The year 2020 was a banner year for movie-related controversies. From the #MeToo movement to the growing unease over the spread of the virus, the films and TV shows of the year were dogged by social change.
One of the most talked-about movies of the year was Batman vs. Robin. It’s probably not a coincidence that this year also saw the 80th anniversary of the Batman character. The Dark Knight had been around for more than seven decades by the time the year 2020 rolled around, and in 2019 not one but two reboots Batman were unleashed on the big and small screens. One of the best examples of the genre-bending movie season is Toy Story 4, which sees the return of Woody in a post-pandemic world.
There were other movies and TV shows that sparked similar debates, from Joker to Westworld. The question is: Which of these shows and movies will be remembered in the future? Let’s take a look…
Hollywood Vs. The Nation
One of the most interesting parts of the year 2020 was the cultural and creative battle over film and TV show adaptations of Game of Thrones. This debate played out on social media and in real life, with fans of the hit HBO series taking sides and posting passionately Game of Thrones-related articles and memes. While there hasn’t been a Game of Thrones–themed amusement park yet, there have been some pretty memorable Game of Thrones moments, especially in the first three seasons.
Season one of Game of Thrones was heavily criticised for its use of medieval torture devices, including the infamous Game of Thrones Red Wedding. One of the memorable scenes from this season sees the character Petyr Baelish (played by Peter Dinklage) offering a prostitute named Margaery Tyrell (played by Laurence Fishburne) a cup of wine in order to get information about her uncle Robb Stark (played by Richard Madden). The camera shows a close-up of Tyrell’s face as he drinks the wine, before cutting away to Robb Stark’s execution at the hands of Joffrey Baratheon (played by Jack Gleeson). It was a tense scene that undoubtedly left an impression on viewers, even those who didn’t necessarily like or agree with the politics of Game of Thrones.
Although the show started out as an ensemble piece with a focus on the battle for the Iron Throne, season one of Game of Thrones really came together as a character study of the various factions in Westeros. Thanks to Isaac Hempstead-Wright‘s magnificent performance as Bran, viewers got to know these characters better than ever before, which in turn made the show more intriguing. The problem is that while the show started out well, it became increasingly difficult to follow along as the seasons went by. With the Game of Thrones–specific coronavirus outbreak causing numerous delays and casting calls, it was eventually decided that a complete reboot was the best solution, uniting Peter Dinklage with executive producer Julie Andrews in the most prestigious and longest Running Game of Thrones marathon yet. The ceremony was attended by the show’s stars, including Emma Watson, Daisy Ridley, Liam Cunningham, and Billie Honeycutt, as well as Peter Dinklage’s parents, who had made the trip from South Korea to support their son on what would be his biggest acting gig to date.
While Game of Thrones was dominating the news throughout the year, it was Joaquin Phoenix‘s turn as the title character in Joker that drew the most attention and debate. The role was Phoenix‘s second big-budget movie in a row following John Wick, and it was yet another opportunity to put his talents on display. It also marked Phoenix‘s return to portraying disturbed and dangerous characters, having last played a character considered a role model for young women in Walk Down the Lane. Joker was one of the most controversial movies of the year, sparking an online debate about mental health and violence that continues even today.
The film adaptation of Moby Dick was similarly divisive. While Leonardo DiCaprio‘s performance as the titular cannibal is arguably among the best in cinematic history, many viewers were divided over whether or not the adaptation was worth watching, given its length and the three-hour mark that the BBC had reportedly imposed upon themselves, as a condition of airing the film in full. It would be unfair to say that Joker and Moby Dick were solely to blame for this year’s film-related debates. As Nicole Kidman pointed out in a recent interview with Vogue, the upcoming Bumblebee has also drawn criticism for its allegedly pandering political message. Bumblebee is a prequel to Transformers: The Movie, and although the latter was a critical and commercial success in 1986, many critics have panned the latest Bumblebee. With the Bumblebee–specific coronavirus pandemic causing numerous script rewrites and casting calls, it’s probably not a coincidence that Bumblebee had also been in the news a lot this year.
As we’ve established, Westworld was one of the big stories of the year. Its premiere was one of the biggest television events of the past decade, pulling in nearly 25 million viewers worldwide. The show has been a ratings success, with the most recent season seeing an increase of nearly 100% in viewership. With Killing Eve and Westworld co-creator Joss Whedon getting notable mentions in almost every Game of Thrones-related article this year, it’s clear that Westworld has become something of a phenomenon, appealing to critics and audiences alike. Some have even argued that Game of Thrones and Westworld might just be the greatest showrunners of all time.
The world of Westworld is a dark place, but one that many viewers seem to enjoy exploring. There’s a reason why people keep comparing the show to The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror — it’s because the show is rife with uncanny parallels to reality. It’s also one of the only shows out there to feature a talking head, with the addition of the hosts giving the show a bit of a documentary feel as viewers journey from one character’s point of view to another.
The year 2020 also saw the release of Dark Phoenix, Marvel’s take on the X-Men, starring Laura Kinney and Chloé Zhao. The film is set to be the finale of the Dark Phoenix series, which began with 2014’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and follows the titular character (played by Jessica Chastain) as she attempts to piece together her past and piecemeal her sanity. A lot has changed in the six years between Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix — not only does Chastain now play a bigger part in the story, but so does Zhao. The two women, along with Kinney, were present at the film’s premiere to discuss the changes, and not just in the plot.