From Avengers Infinity War to Mission Impossible Fallout, the top 10 blockbusters of 2018
The success of big-budget blockbusters in 2018 is more encouraging than it would normally have been, considering how endangered they’ve become. The multi-billion dollar success of certain films signals what the future of the movie industry could resemble - two independent avenues, unaffected by each other. On the one hand, audiences could stay at home and binge on the latest true crime drama, or the newest buzz-worthy rom-com, but for spectacle, everyone will still make the pilgrimage to their local multiplex.
If the 2018 box office is any indication, clear inferences can be made about what people like and do not like. With the exception of Bohemian Rhapsody - whose $600 million (and counting) gross - would have surprised even the studio and disgraced director Bryan Singer, every other movie in the top 10 is either a lavish superhero tentpole or a big, effects-heavy actioner.
To expect audiences to spend the extra money, and more importantly, to expect them to make the extra effort, studios will have to offer punters things they simply can’t get at home. Which is why Marvel paid through the nose to make Avengers: Infinity War as epic as it was, and Tom Cruise risked his life (again!) while making Mission: Impossible - Fallout.
The budgets are only going to get bigger - we’ve come dangerously close to $400 million being spent on a single film - and the technology is only going to get better. But with Amazon Studios’ voicing intent to make inroads in the blockbuster game - they recently spent $250 million just to purchase the rights to JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings - and with Netflix producing the latest Chronicles of Narnia movie, not to mention reportedly spending $140 million on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, the move business is going to get even more cutthroat.
But before that happens, here are the top 10 mainstream films of 2018, from ‘worst’ to best.
Ready Player One
For an entire generation, Steven Spielberg is perhaps as mythical as his movies. The stories that we’ve heard about him are unanimously devotional, told years later, after enough time had passed for the negativity to evaporate. I wasn’t born when Jaws or Close Encounters became phenomenons. And I wasn’t there when, continuing an unprecedented streak of success, Spielberg directed Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET. But in the future, when many of the ideas that he once imagined have perhaps become a reality, I can say that I was there for Ready Player One. It doesn’t for a moment come close to achieving the greatness of some of his best movies, but it would never have existed without them.
A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper made one of the most blazingly original directorial debut of the year with his remake/reimagining of the perennial classic, A Star is Born. The film arrived in what has to be a period of renewed interest in musicals, which began with La La Land and continues as strong as ever with the recent Bohemian Rhapsody. But A Star is Born has more in common with Leaving Las Vegas than Les Miserables, in that it is first and foremost a drama - a brilliantly directed and performed film - and then a musical.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
Andy Serkis’ ambitiously dark Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is primarily about Rudyard Kipling’s (sometimes controversial) ideas. These are the same ideas that have been diluted over many years, thanks to the Jungle Book’s re-branding (by Disney) as a whimsical children’s tale and not, as Serkis insists, a story about man’s relationship with nature and other men. But despite its obvious differences from previous adaptations, this retelling of the Jungle Book is sure to bring back some cherished childhood memories, and might even inspire a renewed appreciation for Kipling’s stories.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Not since Thor: Ragnarok has a superhero movie been this fun. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse combines astonishingly original visuals with some Pixar-level emotional storytelling. It’s a film that truly understands and appreciates the power of superheroes and superhero movies, and with love in its heart and a cheeky smile on its face, aims to spread the positivity far and wide.
Avengers: Infinity War
Despite being more bloated than any other Marvel movie, Avengers: Infinity War’s strengths lie in the relationships that we’ve developed, over 10 years, with these characters - and the relationships they’ve formed with each other. New friendships will be made, as will new enemies. And as we’ve made more than clear with the $17 billion we’ve paid to watch these movies, we don’t really have anything better going on for the next 10 years either. It’s Marvel’s move next.
Creed 2 has been falsely marketed as a boxing drama - there are only two fights in the entire film, featuring the same two characters, separated by more than an hour - but thanks to its deft handling of characters, aided by some truly soulful performances and tender direction, it is most certainly a strong contender for one of the best films of the year. It is the second film of the year to feature Michael B Jordan, in which the villain’s journey is equally emotional as the hero’s.
A Quiet Place
What this film has – and so many other horror movies don’t – is the patience that is so necessary for horror to work. So often with these films we see an almost scientific approach to scares – it is almost as if a committee has sat down and decided that to be effective, the film must hurl unseen objects towards the audience, and punctuate moments of silence with loud bangs. This never works. And John Krasinski’s approach as director is to systematically dismantle these sad trends that have overtaken mainstream horror films. A Quiet Place is an effortless distillation of the three elements that define filmmaking: sound, light and actors. I will stage a protest if it doesn’t win Oscars.
In tone, structure and style, First Man is eerily similar to Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden-manhunt masterpiece, Zero Dark Thirty. But what the Oscar-winning Damien Chazelle brings to his unconventional biopic of Neil Armstrong is an unflinching perspective. His protagonists tend to be driven, gifted, and generally speaking, willing to make drastic sacrifices to aid the single-minded dedication to their craft. At three films old now, Chazelle’s obsession with obsession is beginning to take shape.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Mission: Impossible - Fallout hits many of the same beats as the previous films - there are double crosses and triple crosses and there is the obligatory scene in which Ethan Hunt’s disregard for the rules prompts the chiefs to put him on a leash. But it is easily the best big-budget action movie of the year, with some of the most memorable stunt sequences every put on film - Nolanesque in tone and paced like a bullet.
Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is the boldest Marvel movie ever made - it’s in a different league altogether, so far removed from the usual MCU fare that it feels strange to describe it as Marvel movie at all. Better minds will continue writing about it for years. They will make videos about this movie, it will be discussed among friends of all ages, all races, all shapes and sizes; it will be taught in school, debated among intellectuals, it will be seen as the moment everything changed.