The next 12 months promise more sequels, remakes and reboots. Welcome to today’s Hollywood.
And they’ll sell enough tickets to convince studios we want even more of the same. That’s not necessarily bad.
The “Planet of the Apes” franchise delivered three smart movies that spoke to audiences in fresh ways. The “Million: Impossible” series keeps getting better. And no matter how many times those “Fast and Furious” movies defy the laws of physics it’s never less than a thrill ride.
The following new movies hitting theaters in 2018 offer something else. Each provides not just a glimmer of hope for a brighter year in film. They suggest the very best of today’s storytellers and, at the very least, the potential to rekindle our love for movies.
“12 Strong” (Jan. 19)
What’s the Story: Chris Hemsworth stars as part of a U.S. Special Forces unit heading into Afghanistan following the 9/11 attack. Michael Shannon co-stars in a film based on the non-fiction book “Horse Soldiers.”
Why the Hype: When Hollywood paints U.S. soldiers in a heroic light the impact is huge. Think “Lone Survivor” and “American Sniper” for two quick examples. Hemsworth can carry a movie without Thor’s golden locks, and screenwriter Ted Lally previously penned “The Silence of the Lambs.” Jerry Bruckheimer, who doesn’t hold back when it comes to the U.S. Military, is a key force behind the scenes.
What Could Go Wrong?: A January release date used to be the kiss of death for movies. That’s changing, but it’s still is a factor. The film’s success could be dinged by film critics ready to paint any pro-U.S. military film as jingoistic … or worse.
“The 15:17 to Paris” (Feb. 9)
What’s the Story: This fact-based film recreates the heroism of three Americans who prevented a terrorist attack aboard a train bound for Paris in 2015.
Why the Hype: Eastwood, Clint Eastwood. The legend is behind the camera once more, and if that trailer doesn’t give you an “American Sniper” vibe you need to watch it again.
What Could Go Wrong?: Eastwood cast the three real heroes as themselves. That’s a huge risk given their lack of experience.
“Avengers: Infinity War” (May 4)
What’s the Story: Josh Brolin’s Thanos makes Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (and some Guardians) sweat over the fate of Earth.
Why the Hype: Yes, it’s another Hollywood sequel. So what? The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is on a hot streak. Still. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo delivered both “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and the intoxicating “Captain America: Civil War.” No director or duo does superhero movies better.
What Could Go Wrong?: Plenty. That MCU winning streak might grow cold. The unofficial pledge to stuff every single MCU hero into the film proves calamitous. And the last “Avengers” film, “The Age of Ultron,” underwhelmed.
“Annihilation” (Feb. 23)
What’s the Story: Natalie Portman stars as a biologist entering an alien’s home turf to find her missing husband.
Why the Hype: Chilling trailer. Oscar-winning lead. Director Alex Garland of “Ex-Machina” fame is behind the camera. Did we mention that trailer?
What Could Go Wrong?: A sophomore slump for Garland? Science fiction remains a tricky genre to nail, and there’s often the impulse to let CGI trickery overwhelm everything else. The film is based on a series of books, and if the studio is smelling a franchise before the first installment hits theaters that can backfire.
“A Quiet Place” (April 6)
What’s the Story: John Krasinski stars and directs a new horror movie about a family that stays alive by keeping perfectly silent. Why? Something’s out there, and it tracks its victims by the sounds they make.
Why the Hype: The premise is wildly original. The trailer is just as fascinating. The husband and wife team of Krasinski and Emily Blunt appear fully committed to the project. We’ve already seen a comedian deliver a first-rate chiller with last year’s “Get Out” (from Jordan Peele). Why not a bearded “Office” veteran?
What Could Go Wrong?: You think science fiction is a slipper genre? Try horror, where even the best directors sometimes stumble. And is this a one-trick shocker with nothing else up its sleeves?
“Mortal Engines” (Dec. 18)
What’s the Story: Peter Jackson presents this adaption of the popular book series in which entire cities move from place to place on wheels, overpowering smaller cities along the way.
Why the Hype: The Philip Reeve books offer a fascinating brand of steampunk fiction. Jackson’s clout still matters despite the mediocre “Hobbit” trilogy. The visuals in the trailer look like nothing we’ve seen before.
What Could Go Wrong?: What if the film’s “haves and have nots” messaging goes on way too thick? Or the climate change message does the same? Has Jackson permanently lost his touch following the “Hobbit” chapters? Can the story’s visual splendor overwhelm the tale’s humanity?
“Black Panther” (Feb. 16)
What’s the Story: Chadwick Boseman is the Black Panther, the Marvel Comics hero who returns to his native Wakanda to find his leadership threatened by evil forces.
Why the Hype: Another MCU entry? Here’s what it matters all the same. “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler did the near impossible with “Creed.” He brought the “Rocky” saga back off the canvas. Plus, Boseman is flat out terrific in every movie he’s been in so far. It’s time for him to ascend to the A-list. And, like “Doctor Strange” before it, the film’s trailer blazes its own trail. The music alone sounds worth the price of admission.
What Could Go Wrong?: MCU is due for a flop, in theory. There’s also some cultural pressure in play. The film is the first superhero movie in modern times to feature a black hero as the lead. Can it stand up to that level of scrutiny?
“Captive State” (Aug. 17)
What’s the Story: John Goodman stars in this indie thriller with a decided lack of information about the story. Here’s what we know via the official web site: “Set in a Chicago neighborhood nearly a decade after an occupation by an extra-terrestrial force, “Captive State” explores the lives on both sides of the conflicts – the collaborators and the dissidents.”
Why the Hype: Please re-read the synopsis. There’s a distinct “10 Cloverfield Lane” vibe to the story, and director Rupert Wyatt (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) is a proven sci-fi talent.
What Could Go Wrong?: Another film promising some serious social commentary. Will it do so in sly, sophisticated fashion or trot out “resistance” memes ripped from HuffPo headlines?