Hollywood's obsession with sequels and franchises may have actually paid off in 2018 as a number of franchises got better with their new releases. Not every single one of these new additions lived up to expectations, but for the most part, 2018 ended up being a fantastic year for major movie franchises. The number of them to grow is quite staggering, but which ones actually got better in the present and for the future?
Films like Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom all had a mixed reception to them, and even though they have their supporters, it's hard to say the made the franchise as a whole better. On the flip side, there's a lot of quality movies that continue the legacy and themes of the franchise that also work as finales. Creed 2 successfully delivered a worthy follow-up to Ryan Coogler's Rocky continuation franchise, but there's no guarantee of more. Animated sequels like Ralph Breaks the Internet and Incredibles 2 were both loads of fun for the whole family, but likewise are unlikely to get third installments. Ocean's Eight put a new twist on the heist franchise, and its underrated status and singular story doesn't require more from the franchise.
Instead, there are a few franchises that not only got better in the present but also set themselves up for more success in the future as a result of what 2018 brought them. So, as we look back on the year that was, here are a handful of movie franchises that improved in 2018.
- This Page: MCU & Mission: Impossible
- Next Page: DC, Transformers, & Halloween
Marvel Cinematic Universe
In Marvel Studios' 10th year of making movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they may have set a new bar for blockbuster filmmaking. They released three new films in the MCU in 2018 - Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp - as they hit the 20-movie milestone overall, and it's through these three films that the MCU grew in many ways.
Black Panther brought a much needed diverse perspective to the superhero genre, but even more so with the MCU after the prior 17 films were led by Caucasian men. Marvel didn't take any shortcuts along the way by filling the cast with longtime Hollywood legends, such as Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett, rising stars like Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, and a bounty of breakout names, like Letitia Wright and Winston Duke. Many of these stars then returned to join the most ambitious cinematic crossover attempted in Infinity War. The Russo brothers successfully pulled off the incredible balancing act of utilizing dozens of characters, while also arguably delivering the MCU's biggest and baddest villain in Thanos (Josh Brolin). Ant-Man and the Wasp then figured out to scale the MCU back down to a personal story, while promoting Evangeline Lilly's Wasp to a true co-lead, thus making her an even bigger fan-favorite character.
The MCU is undoubtedly better after 2018 as a result of these films. From a popularity standpoint, the MCU has arguably never been bigger than right now, after the three films combined to gross over $4 billion at the box office. For many fans, both Black Panther and Infinity War are in the conversation for Marvel Studios' best movie, and Black Panther is even getting an awards push as well. Meanwhile, the success and impact of Black Panther as a whole cannot be overstated, as it not only has pushed Phase 4 of the MCU on an even more diverse path, but has also shown all of Hollywood the type of success possible with diverse casts and rich stories. And when these three movies are viewed through the prism of the larger universe, each does a lovely job at existing in the MCU, while also expanding it and tying themselves into the overarching story as we head into Avengers: Endgame next year.
Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise has been around since 1996, but it has never been one predicated on the speed at which the sequels are released. That has changed a bit after J.J. Abrams brought the series back with Mission: Impossible III, and then continuing it with Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol in 2011 and Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in 2015 - all of which continued to drum up interest in the franchise.
He's the first director to return to the franchise and resulted in him delivering Mission: Impossible - Fallout earlier this year, making it the quickest sequel of the franchise, coming out just three years after its predecessor. Surprisingly, it's in this shortened window that the franchise may have reached its greatest heights. McQuarrie's expert craftsmanship helped Mission: Impossible - Fallout raise the bar on all fronts, as the story, cinematography, performances, stunts, and more could go down as franchise bests.
The focus for him and Cruise was to push Ethan Hunt's story in a new direction by tying together other parts of his past. It helped make Mission: Impossible - Fallout the closing of Ethan's journey to this point, while still allowing room for a future. Franchise regulars Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames return in Mission: Impossible - Fallout, as does Rebecca Ferguson. But, the movie also managed to introduce excellent new characters to the franchise's mythos, such as August Walker (Henry Cavill) and the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby).
It's for all of those reasons that Mission: Impossible - Fallout manages to make the entire Mission: Impossible franchise as a result of it existing. But if we take a step further, it also has quickly put itself in pole position of being the best installment of the franchise. The story helps make that possible, but so do the mind-blowing stunts that Mission: Impossible - Fallout pulls off. The HALO jump in particular was understandably plastered all over the film's marketing and still manages to deliver in the film itself. But, that is just one of a handful of outstanding action sequences the movie has to offer. From a character, story, and entertainment perspective, Mission: Impossible - Fallout undoubtedly improved the Mission: Impossible franchise.