While it didn't quite end up being The Year We Make Contact, 2010 was certainly a distinguished year for movie news -- box office records were broken, franchises were rebooted, awards were won and celebrities misbehaved. Here are the biggest movie stories of 2010, featuring the likes of talking toys, Mel Gibson, Kathryn Bigelow, Superman, Spider-Man, Stephen King, James Cameron and, of course, hobbits.
10. 'Toy Story 3' Becomes The Highest-Grossing Animated Movie Ever
Eleven years had passed between the pretty amazing 'Toy Story 2' and the even more astonishing 'Toy Story 3,' but such a considerable gap didn't diminish the power the playthings had over audiences. We'd see a 'Toy Story' movie even if it took a hundred years for another installment. Everyone loves the 'Toy Story' movies, and with good reason -- they bring to life the things we always imagined had lives of their own and put them on life journeys eerily similar to ours. 'Toy Story 3,' in particular, is basically one big existential crisis as young Andy has reached an age where he should "put away childish things" -- and it hits home for both those of us who have been there and those of us who can't imagine ever getting that "old." It's no wonder '3' became the highest-grossing animated movie ever ($415 million) -- it's not so much a 'Toy' story as it is our own.
9. Mel Gibson Unleashed!
Beware the rage of Mel Gibson! Mighty Mel, eater of worlds, burner of bridges! Tremble as he stomps and seethes about, embracing his meta-fate: Mad Max is gone, and in his place stands Mad Mel. No one is safe from his hunger for chaos and ill will; certainly not the mother of his child, who was subjected to a number of leaked phone calls, in which Gibson said some, uh, questionable things to her. He has rejected the world, and it has rejected him -- and so has even the Land of Make-Believe, as his antics have led the cast members of 'The Hangover 2' to drive him out, banishing him from their bit of cinematic bacchanal. (He's since been replaced by Liam Neeson.) Let not Mad Mel make a cameo here. Let him only play with 'The Beaver'!
8. Ron Howard Adapting Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower'
We figured there would eventually be a mini-series based on 'The Dark Tower,' so the fact that there's finally going to be one comes as no surprise. What was most definitely unexpected, however, was that a class act like Ron Howard would be behind it and not the usual hacks (or "low men") who turn Stephen King works into near-unwatchable cheapo dreck. Let's face it: the epic, ambitious and completely wonderful 'Dark Tower' books are probably unfilmable. That's just the way it is. But now there's at least a chance that their long-awaited mini-series treatment won't make you want to claw out your eyeballs.
7. Zack Snyder, Man of Steel
Warner Bros. finally rescued their Batman franchise when they brought Christopher Nolan on board. The next step was to figure out what to do with their other potential comic book gold mine, Superman. So what did they do? The smart thing: they brought Christopher Nolan on board for that one, too. Nolan is overseeing the 'Superman' reboot, and with his involvement came speculation as to what A-list director would be assigned the daunting task of returning the Man of Steel to his former glory. After a couple of weeks of mulling over a very short list, Zack Snyder was chosen. We're certainly curious as to what the director of 'Watchmen' and '300' brings to the story of Krypton's first son; it might be just the project -- under Nolan's watchful eye -- in which Snyder will evolve from talented yet hyperactive visual artist to full-fledged myth-maker.
6. Kathryn Bigelow: First Female to Win Best Director Oscar
Was the Academy showing favor toward the classy, efficient, edgy-but-not-too-edgy, topical-but-not-too-topical package that was 'The Hurt Locker' over the big money-making (and certainly ego-driven) spectacle of 'Avatar' a revelation of its old-fashioned and perhaps hopefully behind-the-times view on what true "filmmaking" is -- and, indeed, what the Oscars should be rewarding? If, indeed, the Oscars are there to acknowledge truly groundbreaking advances and/or new and creative approaches to the craft, then, yes, 'Avatar' should've won a lot more Oscars than it did. But it didn't, which made way for the filmmaker who brought us 'Point Break' to be the first woman to ever win an Oscar for Best Director. And you know what? Ultimately, she deserved it -- and, with her winning, the Academy got a chance to show that they could "advance," too.
5. 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' Is Rooney Mara
An American remake of Stieg Larsson's twisty-turny Swedish crime tale, 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,' was inevitable, though it became essential when 'The Social Network' director David Fincher was brought on board to direct. News of Daniel Craig being cast in the role of investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist came quickly, though the real excitement came from wondering who would play the Girl herself, Lisbeth Salander. It seemed like every twentysomething actress in Hollywood was up for the role (and they probably were); it's even rumored that Emma Watson cut her hair short in hopes that she would be considered for the part. Ultimately, it was Fincher's 'Social Network' alum, Rooney Mara, who was chosen to be the American version of the computer hacker and chronic hellraiser. An unexpected but very wise choice -- you can see from both her few scenes in 'The Social Network' and her impressive turn as the new Nancy in the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' reboot that she's got the chops.
4. Your Friendly Neighborhood Andrew Garfield
Rooney Mara wasn't the only 'Social Network' alum to snag a great part in a great franchise this year, as Andrew Garfield was cast as Peter Parker in the still-untitled 'Spider-Man' reboot. It pretty much came as a relief to everyone (and probably especially Sam Raimi himself) when Sony decided not to go forward with 'Spider-Man 4' -- '3' was pretty much, well, a disaster, and the fourth installment was shaping up to be yet another round of Raimi vs. the studio in deciding who the villain(s) should be. But Sony's certainly not going to just give up on its billion-dollar franchise. The answer? Just start over! Sure, why not? '(500) Days of Summer' director Marc Webb will be calling the shots (awesome), and Andrew Garfield, who did exasperated like nobody's business as the eternally put-upon Eduardo Saverin in 'The Social Network,' will soon be crawling walls, fighting crime, cracking jokes and smooching Emma Stone (who will be playing one of the hottest blondes in the Marvel universe, Gwen Stacy).
3. 'Avatar' Becomes the Highest-Grossing Movie of All Time in All the Universe and Beyond
Who needs an Oscar when you can rule the universe? There were a ton of new 'Avatar'-related stories every week for several weeks after it was released, most of them announcing that the 3-D sci-fi sensation just broke some other box office record. Love it, hate it, or choose not to care either way, 'Avatar' made a ton of cash (over $749 million, domestically), fast, all over the world (and probably in outer space as well) -- we wonder if James Cameron leaves messages for his Oscar-winning ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, reminding her of that, just to keep things lively. Cameron will need to open a few more bank accounts pretty soon as he prepares for both 'Avatar 2' and '3.'
2. 'The Avengers' Cast Invades San Diego
Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson. Oh, and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. All on stage together at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. It's a wonder the city didn't explode that day from the sheet might of fanboy squealing. May 4, 2012, can't get here fast enough!
1. The Long, Slow, Treacherous Journey of 'The Hobbit'
It's happening. Despite various studio financial woes, legal issues and all the other kinds of stuff that make you wonder how any movie ever gets made at all, 'The Hobbit' is actually happening. Director Guillermo del Toro jumped ship when all the nonsense started to reach asinine levels (and we can't say that we blame him), but that made way for what probably should've been the case from the start: Peter Jackson is directing. We're glad he finally came to his senses (del Toro would've done a fine job, but this is Jackson's ship). Everything seems to be in order now, with filming to begin in early 2011 -- we doubt they'll make the proposed December 2012 release date, but so what? We'll wait. We've certainly waited this long.