Each summer, Hollywood releases many of its biggest movies. They’re the kinds that can cost over $200 million to produce but make more than double that at the box office. The following is a ranking of six 2018 summer blockbusters, from worst to best.
6. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
Undoubtedly the dumbest blockbuster of the summer, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is only occasionally entertaining and never for the reasons the filmmakers intended. Set after the events of the last film, “Fallen Kingdom” sees Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former cog in the corporate machine, become a compassionate dinosaur rights activist. She reunites with Owen (Chris Pratt) to help the dinosaurs flee from a volcano about to erupt on the (now-closed) Jurassic World. But apparently that wasn’t a ridiculous enough premise for the writers: After leaving the island, the two find themselves in a massive mansion, where a shady businessman (Rafe Spall) is hoping to sell the dinosaurs to the highest bidders. It’s a haunted house movie—but with raptors! Also, there’s a little girl who (spoiler alert) is actually a clone of another little girl.
The film is ripe with great B-movie material, the kinds of ideas that make a classic “so-bad-it’s-good” movie. But it also has a genuinely talented director behind the wheel (J.A. Bayona, who manages to craft scary, memorable imagery throughout the film), a massive budget, and two charismatic stars. Even with its iconic brand name, it’s hard to see how this script was ever turned into an actual movie, let alone one that made over $1 billion. It’s only ever entertaining when you can laugh at it, when everything on screen is both patently absurd and treated with the utmost seriousness. Pratt literally flip-flops away from molten lava; dinosaurs are auctioned off in an elaborate ceremony; a veterinarian successfully performs a blood transfusion on a dinosaur despite never previously having seen one in close contact before. It’s occasionally an unintentional riot, but otherwise, “Fallen Kingdom” is pure tedium and a tragic reminder that massive audiences will shell out their hard-earned dollars for nonsense like this.
The first “Star Wars” movie to massively flop, “Solo” follows Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) in his early days as a smuggler, showing how he became the man we know and love. Or at least, how he got all of his stuff. (Did you ever wonder where he got his blaster from? Woody Harrelson gave it to him! How did he make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? He took a left turn!)
“Solo” is not only a mediocre, studio mandated film; it’s a depressingly mediocre film. Originally, it was set to be directed by the talented duo behind “21 Jump Street,” directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Their improvisational style, however, upset the big-wigs at Lucasfilm, so the pair was fired after most of the movie was filmed. The pair was replaced with the prolific director Ron Howard. Lord and Miller could’ve made something fun and fresh for “Star Wars,” but Howard’s final product is an incredibly generic film. Every beat feels like it’s meant to tap into our nostalgia for the original “Star Wars.” At no point, however, does it feel like the film is interested in telling a compelling story.
“Solo” is dull from beginning to end. The set-pieces are tensionless, both because Han will obviously live and because of their uninteresting staging. The story plods along without any interest in character development. Even Donald Glover (aka the rapper Childish Gambino) is disappointing, so focused on his Billy Dee Williams impression that he forgets to turn on the charm. Besides its odd fixation on introducing and quickly killing off side characters, “Solo” is completely forgettable.
4. “Deadpool 2”
A sequel to the surprise hit, “Deadpool 2” is never quite as funny or compelling as the original, but it’s still an entertaining, wild ride. After the death of his girlfriend, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) gains a newfound sense of purpose in life after a time-traveling mercenary (Josh Brolin) tries to assassinate a child, who grows up to become a mass-murderer. He’s joined by a few new sidekicks, most notably Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose superpower is her incredibly good luck.
Much of what made the first one great was how original and shocking it was. It was a superhero movie that dared to relentlessly and crudely mock everything that made it a superhero movie; it parodied romantic comedies with a crude, sex-laden montage; its hero frequently broke the fourth wall and even took some harsh jabs at Reynolds himself. It was unlike any other major blockbuster. Yet, this inevitably meant that a sequel would be disappointing. A film convention cannot be shocking or original twice, so “Deadpool 2” could never surprise and shock as much as its predecessor.
Still, there’s also a lot to like about this movie. Replacing the first film’s director, David Leitch (of “John Wick” fame) crafts more over the top and stylish action sequences. Many of the new supporting cast members, such as the aforementioned Beetz and Brolin, are delightfully funny and charming. There’s a bit more emotional depth to the proceedings. And, the post-credit scenes are delightfully silly. “Deadpool 2” is probably the best “Deadpool” sequel we’d ever get; which is to say, it’s not as good as the original but still pretty entertaining.
3. “Ant-Man and The Wasp”
A charming, albeit low-stakes, superhero flick, “Ant-Man and The Wasp” is a delight from beginning to end, even if it’s easy to spot the flaws. Set after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd) is in his final days of house arrest when he’s suddenly contacted by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). As it turns out, Hank’s wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), has a brief opportunity to escape from the “quantum realm,” a microscopic world in which she’s been trapped for decades. Out to stop them is a villainess nicknamed “Ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen), who has gained both superpowers and great suffering due to her connection to the quantum realm. Plus, Scott must dodge his parole officer (Randall Park), while Hope must avoid black market dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins).
If that sounds like a lot of narrative territory for one movie to cover, that’s because it is. “Ant-Man and The Wasp” overstretches itself trying to deal with subplot after subplot. It throws in tons of sci-fi mumbo jumbo to explain things (like the quantum realm and how it works) that doesn’t actually make sense but have to work in a certain way to advance the plot. There are too many antagonists, none of whom get enough screen time to develop or become interesting.
Still, the film is funny and charming. The chemistry between Rudd and Lilly is terrific, the action sequences are creative and fun, and the humor is consistently good throughout. It’s a delightfully fun film, in spite of its many noticeable flaws.
2. “The Incredibles 2”
Like “Deadpool 2,” “The Incredibles 2” was never going to live up to the original. Its predecessor remains one of the best animated films of all time, with its combination of stylish, 50s-inspired aesthetics, exciting action, and surprisingly deep and moving family drama. It’s the rare film that appeals to both children and adults. Yet, unlike “Deadpool 2,” “The Incredibles 2,” mostly recaptures the charm of the original.
Set immediately after the ending of the first film, “Incredibles 2” follows the Parr family as they grapple with the world’s renewed disdain for superheroes. The family is helped out, however, by a sibling pair of tech geniuses, Winston and Evelyn Deavor. The pair hope to prove to the public that superheroes are the saviors, not the destroyers, of society. They enlist Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) to reclaim her old identity as the superhero Elastagirl, leaving family patriarch Bob (Craig T. Nelson) to take care of the kids. Meanwhile, a new villain, Screenslaver, begins using mind control to wreak havoc.
While there are some issues with plotting and pacing, “Incredibles 2” is still a worthy sequel. The animation is utterly breathtaking, with exhilarating, stylish action, and an impeccable attention to detail. The humor is still on point, especially with the expanded presence of super-powered newborn Jack-Jack. If there’s anything the sequel does better than the original, it’s in dealing with its themes. The original leaned into Ayn Randian themes about how society crushes quote-unquote “superior” individuals, but the sequel seemingly inverts that, warning about how the wealthy can get away with crimes or how the powerful can do untold damage. It still never rises to the highs of the original, but “The Incredibles 2” is still an impressive sequel.
1. “Mission Impossible: Fallout”
Without a doubt the most exhilarating movie of the summer, “Mission Impossible: Fallout” is a thrill ride from start to finish. A continuation of the last film, “Rogue Nation,” “Fallout” follows special agent Ethan Hunt as he hunts down a terrorist group known as “the Apostles,” who formed after the capture of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and the take-down of his group, “The Syndicate.” The Apostles are attempting to sell three plutonium bombs to a mysterious man named John Lark, an extremist who believes that global peace can only exist after mass-suffering. To help capture the bombs, Ethan is forced to work with CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill). Hunt also unexpectedly reconnects with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who has her own hidden goals for dealing with Lark.
Unlike previous “Mission Impossible” movies, which tend to peak midway through their runtime, “Fallout” manages to consistently outdo itself. Each action scene is more tense and breathtaking than the last. A HALO jump (a “High Altitude Low Opening” parachute jump) is almost immediately followed by a brutal bathroom brawl; a car chase is succeeded with Hunt leaping across buildings to nab the bad guy. Even in its calmer, non-stunt moments, “Fallout” is breathlessly paced. Within its simple narrative framework, “Fallout” throws in plot twist after plot twist, making up for the otherwise predictable reveal of Lark’s identity. (Though no amount of plot twists can make up for how genuinely creepy it is that Tom Cruise, aged 56, is still getting female love interests who are a fraction of his age).
It’s shortcomings aside, “Fallout” is a near masterpiece. It’s a pure adrenaline rush throughout its nearly two-and-a-half-hour run time. The action, from the brutal fisticuffs to Cruise’s death defying stunts, are absolutely astonishing. Certain moments, especially from the remarkable climactic battle, have to be seen to be believed. “Fallout” is not only the best blockbuster of the summer, it’s one of the best action movies of all time.
Henry Spiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @judgeymcjudge1.