It was, according to the United Nations, The International Year of Planet Earth. Also, The International Year of the Potato. It was a leap year. The year the world plunged into financial crisis. The year was 2008. Surgeons at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital gave two blind patients bionic eyes. 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries unveiled the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. And Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected to the office of President of the United States. Meanwhile, Hollywood legend Charlton Heston passed away at the ripe old age of 84, as did Paul Newman at 83, and Heath Ledger, at 28. Plus a lot of brilliant movies hit cinemas worldwide.
Though it was more about the villain than the hero, and shunned rather than embraced its comicbook origins, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight remained a remarkable, gripping, grown-up superhero movie. Hand on heart though, I have to admit I liked Iron Man even more, from the awesome, flying suit to Robert Downey Jr’s too-cool-for-school performance. Equally explosively entertaining was Wanted, directed by Night Watch creator Timur Bekmambetov, the tale of superhumanly talented assassins starring everyman James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie at her icy yet scorching best.
2008 was also a good year for musicals, starting with Tim Burton’s grandly stylised adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in pie-making mode. Rather more upbeat was Mamma Mia!, a shamelessly cheerful musical following a bride-to-be’s quest to find her real dad, all of it set to Seventies supergroup Abba’s back catalogue.
Though it had a lot of stiff competition, WALL-E was by far the best cartoon of the year, an inventive, innovative, gorgeous, hilarious and incredibly sweet sci fi adventure about a sentient waste collecting robot who makes a friend, visits space and, ultimately, decides the fate of all mankind. Elsewhere on the family front, Freddie Highmore frolicked with the faeries in the visually and cerebrally splendid fantasy, The Spiderwick Chronicles.
Arguably the best and certainly the slickest drama of the year was 21, a true tale of MIT nerds who become card-counting masters and take Vegas’s many casinos for many more millions of dollars. A cracking crime thriller with authentic Seventies stylings, The Bank Job was a stylish, sterling caper flick featuring the best-performance-ever from Jason Statham. And finally, brilliant, best-comedy-of-the-year Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a crazy, edgy romcom offering non-stop laughs and, as off-his-rocker rocker Aldous Snow, Hollywood newcomer Russell Brand. “I was gonna listen to that, but then, um, I just carried on living my life.”