Marty (Fran Kranz, The Cabin In The Woods)
The stoner character is a well-known horror movie trope.
They’re usually amongst the first to die, usually because of a bout of bad luck combined with their own idiocy.
At best, they’re the comic relief. At worst, they’re the screenwriter’s attempt to connect with youth culture.
But no matter what, their use of drugs will always, always be punished.
But Marty is a Joss Whedon creation and, in a film that takes great pleasure in twisting clichés and tropes, the most surprising element of Cabin .
Not only does Marty not get punished for smoking dope, it’s directly responsible for saving his life.
We always knew that Whedon likes to upset the status quo – but we didn’t expect him to make the stoner the most aspirational character in the movie.
Brilliantly played by Fran Kranz, it’s a likeable, laugh-out-loud performance.
We certainly don’t condone the use of drugs, but what we do encourage is originality – and films didn’t get much more original than Cabin this year.
Cid (Pierce Gagnon, Looper)
Not so much a character as a mid-film narrative atom bomb, Cid completely transforms Rian Johnson’s Looper from time travel flick into something else entirely.
By far the eeriest performance of the year, Pierce Gagnon seems to be seven-going-on-70 in terms of the ability / comic timing he brought to Johnson’s key character.
And Johnson seems relieved about his find.
“Oh my god, Pierce. Looking back I’m kind of terrified that I hinged the success of the backend of the movie on finding someone like Pierce. It’s really rare to find a kid who can do what he does. He would do three-page dialogue scenes with Emily and Joe and hold his own against them all the way through.”
The three little brothers/bears (Brave)
They might not have said much – anything, actually – but Merida’s three little brothers were a constant mischievous delight in Brave , scampering across the frame for several successful sight gags.
And after the mid-point plot twist – spoiler alert – they made the cutest grizzly bear cubs we’ve ever seen.
If Brave ever turns into a Cars -style franchise, we’d love to see what these three bears got up to whilst Merida was off saving her mum.
David (Michael Fassbender, Prometheus)
From the moment we saw the viral videos selling David as if he were the latest iPad, we knew that Fassbender would make Prometheus worth watching.
And so it turned out for a lot of people – the film became extremely divisive, but one thing everyone could agree on was that Fassbender was the best thing in it.
Channeling Peter O’Toole for a performance that was half post-war butler, half Olympic athlete, Fassbender’s David mesmerised from the moment he was switched on.
David’s motivations may have been a little suspect on occasion, but if Prometheus: Paradise is to become a reality, we’re glad he’s along for the ride.
Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy, Lawless)
Tom Hardy, grumbling in a cardigan.
No, not a big screen adaptation of One Foot In The Grave , but the best character in one of the best gangster flicks of the year.
From the force of sheer presence alone, Hardy makes Forrest one of the most compelling creations of 2012.
It’s a performance full of strange grunts, odd moans and mumbled line deliveries.
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix, The Master) / Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master)
The Master centered around two characters so compelling we can’t split the vote and pick just one.
And we’re not the only people who’ve had trouble choosing – the Venice judges awarded this year’s Volpi cup for Best Actor to Phoenix and Seymour Hoffman, enabling them to share the honour.
It seems fitting – both men are two sides of the same coin, two parallel character studies that seem to reflect each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
One interpretation of Quell and Dodd posits the two men as representations of the id and ego – utterly dependent on each other, but eternally at odds.
But however you read the narrative – and however you feel about the film – one thing is certain: both actors are at the top of their game.
Richard Parker (The Life Of Pi)
One of Life Of Pi ’s many triumphs, Richard Parker could easily have been anthropomorphised by a lesser director, transformed into a third-act best friend for our lead – but the tiger that got lost at sea is a snarling, prowling mass of teeth and claws for the duration of the film.
A mixture of CGI creature, green-screened beast and practical puppet, Parker manages to elicit fear, compassion, and affection, without ever breaking character as a believable big cat.
Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Avengers Assemble)
Hulk hasn’t had an easy journey to the big screen, with two different takes completely forgetting the key ingredient of the conflicted character: fun.
Luckily, Joss Whedon understands each separate chemical compound of the concept of fun, giving the angry green giant two stand-out scenes that caused the audience we saw it with to erupt into spontaneous applause.
And then he threw in one more for good luck.
Of all the Avengers who assembled this summer, Hulk was by far the most victorious.
Ted (Seth MacFarlane, Ted)
Lewd, crude and – most importantly – hilarious.
Ted could have gone so, so wrong for Seth MacFarlane, but we took Ted to our hearts almost immediately.
The film was a huge box office success for Paramount, so we expect Ted to return in the not-so-distant future.
We can’t wait to hang out with him again.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)
There’s a reason Peter Jackson rearranged The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey schedule to accommodate his preferred lead, Martin Freeman.
Having seen the film, we know exactly what that reason is. There is no-one better to play Bilbo Baggins.
Freeman makes him loveable from the moment we see him, pipe in hand.
And, considering he’s the protagonist of what’s essentially a kids' book, it’s a surprisingly layered performance – particularly in the scene where he holds his sword to the throat of a returning character - you can see Baggins’ thought process silently play out across Freeman’s face.
It’s a wonderful character on the page, and now we’ve seen Freeman’s take, we can’t imagine Bilbo any other way.
We’re sure that’s how Jackson felt in that first audition.
Bane (Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises)
What a lovely, lovely voice.
Of all the comic-book creations that hit cinemas this year, Bane was by far the most transformed, shifting from wrestler to revolutionary.
Once again, the magic came from Tom Hardy’s astonishing performance.
We can’t actually believe that one of the biggest films of the year contained an extended sequence in which a man with his mouth obscured read a letter out loud.
And what’s even more surprising is that the scene was utterly compelling – the epitome of acting through the eyes / body language.