Ah, yes, 2018. It was certainly a big year for media across the board, with TV and film coming out strong in many respects. But it also was the beginning of a major shift that could change how we watch our favorite content. Let’s look at some of the trends that defined the year.
It’s been the decade of superheroes and 2018 was the beginning of the big finale that Marvel has been steering the ship towards. Avengers: Infinity War finally paid off the promise of Thanos, the big villain of the MCU, and made the battle against his mission to destroy half the universe’s life feel epic. And while Ant-Man and the Wasp was a dud, the MCU had a huge win: Black Panther.
Black Panther was the first mostly-Black superhero film which did phenomenally at the box office, and re-invorgated a large portion of the audience. It also proved that they had it in them to get back to the origin story basics, and try out new voices without characters to stereotypes and one-liners (looking at you, DCEU).
Deadpool 2 also graced the box office this year, to mixed reviews but generally happy with where the franchise is going with the character. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse proved that Sony could produce a great animated feature. Teen Titans Goes to the Movies was a big hit for fans, and even promised to potentially bring back the beloved older version of the series. Biggest surprise of all, Aquaman smashed box office expectations and exceeded the typical standard of a DCEU film.
In terms of shows, heroes were out in full force too. Netflix’s Daredevil and Luke Cage, Hulu’s Runaways, Fox’s Gotham, and CW’s entire Arrowverse universe got new seasons. We’ll deal with the Netflix shows in a bit, but these shows, and the CW’s new Black Lightning, have all had relative success. None of drawn the ire of the newest of these show: Titans. The show, meant to be the draw of DC’s new streaming service ended up being a bit of a laughing stock.
Anyone else feel like they’re living in the golden age of horror? Gone are the bloated and dwindling franchises of Freddy, Jason, Saw, and their friends and, in comes fresh, interesting content to scream about.
The biggest hit of the year is, arguably, The Haunting of Hill House, which so thoroughly surprised everyone with its creepy charm and unassuming nature. The trials and tribulations of the Crain family ended up overshadowing a lot of other offerings this Halloween, including the highly promoted The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. However, Sabrina still managed to pull in fans, enough that its second part will be coming out this coming April and with two more installments coming soon after. Netflix even gave us The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, a creepy craft show to keep us hungry and haunted, mixing elements of popular cooking shows with a commentary and plot reminiscent of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Hulu’s not slacking in that horror department either, with their Stephen King Easter-egg-hunt/series Castle Rock having all of us question our own reality. Additionally, Hulu is putting out an original horror movie every month for a year as a part of its Into the Dark series. Amazon Prime came back to us with its second season of Lore, which is more gruesome than its last.
In terms of film, John Krasinski’s Quiet Place made a huge splash with a horror premise centered around silence that left audiences on edge with every tiny sound. Hereditary also ripped through the scene like a chainsaw, bringing with it a surprisingly dark tale of family and demons with an arthouse edge. The re-vamping of the Halloween franchise with the confusingly-titled Halloween was a big leap, as was Steven Sodenburgh’s first foray into horror with Unsane. Perhaps most intriguing is Amazon Prime’s reboot of Italian horror classic Suspiria, which managed to please critics with its creepy imagery and dark premise that honors but also break away from the original.
That Retro Vibe
There’s always a rule of thumb that we’re always nostalgic for the decades 30 years in our past, as well as 50 years back. And while the 1990s are still, thankfully, mostly dead, that doesn’t mean we’ve been slacking on the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. 1980’s music has become the shorthand for fun and quirky and movies, of that there’s no doubt. But you know what made a lot of big reappearances this year? 1960’s properties!
Disney was particularly in this 1960’s mood this year. Mary Poppins got her first sequel this year in Mary Poppins Returns, hoping to pay proper homage to the 1964 version while updating it’s content for a new generation. Ava Duvernay’s adaptation of 1960’s children classic A Wrinkle in Time got mixed reviews, but opened up a whole new generation to the books.
The Haunting of Hill House takes Shirley Jackson’s classic and re-vamps it to make it just as gothic and scary but with more modern sensibilities. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina went for a 1960s vibe too, based of the original art and design from the comic it’s based off of. Ocean’s 8 sought to revive its 1960s-based franchise as well, with a stylist twist and all-female cast. All in all, it seemed that people found these old works to be pretty groovy after all.
The Streaming Wars
Once upon a time, there was Netflix and then there was everything else. But that era is over now, and everyone and their mother is working on a new streaming service. The big three are still Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime but now DC has created its own DC Universe to showcase its movies and its shows.
Likely to be the biggest threat in the coming year is Disney+, which will feature all of Disney, Marvel, and LucasFilm’s old content as well as exclusive new shows. As such, a lot of the shared content across different platforms will be migrated over soon, which could mean big trouble for the other providers.
We’ve also said goodbye to streaming services this year, like Asian drama service DramaFever, the Criteron Collection’s FilmStruck, and comedy streamer Seeso. Additionally, Funimation and Crunchyroll’s partnership ended, meaning that there was a shift in the content and re-structuring on both ended.
The Beginning of the End?
While this year was filled with a lot of great films and shows, lots of things also started coming apart. For, the Divergent series is officially dead, with the final film of the saga never having made it to theaters. While it’s not the first time a movie series has failed to complete a series, usually franchise die out after their first film, not after the third. The fact that a big blockbuster series with major teen-star power behind fizzled out not only points to the fatigue over YA film adaptations but also that these cinematic universes may are unsustainable. And if Allegiant‘s any example to follow, they will go out not with a bang, but with a whimper.
In a surprising move, Netflix cancelled three of its Marvel series: Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Daredevil. While the first was a surprise to no one, given how unpopular the first season was, the other two shows were fairly popular with their audiences. Certainly, a good portion of it has to be the Disney+ issue, but one also has to wonder if maybe there’s something bigger at play in the background.
There were some other projects that disappeared or were dead on arrival. FXX cancelled its Deadpool series before its premiere, as did the very problematic Heathers show on Paramount and Freeform’s New Warriors. But even the good times end, for hit shows like Sense8, Adventure Time, and Once Upon a Time, all of which pushed boundaries and had cult followings across the web.
That’s it for 2018. What interesting journeys will we go on in 2019? Only time will tell.