Feb 25, 2019
The least anticipated movies of 2018
It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means: It’s time once again to look forward to the movies that no one is looking forward to. Some of you might recall I compiled a list like this before, and since that article was such a smashing success, I decided to waste no time in doing it again. Three years later.
Of course, all the annoying Hollywood trends that inspired the earlier article have only gotten worse since then, with every major studio gunning to start their own Cinematic Universe to play catch-up with Marvel. Which basically means that the 2018 release calendar will be even more stuffed with the brand name-extending, world-building franchise “events” that no one wanted and yet will feel obliged to pay money to see anyway. So here now, in order of (sometimes tentative) release date, are the 2018 films that you might be dreading the most.
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January 26: Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Yes, this film is apparently still coming out. However, you can’t really blame the studio for the mini-eternity that’s passed since 2015’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials; Lead actor Dylan O’Brien experienced severe injuries on the set of Death Cure and needed a year to recover. Still, I’m guessing not many viewers are going to care as the truth is finally revealed about, um, WCKD, and the global brain plague or whatever that was, and um, that other thing? If I’m having this much trouble recalling plot points from two years ago, what hope is there for the movie’s target audience of constant smartphone-checking pre-teens?
Frankly, whatever fans this franchise has left should just be thankful this movie is being released at all; you may recall they never even bothered to finish the Divergent movies. The rest of us should feel grateful that this is certainly going to mark the end of the brief “based on a post-apocalyptic YA novel” craze that started with The Hunger Games and crashed and burned with The Giver and The 5th Wave and pretty much every other recent example of this genre that doesn’t star Jennifer Lawrence.
March 16: Tomb Raider
It’s been 15 years since Angelina Jolie starred in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, and I have to give the studio some credit: these days, that’s actually an abnormally long time to pass between a big-budget franchise bombing and being rebooted. This time, Alicia Vikander takes on the title role, despite not having the build to play an ass-kicking action heroine, or much of a personality for that matter. Oh, and it’s a prequel to the earlier films, because that seems to be the one immutable law of movie reboots. (It appears to be heavily based on the 2013 prequel reboot of the video game series, also simply called Tomb Raider.)
It’s unclear who exactly wanted this reboot, but that didn’t stop one of the producers from conjecturing that this could potentially be, you guessed it, the start of a cinematic universe that crosses over Tomb Raider with other Square Enix properties like Just Cause, Hitman, Deus Ex, and Thief. Maybe I’m just an old fogy, but I remember the days when video game adaptations were allowed to suck on their own terms.
May 25: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Disney sure is looking to recoup what they paid for Lucasfilm sooner rather than later, releasing this movie less than six months after The Last Jedi, making Solo the fourth Star Wars films to open in less than three years. I’d ask at what point franchise fatigue sets in, but going by how Marvel has released the same movie nine times in a row with only slight permutations to boffo box office, obviously never.
A more important question is, who was clamoring for a movie about young Han Solo in the first place? In the original trilogy, we already saw him go through his character arc of smuggler to scoundrel to hero, so what else could we possibly need to know about the character’s early days? And a huge red flag is how original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie, the 21 Jump Street movies) were fired from the film months into shooting for reportedly turning Lawrence Kasdan’s script into improv comedy, leaving the movie to be significantly reshot by Ron Howard, who hasn’t made a memorable film in a long while. Another warning sign is how the producers reportedly hired an acting coach for star Alden Ehrenreich after filming was well underway. This one’s obviously going to make tons of money, but is anyone really excited to see it?
June 8: Ocean’s 8
In this spin-off to the Ocean’s Eleven series, Sandra Bullock is Danny Ocean’s sister, leading a heist involving an eclectic all-female cast including Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Battleship star Rihanna (as a hacker [!]), and someone named “Awkwafina”. Of course, Bullock plays Danny’s “estranged” sister, meaning don’t expect a George Clooney cameo here. And not even original Ocean’s director Steven Soderbergh could be bothered to return for this one; the director this time out is Gary Ross, and Pleasantville was a long time ago.
Unlike most of the entries on this list, this doesn’t seem like an awful idea on its face; I’m mostly dreading it because, as an all-female reboot of a successful male-led franchise, it’s likely going to trigger the same tedious gender-related firestorm as 2016’s Ghostbusters. Given that Ocean’s Eleven is hardly a cherished franchise, you may doubt there are enough whiny MRA-types ready to flood various movie subreddits with complaints about “pandering” and “forced diversity”, but just you wait. Also, get ready for those same types to argue that Hollywood should be coming up with “original properties” to showcase all-female casts while conveniently forgetting that Ocean’s Eleven wasn’t an original property, either.
June 22: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
The consensus is that 2015’s Jurassic World sucked, and yet it made truckloads of money anyway, so here’s the inevitable sequel. While World was directed by the inexplicably successful Colin Trevorrow (though some solace can be taken in the fact that he too got kicked off a Star Wars film), Fallen Kingdom is directed by J.A. Bayona, whose most notable work to date includes The Impossible and A Monster Calls. But if the director of a mediocre indie romcom can deliver a $1.6 billion worldwide hit, does it really matter who directs these things?
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are both back to be boring and unlikable, and this time, it seems they’ve mashed up Jurassic Park with a volcano disaster movie screenplay as the two return to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs. About the only interesting aspect announced so far is that Jeff Goldblum is back to reprise his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm from the first two films, though the trailer mostly gives the impression his appearance is a glorified cameo that’s being milked for all it’s worth.
July 20: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
The first Mamma Mia! was, believe it or not, the highest grossing live-action musical of all time until this year’s Beauty and the Beast. So perhaps there are a great deal of people looking forward to this sequel, but unfortunately, those people have no taste.
Ten years later, Meryl Streep and the whole cast are reuniting to sing even more ABBA songs. So get ready for all the alleged “hits” that weren’t good enough for the first movie, including such classics as “Angeleyes”, “I Wonder”, and “When I Kissed the Teacher” (I’ll go ahead and guess that last one hasn’t aged well). And yes, Pierce Brosnan will be singing again, though it’s possible his voice has improved in the last decade; I only say that because he sang like a cat with its foot caught in a mousetrap in the first movie, so there’s nowhere to go but up.
October 5: Venom
Stay with me here. This is Sony’s spin-off from the Spider-Man franchise, which is currently part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this film will not be part of the MCU, but rather set in the not-quite separate “Sony Marvel Universe”, which seems to be what they’re now calling that “Spider-Man Cinematic Universe” they’ve been threatening—I mean, promising for years. You might recall Transformers writer Alex Kurtzman being originally lined up to direct, but we dodged that bullet, though I’m not sure if the final choice of Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer is much better.
The good news is, Tom Hardy is playing the lead role of Eddie Brock/Venom, so at least we won’t have to endure a scrawny sitcom actor in the role this time. But Tom Holland’s Spider-Man won’t be appearing at all. Which means Venom, a character whose backstory is completely and utterly tied up in Spider-Man’s history, is somehow going to have a solo origin story. How will they explain his whole damn identity? Even worse, the villain of the film will reportedly be Carnage, another character with an origin story all tangled up in Spider-Man lore. This is of course the problem with everyone jumping into the Cinematic Universe game far too late; they’re trying to do in one or two movies what Marvel does in four or five, leaving major holes in the continuity.
And oh yeah, it’s going to be R-rated, primarily because Logan and Deadpool were hits, and if there’s one thing the studios know, it’s that what audiences want is more of whatever they really liked sixteen months ago.
December 21: Aquaman
Entourage spent two seasons mocking the entire concept of a big-budget Aquaman movie, and now it’s really happening. No one is expecting this to be any good, right? After the lackluster performance of Justice League, it’s fair to say Wonder Woman is looking more like a fluke for the DC Cinematic Universe with each passing day. Does anyone really think director James Wan, formerly (and currently) of the Saw, Insidious, Conjuring, and Fast and Furious franchises is going to do anything more than play to the cheap seats?
As far as the moviegoing public is concerned, Super Friends! turned Aquaman into a seahorse-riding pansy who was completely useless on dry land, so DC has forever been going in the opposite extreme with the character, attempting to turn him into a bearded, trident-wielding, buffed-up badass. And regardless of how much they try to “bro” him up with lines like “I dig it!” and “My man!”, it’s never going to happen. And according to the official synopsis, the movie is going to have an environmental, anti-pollution plot, which sounds like the worst possible thing they could have thought of.
December 21: Bumblebee: The Movie
Michael Bay’s Transformers series, that dreaded movie franchise that everyone hates and yet still makes billions at the box office each time out, is about to beget what’s not only a dreaded spin-off, but also a dreaded prequel to the first Transformers, which takes place in 1987 and involves a teenage girl (Hailee Steinfeld) discovering an old Volkswagen Beetle that, of course, turns out to be more than meets the eye. So it’s basically the scene where Shia LeBeouf meets Bumblebee in the first movie, only extended to feature length, and taking place 30 years earlier, thus contradicting all other depictions of the Transformers’ arrival on Earth from the previous five films. And it’s set in the ‘80s, so they can namedrop classic movies and use nostalgic music to lure in the same gullible fans of the original cartoon who might genuinely care that Bumblebee will transform into a VW bug in this one.
One has to wonder why, out of all possible Transformers to build a spin-off around, they picked the one who can’t speak and can only communicate through songs on his radio. The answer, of course, is to make it easier to translate the “jokes” for the primarily Chinese audience. One positive is the film isn’t going to be directed by Michael Bay. Instead, it’s in the hands of Travis Knight, who’s previously only directed the critically-acclaimed Kubo and the Two Strings, which at least inspires some optimism that this won’t be a total clusterfuck. And at least Bay won’t be around this time to let his camera linger over the body of his underage main character.
Of course, there are plenty of other films I’m not looking forward to, including yet another Predator sequel, yet another version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, yet another sequel to Halloween, and yet another Jungle Book, but while the films above are each sure to unleash a month-long marketing onslaught, I’m confident I’ll only be barely aware of these other, minor films. (Case in point: the third Fifty Shades of Grey movie is coming out and I don’t even remember there being a second one, despite watching the trailer and writing a synopsis of it.) Of course, one man’s meat is another man’s box office poison, so feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.