logical reason for this commitment but 2002 was a strange year in general.
What other year could you watch a film and walk out saying "Matthew Lillard was the best thing in that" or "Who knew Jason Statham was a complete and utter badass?" Scooby Doo and The Transporter being the films in question.
Nowadays we are spoiled with a Marvel film every other Tuesday but back in the day, there was one time of the year when Hollywood squeezed in every explosion, chase and weapon known to man...Summer. The aforementioned Spider-Man kicked it off but in my opinion, it's not summer without a Spielberg tentpole and Steven gave us a thrill ride starring the ever energetic Tom Cruise. Minority Report is a chase that never slows down until the credits roll. It's terrifying, imaginative and most importantly for the summer season, fun.
July continued but I was not where I imagined I'd be. I wasn't just watching Hollywood, I was in it! My family and I had embarked on a ambitious three week driving holiday from Las Vegas to San Francisco. We had reached LA and my parents were exhausted from constant motion. We pulled into a cliche motel and while my family slept, I walked out onto the pavement not to see 000's of handprints and famous names but gas stations and shopping malls. I flipped a coin to determine which direction to head in and began a walk that would define my holiday. I had been walking for ninety minutes in baking hot sunshine with no plan when I came to a large structure with vicious sound emanating from it. I followed a gaggle of tourists up a small hill and couldn't believe my luck. I had reached Universal Studios.
The extreme high was followed by a more devastating low...I had spent so much time getting there I had to leave to get back. So I had a quick look around and left frustrated as if it was the biggest teaser trailer in history. The next day I knew what I had to do and whilst the family went to Disneyland, I made that same 90 minute walk to Dreamland. I went on a couple of great rides but I spent most of my time in the confines of the cinema. A double bill that with hindsight seems a entire waste of four hours. Men in Black 2 (rubbish) and Reign of Fire (a dragon movie with hardly any dragons) was still an experience I'll never forget which is strange as I could have been any cinema screen in the world. I made my way to the hotel yet again with a spring in my step. I was happy to hear where we were visiting tomorrow...Universal Studios. I was proclaimed the unofficial tour guide due to my two prior visits but this time we did the full monty. We took the full tour, several rides and yes, another double bill of movies. This set was slightly more enjoyable. The first was Austin Powers in Goldmember (respectable) followed by Eight Legged Freaks (b-movie guilty pleasure). I had seen 4 movies in two days...whilst on holiday. My tally was healthy even though my notepad was over 5000 miles away.
Upon my return to this sceptred isle, I took a trip to my local theatre to witness a thinly veiled attempt to rip off James Bond for an American audience. It starred Vin Diesel and its name was XXX. It's laughable looking back, especially a scene where Mr Diesel rides a motorbike (probably powered by Diesel) over a moderate incline with an tremendous explosion racing behind him. It was forced down our throat so much that the actual stunt was shot from approx 37 different angles and it seemed that the bike was in air for the entire second act.
Triple X failed to kick off a franchise successfully in the style of Bond which is ironic as 007 was about to hit its lowest ebb with Die Another Day. Decisions such as a embarrassing Madonna cameo, wholly outrageous CGI, a relentlessly annoying Halle Berry and an INVISIBLE CAR!? was enough to bury Pierce Brosnan's Bond where he lay dormant until 2006 when Daniel Craig retrieved 007's balls back.
More box office bombs came out of that year, most of whom I have still yet to ever see with my own eyes. Eddie Murphy's The Adventures of Pluto Nash only made 10% of its budget back and further pushed what was once a juggernaut of comedy further into obscurity and have you ever heard of Avenging Angelo. I'm sure you haven't. It featured Sly Stallone and didn't even make $1 million total.
I began by explaining my efforts to witness the second part of a trilogy and my memories of 2002 ends with one too. Little did we all know that back in 1999, a movie series was being filmed in faraway New Zealand that would change blockbusters forever. It would prove that if you simply add likeable characters, an epic journey and a few hundred pairs of hairy feet you had a hit on your hands. From 2001-2003, Christmas was dominated by The Lord of the Rings and if it was a sandwich, The Two Towers was the delicious meaty filling. I went three times before the year was over which is a challenge as the film is three hours long. It ended up being the most successful movie of the year making nearly $1 BILLION.
In a world of downloads, torrents and piracy, there's nothing better than 200 people in one room laughing at a joke or gasping for a characters survival.
And so my year of film came to an end. I raise a glass to the graduating movie class of 2002. It wasn't a vintage year for you but for me, it was the best one I could ever have hoped for.