Top 10 Surprising (or Notable) Media Successes of 2010

During December, it’s pretty typical to look back at the previous year and mull over all of our experiences.  Last week, we looked back at the biggest media disappointments of 2010, so now we’re going to be a little more positive and take a quick look at the top surprising (or notable) successes of 2010.  Most of these items have some element of surprise to them, even if the average laymen could’ve predicted their financial success.  And here we go!



10. Limbo

The tenth item on this list was very hard to choose, as there were a number of excellent games and movies this year that could’ve made the place.  In the end, however, I had to give the edge to this year’s XBox exclusive, Limbo.  Limbo is the kind of game that only comes around once in a great while.  While the plot is minimal (a nameless boy wakes up in a dark forest and must find his sister), the atmosphere and mechanics are nothing short of brilliant.  At first glance, you might actually mistake Limbo for a horror game, but it’s actually a pretty clever puzzle/platforming game.  Completely monochromatic and displayed in silhouette, the eerie atmosphere of Limbo is one of a kind.  The game also features a complete absence of music, with only the ambient noise of the dark forest accompanying your journey.  Being the first title developed by Playdead Studios, Limbo came out of nowhere to please critics and gamers alike.  Creepy, atmospheric, and at times truly frightening, Limbo is a unique game that must be experienced.

Also: Giant Freaking Spiders!



9. Super Mario Galaxy 2

During 2009, Nintendo often received the accusation that it was “playing it safe” with its newest games.  It still released some quality games, but they rarely (if at all) tread new or original territory (see, “New Super Mario Bros Wii”).  When Super Mario Galaxy 2 was announced for 2010, fans were worried that we would be seeing “more of the same.”  After all, this was the first time a Mario sequel would come out on the same console since the original NES.  To many, this was a sign that Nintendo was only cranking out what worked, not what was new.  Happily, those fears were proven unfounded when the game released this past May.  Mario Galaxy 2 may have been built upon the same mechanics of the first game, but it offered so much new that it was universally acclaimed as a testament to creativity.  Challenging, original, and filled to the brim with new or unused ideas from the first game, Galaxy 2 is one of the best platformers ever created and my pick for the best game on the Wii.

Yoshi inflates like a balloon. What's not to love??



8.  Tangled

When I initially saw the previews for Disney’s newest animated movie “Tangled,” I thought it looked mildly amusing, but nothing I needed to see.  Most Disney flicks over the past decade that haven’t been put together by Pixar have usually been of mediocre quality.  Over Thanksgiving break, I ended up going to see the movie, with much the same expectations.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.  Tangled is a quality movie more akin to the animated classics of 90’s than to most non-Pixar CG films today.  The animation is gorgeous (and, in a few cases, hilarious), the music is fantastic (it was composed by Alan Menken of Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast fame), and the story is entertaining throughout.  True, Tangled is cliche at times, but that would be because Tangled is a fairy tale – they invented cliche.  The humor in Tangled is timeless (unlike anything Dreamworks cranks out), but still exceptionally amusing.  Considering what I expected of the film, I was very impressed with what I saw.

He's looking a little....Tangled! hurr hurr



7. Sonic Colors

To say that videogame mascot Sonic the Hedgehog hasn’t aged gracefully would be a bit of an understatement.  Ever since the Dreamcast days ended, the character’s games have either been mediocre or downright horrible.  While Mario handled the transition to 3D with style and finesse, Sonic’s 3D outings have been clunky and aggravating – with a steady decrease in quality as the games went on.  So, when Sonic Colors released for the Nintendo Wii a few months ago, the gaming community was shocked to see it receive mostly positive reviews.  I haven’t had the chance to play the game yet, but many reviewers have called it the single best Sonic game since the mascot went 3D.  Sonic Colors currently has a metacritic score of 77 – the highest since the internet starting keeping track of these things.  It’s not a perfect game and some reviewers have leveled a decent amount of criticism against it, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen official critics give a Sonic game a 9 out of 10 before.  It’s a welcome, but still unexpected, surprise.

A 3D Sonic game that isn't terrible? Pretty sure that violates the laws of nature.



6.  LOST

Love it or hate it, LOST is impressive simply because it is the only show I know of that has ended when it wanted and on its own terms.  Most TV shows (especially ones that run on standard broadcasting) simply run until interest wanes enough for networks to cancel it.  Few, if any, plan beforehand how many more seasons they will run and then successfully go that distance.  In that matter alone, LOST is a surprising success.  That it would captivate audiences and maintain that interest for six years through complicated, in-depth storytelling is a remarkable feat.  When the mystery/sci-fi/drama show entered its third season, the creators decided that they needed an end date in order for their storytelling to continue a sense of progression.  ABC agreed to three more seasons, and LOST amped up the storytelling until its last episode in the sixth season.  While using mystery as a hook to get audiences involved, LOST managed to keep its viewers tuned in with some deep and emotional, character-driven storytelling.  By the end of its run, most mysteries (though not all) had been solved, but the focus of the show was its characters.  LOST deserves its credit for staying engaging throughout, delivering intelligent and well-written stories through its surprising and twist-filled six-season run.

Concluding its surprising run this year, LOST was a unique show in broadcast television.



5. The Droid Phone

Reception issues aside, the iPhone is still a quality piece of equipment and the undisputed king of smartphones.  It’s with this in mind that the Android (also known as the Droid phone) is such a surprising success.  In one year, the Google-backed smartphone went from a little-known device to the second-biggest smartphone on the market and a worthy rival to the iPhone.  For a time, it was thought that no one would ever develop a smartphone that could stand up to the iPhone.  Other mobile devices tried, but either completely failed (Kin) or were only accepted by certain groups (Blackberry).  This year, however, we finally saw a competitor that was accepted by a larger, more mainstream audience.  The Droid phone may not be the iPhone killer, but there’s no denying that it really took off this year (having the backing of Verizon certainly didn’t hurt either).

These aren't the Droids you're looking for.



4. Nintendo Reveals the 3DS

This year’s E3 (Electronics Entertainment Expo) was a pretty good show, but anyone who paid attention will tell you that the biggest event of the whole conference was Nintendo’s unveiling of the 3DS.  Until that time, the successor to the popular Nintendo DS had been alluded to, but never officially revealed by the company.  What a reveal it was!  Regrettably, the Nintendo 3DS does capitalize on the current 3D craze, but it does so in a unique way — glasses are not required.  Not only are the cumbersome glasses gone, but you can actually choose the “3Dness” of a game by using a slider on the side of the system (which means you have the option of playing a game with the 3D entirely turned off).  Of course, While 3D is the major selling point of the 3DS, it was only one of the many reveals about the new handheld.  The system also boasts graphics equaling (possibly even surpassing) the Wii – the first time a current handheld will surpass a current console in terms of processing power.  Additionally (and perhaps most importantly), Nintendo used the announcement of the 3DS to unveil a whole slew of quality games for the new system (including the likes of Star Fox, Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Ocarina of Time, and a new Kid Icarus).  All of the lucky E3 attenders who got to try out the 3DS had nothing but positive things to say, claiming that the 3D without glasses really works.  Gamers may not have known anything about the 3DS going into E3, but they left with anxious anticipation for the system’s release this coming year.

It prints 3D money!



3. Toy Story 3

First off, Toy Story 3 was made by Pixar, so we knew it would be good, but, holy crap, we didn’t know it would THIS good.  With most movie trilogies, the third film usually doesn’t have the same quality as its predecessors.  There are a few notable exceptions, but, for the most part, a series often feels tired and unoriginal by the time a third movie is produced.  Not so with this year’s Toy Story 3.  The third Toy Story movie blew away the notion of dull third movies and gave us a tale that is funny, deep, emotional, at times dark, and still a lot of fun.  When I first saw the previews, I was concerned about the direction they were taking the series- the toys are in a daycare?  Andy is gone?  Buzz is Spanish??  Fortunately, the wizards at Pixar knew exactly what they were doing.  The story of Toy Story 3 is an emotional one that takes us to the end of era.  It really feels like the culmination of the studio’s work from previous movies (especially the Toy Story movies) as it produces a work about moving on and learning to let go.  Whether it’s better than the previous Toy Story movies will be debated for some time, but there’s no denying that Toy Story 3 is definitely the most emotional and the most moving of the three films.

Don't be afraid. This third movie is fantastic.



2. The iPad

That the iPad would be a financial success is not a surprise – Apple has an amazing PR system with an influence most companies can only dream of having.  If Steve Jobs announced that he only ate pancakes for breakfast, you can bet all the grocery stores would be sold out of batter the next day.  No, what’s surprising about the iPad is the amount of practical success it has had.  Apple’s newest products are often met with a wave of positive response, but when the iPad was first announced earlier this year, the biggest reaction I heard (even from Apple fanboys) was more of a confused, “huh?”  Many criticized the iPad as merely being a “bigger iPhone,” and, indeed, I personally thought the idea was silly.  Even when more information came out, I was still skeptical (“no Flash? How is this supposed to replace the computer?”).  Now that the product has been out for a couple of months, however, and now that I’ve actually had the chance to briefly play around with one, I have to admit – the iPad is a really cool product.  The iPad is a great device for accomplish the more “casual” functions of a computer (web surfing, tweeting, checking email, etc.).  What’s more – the iPad is extremely practical and understandable – even people who are self-professed “computer illiterate” should have little trouble figuring out the device.  Because of its design, the iPad is also super-portable (which makes it great for traveling), and the touch screen is very responsive.  Of course, if you are a programmer or a graphic designer, the iPad’s usefulness will be lost on you, but for the majority of people who only use their computers to go on the internet, the iPad is a wonderful device.  The name could’ve used a little more work, but, hey, you can’t win them all.

"You can almost feel the magical powers emanating from it."



1.  Inception

After the massive critical and commercial success that was The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers pretty much told director Chris Nolan that he could do whatever he wanted in his next film.  Nolan used this opportunity to produce a film he had been developing for the past ten years – Inception.  Many expected good things from Nolan’s action flick, but a number of people were skeptical.  For one, the trailers gave nothing away about the plot.  It was either a brilliant move or a crazy one, but Nolan specifically kept the previews from revealing too much of the movie so that audiences would be intrigued enough to go see it.  Additionally, once critics saw early screenings of the film, they praised its depth but wondered whether it would be too complex for the typical movie goer.  When Inception finally released this past summer, however, audiences everywhere embraced the flick, making it the third highest grossing film of the year (I guess they appreciated being treated intelligently).  Complex, deep, and wonderfully creative, Inception was anything but your typical action movie.  Yes, it had some truly stunning action scenes, but at the heart of the film was its drama and imagination.  Rarely will you see a movie like this (In fact, it was the first time in years where I actually paid to see a movie in theaters twice).  With Inception, Christopher Nolan has once again proven that he is a master of his craft, and it easily makes for my favorite movie of the year.

If this poster blows your mind, just wait until you see the movie.



Well, that’s my take on the Top 10 Surprising (or Notable) Media Successes of 2010.  Did I forget something?  Think something up on the list doesn’t deserve to be there?  Let me know in the comments below.


~ by digitallysmitten on December 19, 2010.

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