Welcome to 2016.
I had debated doing something of a retrospective on 2015, but in the end, it was a bit shit. That’s all you need to know, really. Well, for my personal life, 2015 was bloody awful. And yet, there was some pretty good stuff that came out last year. Plenty of people have waxed lyrical about the top ten, but blow that. Here’s What I Reckon as the best of last year.
Game of the Year – Tales from the Borderlands
Technically this started in 2014, but given Telltale were as punctual as they usually are when it comes to games not based on overrated fantasy TV shows, most of it came out in 2015, finally finishing up in November. The most egregious gap being in the order of four months.
Despite Telltale showing off what’s exactly wrong with the episodic release model, Tales from the Borderlands is an absolute blast. I waxed lyrical earlier on about the first episode, and the season as a whole kept the pace, paying off the intrigue in an entirely satisfying manner. What made it enjoyable was the brilliant cast and top-notch writing (only one scene falling flat, and even then if you take it in one particular context) as well as paring down the classic point/click setup to the essentials, never letting anything get in the way of the laughs.
If you love adventure games, Borderlands or stories with a Coen Brothers-esque feel, you can do a lot worse than try Tales from the Borderlands. Certainly the best thing Telltale have made.
As a final side note, the music is top-notch. Busy Earnin’ sets the tone for the first episode amazingly, and the music the game bows out on is perfect. I won’t say what. Play it, enjoy it, let me know what you think.
Show of the Year – Rick & Morty
I enjoy Doctor Who for what it is, but in a lot of ways being a national treasure and money machine for the BBC does rather hamstring it. When you have an older time-travelling genius and their younger, dumber sidekick, you really can do a lot of stuff, but maybe not stuff that is possible on a BBC budget or in a show intended for the nebulous family audience. Rick & Morty is the Doctor Who without restraints.
Rick & Morty is about misanthropic drunken super-genius Rick and his idiot grandson Morty, and the adventures through time and space they have. It’s a brilliant, hilarious, dark show that gleefully skewers sci-fi tropes. It’s smart without being condescending, dark without being “edgy”, and avoids the tedious and low-hanging fruit. It doesn’t shy away from showing the “reality” of having someone like Rick around, or just what living like he does would do to you. Sure, it does have the odd off episode (I’m not a fan of the second Interdimensional Cable episode, for example) but if it does have a flaw, it’s that there’s huge gaps between seasons. But when you get episodes like Rick Potion Number 9 or Total Rickall, they more than make up for it.
Wildcard! Not The Show of the Year At All – True Detective Season 2
Whilst Lynchy as hell in parts, and Vince Vaughn did an amazing turn, it was pretty mediocre. I have a horrible feeling the first season might have been a fluke.
Film of the Year – Mad Max: Fury Road
Oh Jesus. There’s a small industry dedicated to just how this is wonderful for various reasons, but what I love about it is that’s it’s what I’ve wanted in a film for bloody years, a two-hour chase with crazy stunts and freaky post-apocalyptia. It starts and hardly lets up, rather appropriate for a film based entirely around a chase. I love the design of the entire thing, the emphasis on visual storytelling, and the whole slightly mythical quality the film has. That it has a mainly female cast with arguably a female protagonist (Max is, if anything, a passenger in his own movie, helping things along but not driving the plot), which along with the new Star Wars, does seem to point towards a more balanced cross-section of protagonists in mainstream speculative fiction, as the pair of films are monumentally successful despite the whining of the fedora-clad man-children of the internet. That it does everything so well without slapping you in the face with an overbearing message makes it wonderful. It could have so easily have just been a tiresome tract, but never once forgets that a fast-paced action movie should be fun.
Special note to the soundtrack! It’s great! Sharp and fast-paced and they even tie it to the massive truck with a gimp playing a flamethrower guitar, so when it’s on the horizon, you only catch it lightly.
So that was that. There was a lot of good stuff, like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fallout 4, Danger 5… Lots and lots of lovely things. I can only hope this continues.