A Look Back at 2018: Superhero stories soar, actors become directors, women take the lead, and originality shines bright.
This past year has been truly amazing and there have been so many steps taken to not only progress the film industry, but to give more opportunities for unique stories to progress. There have been films that have changed their respective genres, given light to unique fictional and non-fictional stories, and allowed new representations to grace the big screen. As a new year approaches, it’s always good to look back and see what this past year has brought and what the big moments were.
So that time has come and it’s time to look back and see what made 2018 such an important year for film.
So Many Superhero Films
This past year has been a big hit for comic book lovers and has shown that “superhero fatigue” seems to be a long ways away. Just looking at the success of Black Panther, it shows that superhero films can impactful culturally, financially, and critically. With a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and a monster global box-office of 1.3 billion dollars that put in the number nine spot on the list of highest grossing movies of all-time, it’s easy to just say that Black Panther was successful.
However, it’s a film that undoubtedly changed the look and ideas of comic book movies and showed that a big blockbuster film with a predominantly black cast and crew can be successful. Not to mention, it delves into the aspects of African culture and tackles some relevant issues and feelings that the black community faces. It’s even gotten award praise with three Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Song, Best Score, and Best Picture – Drama.
Black Panther wasn’t the only success, though, as Avengers: Infinity War smashed box-office records to reach the number four spot on the list of highest grossing movies of all-time with a global box office of 2.04 billion dollars. It lived up to the hype of being the climax of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and set a much darker tone compared to the rest of series. It brought an amazingly complex villain in the form of Josh Brolin’s Thanos and made audiences feel a sense of sadness once some of them began to disappear after “The Snap.” It’s not only set up the MCU for a solid Endgame but has showed how the MCU has captured moviegoers’ attention time and time again.
Outside of the MCU, Sony has had some success with Venom even after critics pretty much panned it. It has grossed over 850 million dollars and broke the record for the highest October opening weekend. Not to mention, moviegoers loved the film and it shows with a Rotten Tomatoes audience approval rating of 84%. Honestly, that’s higher than most movies that got nominated for both Oscars and Golden Globes, including Black Panther. DC has also found themselves a winner with Aquaman as it is not only currently climbing the box-office ladder but is making people believe in the idea of DC Comics movies again.
On the animated front, films like The Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse have shown that superhero stories can even be great in animated form. Incredibles 2 not only had great critical and financial success, but gave a story that delivered on satisfying fans after a fourteen years of waiting for a sequel to the 2004 original. Into the Spiderverse has also brought some truly impactful story points through the story of Miles Morales and shows that anyone can be Spider-Man. It’s easily become an awards and crowd favorite, for good reason, and has made people look at the classic hero in a completely new way.
In short, I think its safe to say that “superhero fatigue” isn’t going to go into effect anytime soon.
Actors Taking the Directors Seat
One of my favorite things about 2018 must be seeing more actors begin to direct their own films. There’s a ton of great advantages for actors and actresses to take on more directorial roles: they have more of an ability to finance their own films, they have a better chance of getting actors and actresses they desire from working in the industry, they’re names are more recognizable to general movie-goers than most directors, and they have more creative freedom. That’s why seeing the films that came from actors taking on mostly first-time director roles is so important and why it made such a deep impact in 2018.
The best place to start is where it basically all began in 2018 with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place. Taking a break from making us fall in love with him and Pam and pulling pranks on Dwight on The Office, Krasinski showed us a new side to himself and brought us the terrifyingly silent A Quiet Place. He not only shocked audiences with amazingly suspenseful scares, incredible performances from the entire cast, and the horrifying world that’s completely built around silence. It’s received plenty of worthy acclaim and has made plenty of people’s best of 2018 lists.
This past year has also brought us the directorial debuts of popular comedic actors Jonah Hill and Bo Burnham. Hill took on a story on the struggles of fitting in, growing up in the 90s, and skateboard culture with Mid 90s. The film was a smooth ride through all of Stevie’s struggles and featured messages and characters full of depth.
Burnham also took a story of fitting in, but put it into the perspective of a modern day eighth grade girl that struggles with her transition to high school. With Eighth Grade, Burnham not only shed light on what being an eighth grader is like in today’s world, but also mixed some funny and scary moments that feel incredibly genuine. I think that’s what so great about these two’s first directorial outings: they bring fresh and funny stories that mix perfectly with more dark, realistic, and relatable themes for audiences to enjoy.
There were even some more emotional outings from actors taking on directorial roles. In his first directed film, Paul Dano brought his sense of subtlety seen in his performances and put it into his film adaptation of the novel by Richard Ford, Wildlife. His beautiful dives deep into the life of a struggling family and features excellent performances from Ex Oxenbould, Carey Mulligan, and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Joel Edgerton also brought an incredibly emotional story to the big screen with his adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir, Boy Erased. The film touches on the horrifying process of conversion therapy that many people in the LGBT community still face. Boy Erased also boasted some incredible performances from Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, as well as Edgerton and gave a realistic look at the struggles in figuring out who you truly are.
However, no film has gotten more buzz than Bradley Cooper’s rendition of A Star is Born. His story about a couple who’s love for music and one another comes to head when past issues arise really shows his ability to create eye-catching and impressive scenes. Each scene of him and Lady Gaga on stage with what felt like thousands of people cheering in the crowd was incredibly impressive to see on the big screen. Not to mention, there’s incredible music from both Cooper and Gaga that is accented perfectly through both of their excellent performances. It’s almost no wonder why A Star is Born nabbed five nominations at this year’s Golden Globes – including Cooper for Best Director and a Best Picture – Drama nomination.
It’s been a great year for actors to take on directorial roles and when you look at the average Rotten Tomatoes review scores for the first and second time directorial outings, the number is quite impressive. If you also consider John Francis Daley’s Game Night, the average score is 88% and that’s not too shabby.
Women Taking the Lead
This past year was also an amazing year for women to be in more leading roles in film. This year featured great moments of women not only taking some solo charges to make an impact on-screen, but also coming together to create some spectacular ensembles.
It’s been a long time since the new live-action adaptation, based on the popular video game series, of Tomb Raider graced the screens, but Alicia Vikander’s performance as Lara Croft is easily one of the standout lead performances of the year. Croft had already had a revamp of her own in the game series but seeing on-screen made it more impactful. Vikander showed that the days of Croft just being a large breasted, one-liner spewing action hero were over. Vikander brought Croft’s more realistic personality and personal growth to become the legendary Tomb Raider that makes this adaptation show impactful for the future of the Tomb Raider series.
Blumhouse even brought a strong female lead this year with Madeline Brewer’s Alice in Cam. There’s such a deep appreciation that can be had with Alice as she brings a strong sense of confidence and gave a new look at the idea of a cam girl. Alice helps give a new definition to the idea of a “final girl” in horror as these girls are often defined by their virginity and “goodness” and Alice instead embraces her sexuality and survives because of how capable she is. This film literally wouldn’t have been the same without Brewer and her performance undoubtedly marks a change coming for women in horror.
However, there was no solo performance that carried so much strength, wit, and heart more than Melissa McCarthy’s performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? This performance almost felt transformative for McCarthy as it showed a side filled with dark wit and sincere moments of emotion. Her depiction of Lee Israel was absolutely perfect and showed why Israel was likely strong in her own regard. Her performance showcases the incredible confidence women can have even in their lowest moments and is a great example a biopic character that thankfully got the recognition their story deserved.
Now, outside of solo performances, there have also been films in 2018 that have had women come together to create great ensembles. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett led a group of spectacular women to pull of a fun and lively heist in the female led Ocean’s 8. Natalie Portman led a group of women that help bring a full female cast in the world of sci-fi and take audiences through a horrifying and visually stunning world in Annihilation. Not to mention, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone came together to create a fun twist on a period piece that is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year in The Favourite.
There were plenty more stellar performances from women in 2018 than those mentioned here and hopefully this trend will continue for years to come.
Fresh, Original Films
This past year also brought an onslaught of purely original films that changed how we look at genres and filmmaking. These films brought interesting and new stories to the screen while bringing innovative and fun styles to the big screen.
I think I must start with my favorite film of the year, Upgrade. I’ve talked enough about this film in reviews and other articles, so I’ll keep it short. All the work that was put into this film, including all of the crazy action shots, the clear effort put in by Logan Marshall-Green to make his fighting and movements feel authentic, and the intelligently crafted story by Leigh Whannel is something that needs to be seen in more films.
Drew Goddard created Bad Times at the El Royale that encompassed a mystery that has you constantly hooked, a use of wide shots and music that makes you entranced into what is happening on-screen, and a cast that each brings their character’s secrets to life. John Cho starred in Searching, which used internet web-cam feeds and browsers to tell an unconventional thriller that follows a father looking for his missing daughter. Even comedy movies like Game Night and Blockers had jokes, different styles of filmmaking, and even socially relevant themes that made them more than just another comedy movie.
Even anime films from 2018 broke the mold and exceeded expectations for what the genre can be. MFKZ gave a grittier side to an anime superhero story and felt completely fresh in the ways it mixes both Western and Eastern styles of animation. Night is Short, Walk on Girl brought a fresh color palette and a truly crazy adventure to the big-screen that had me right from the jump. “Out of norm” is the only way to describe it and if you get the chance to watch it, I can guarantee it will be unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Now, what would be a look back at 2018 without a little self-reflection. Honestly, it’s been a great year and I only see a great future for the reviews and articles coming onto the website. There’s over 100 reviews, great features, and plenty of new content already on the site and plenty more to come. It’s nice to see not only a lot of people come and visit the site, but to have a wide variety of fandoms and people from around the world come as well. Not to mention, it’s great to work and expand my writing to other excellent websites, like The Pop Break and Wrap Party, and I’m excited to keep working for them throughout next year. So, thanks for coming and seeing my work and I hope to bring you more great reviews and news for the rest of 2019.
Happy New Year everyone and I’m excited to see you in 2019!!