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10 Years Later, Cloverfield Remains The Pinnacle of Found Footage Films

There’s been a lot of found footage films. But none of them can equal the scale and ambition of Matt Reeves’ monster movie masterpiece.

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There could be a bit of recency bias in my recollection here but, for me, there might be no more important year in the history of 21st Century film than 2008. There’s a few reasons for that, most of which I will discuss in the months ahead (let’s just say it was a big year for superhero movies, and leave it at that for now.) But when it comes to notable film’s celebrating their 10th Anniversary, one film in particular instantly sticks out to me: Cloverfield. And the reason why is two-fold — not only is the film’s release date extremely memorable (it was going by the title 1-18-08 for the longest time, after all), but the film itself has been one I’ve been thinking about quite a bit in the decade since.

Sure, there might be other films in 2008 that had a larger impact on the world and on cinema, but for me, at least? Cloverfield remains an absolute marvel of a film, a technically brilliant disaster film that not only defined a format, but pretty much give it a kick in the pants the moment it needed it the most. Since Cloverfield we have had many, MANY found footage films, but none have had the initial impact that Cloverfield had for me. And with the film turning ten today, I thought it would be the perfect time to reevaluate its mertis. After so many years, and what feels like a lifetimes worth of other movie releases, would Cloverfield be able to elicit quite the same response? For me at least, the answer is a clear yes. Cloverfield is a film that left me absolutely gobsmacked the first time I saw it and, revisiting it 10 years later, still leaves me rather breathless.

And, for me at least, that euphoria all comes from the result of some absolutely stellar filmmaking. At the time, it was rather shocking just how well made Cloverfield was: nothing about the shaky cam footage and blurry visuals looked like they would amount to much, at least from what the vague trailers showed us. But, now, it’s far easier to see just how technically proficient this film is. Hindsight is 20-20, but also having a grasp on who’s behind the camera helps you appreciate the artistry on display much more.

That man here is of course Matt Reeves, who made his directorial debut with Cloverfield. Reeves would go on to make two of the best blockbusters ever made (IMHO, but it really should just be considered a fact at this point) with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, but right from the get-go he proved himself an able craftsman with Cloverfield. While the film bares resemblances to both its found footage forefathers AND later successors (think The Blair Witch Project, Chronicle, and Paranormal Activity), it’s clear from the get-go that Cloverfield is working on an entirely different scale altogether. This is a film packed to the brim with huge special effects, crazy monster designs, and the literal destruction of New York City in the span of a half dozen hours. Paranormal Activity, by comparison, is about a bedroom.

None of which is to belittle other films in the found footage genre: I happen to be a fan of the conceit, generally. But, man, none of them have been able to push my buttons in the way that Cloverfield did. It was a revelation, and one that only got better and better as it spun out into grander territory. Even with the intense viral marketing and captivating trailer, I was not prepared for the ride that I initially went on with Cloverfield. And I was far from the only one — remember all the reports of the people getting sick in the theater, becoming disoriented and dizzy by the action unfolding onscreen? That’s purposeful, and though I’m sure those who experienced it would probably disagree with me, very much one of the film’s strong suits. On the surface, it’s a mere monster movie. But the way that the film tells its stories turns it into a powerful, disorienting, enthralling thrill ride.

Cloverfield

The shot of the beheaded Statue of Liberty is ICONIC, and for very good reason.

Which is kind of the point anyways, right? The whole reason found footage exists as a genre is to give viewers a rawer, more visceral experience. Take away the excesses of traditional film techniques, and you also separate the barrier between what appears fake…and what doesn’t. You end up taking away people’s perception of it “just being a movie,” to the point that they too might really be convinced that a witch killed some kids in the forests of Maryland.

Now, obviously, the same can’t really be said of Cloverfield. No one was going to get fooled into thinking the events of this film actually happened, unless they just happened to chose the film as their first bit of entertainment after coming out of a twenty-year long coma. But the fact that it feels so real despite that is what makes Cloverfield so magical: through the use of its found footage conceit, it strips away the artifice of the standard disaster movie template, and creates something far more horrifying and powerful in the process. The found footage element of Cloverfield isn’t just some gimmick to make the movie stand out amongst other monster movies — it’s essential to what the film is trying to accomplish and, ultimately, what it is trying to say about the very nature of the genre.

While it would be incorrect to say Cloverfield is the most “realistic” monster movie for this reason, I would argue that it makes it the most down to Earth one. In fact, what I love so much about the movie is the fact that it takes your standard Godzilla-esque story, and recontextualizes it entirely by focusing on your standard, run-of-the-mill people. Throughout the film, our main group bears witnesses to a bunch of soldiers running around, trying their best to combat the unstoppable monster and save the city. In most movies, you would be following the military dudes going after the monster, with the background characters trying to escape simply serving as the backdrop. But what Cloverfield so beautifully realizes is that the more interesting story is buried within these background figures, that a tale of basic human survival is far more affecting than the umpteenth story of some military figures or scientists trying to save the world.

Cloverfield

And if you’re going to commit to telling that story, what’s the best way to bring the action down to their level? Why, by literally presenting it from their point of view. The camera only catches the occasional glimpse of things, and misses a bunch of key moments, and is usually just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of chaos happening on screen. But if you were in the shoes of Rob, Hud, Lily, Marlena, or Beth, wouldn’t you be overwhelmed too? The camera is a nice way to give the film some flair but, more importantly, it’s a way to get into the headspace of the main characters.

Main characters who, by the way, are far better handled than they had any right to be. Props should most likely be given to screenwriter Drew Goddard in that department — like Reeves, time has only gone to further show how amazingly talented this man is, with The Martian and (especially) Cabin in the Woods subsequently earning raves. But even in penning his first feature film script, Goddard already showed a knack for inventiveness, and a willingness to form strong character arcs even amidst the nuttiest of concepts. While the center love story between Rob and Beth isn’t the most amazing one in the world, it has its benefits. The idea of risking your own life and safety just to save another in a time of crisis is a meaningful one, and the film’s use of in-camera flashbacks (through a pretty smart “overwriting” technique) also provides a powerful glimpse into how simple and relatable the lives of our main characters used to be before things went to shit. But most important of all, fleshing out the characters the way Cloverfield did gives the film a drive and emotional throughline that so many modern blockbusters really lack.

…Like Godzilla, for instance. Now I was going to try my best not to make this article just another takedown of that 2014 remake, but rewatching Cloverfield reminded me just how much better this film handled the idea of a stripped down, barebones disaster film. While Godzilla wasted about an hour of time with secret military tests, scientists talking about ultimately unimportant things, and criminally underutilizing Bryan Cranston, Cloverfield opens with a bunch of 20somethings having a fun party, and using that party as a way of laying down the groundwork for their future behavior and character arcs. While Godzilla spends an agonizing amount of time following ARMY MAN Aaron Taylor Johnson doing absolutely nothing of value while hopping from country to country, Cloverfield lays out the central mission of the movie a third of the way in, and focus on said mission for the rest of its runtime. While Godzilla got off on withholding its main monster through smudgy cinematography and baffling cutaways, Cloverfield uses said withholding to instill a sense of foreboding and chaos. While Godzilla is an overlong, dreary mess, Cloverfield is a brisk 85 minute roller coaster ride of action and horror. One that also happens to feature a cast of characters I actually give a shit about which, believe it or not, is pretty important for a film! Anyways, I’ll stop picking on Godzilla now. I just needed to release that rant, since I’ve been holding on to it for nearly four years.

Godzilla

Eh, at least this scene was pretty rad.

Anyways, what more can I say? Clearly I love Cloverfield and, rewatching it now, I’m taken aback with how much it still very much works. Not quite as much as it did the first time I watched it unfold on the big screen but, to be fair, what could? Seeing Cloverfield back then was a magical moment for me, as I sat in pure awe watching this crazy monster movie unfold before my very eyes. The fact that the experience can even be 1/10 as awesome some ten years later speaks to how, even pushing aside the mystery and the presentation, the film works incredibly well as a subversive, visceral disaster movie.

Part of me wants to say that I wish we got more original blockbusters that are as gutsy and crazy as Cloverfield but, really, that’s one of the film’s ultimately greatest accomplishments. Even with the found footage format being one of modern horror’s go to devices, there is nothing else that can quite match the scale and ambition of Cloverfield. And, honestly, I doubt there ever will be. I can only just hope that the ongoing Cloverfield set of anthology films will continue to find equally compelling ways to tell unique, compelling sci-fi stories. Hey, they are two for two so far! Hopefully April’s mysterious Cloverfield 3 will continue the trend.

But, until that happens, I highly recommend revisiting Cloverfield. The film unfortunately isn’t streaming on Netflix or Hulu or anything like that, but you can rent it on Amazon, and where all purchasable streaming films can be found. Or you can just watch it on a Blu-Ray disc, like me. PHYSICAL MEDIA 4EVAH.

(You might disagree with what I have to say about the film, but no one can argue this isn’t one of the all-time great teaser trailers, right? Makes one hell of a first impression, and perfectly sells the madness of the finished film.)

Here are some other things of note I thought about while re-watching the film. Also they are spoiler-heavy thoughts so, if you got this far and haven’t seen the film…just go do that instead, okay? Okay.

  • There’s a lot of oners in the film, which must have been very difficult to do with the budget and level of secrecy that the film had. Just makes the technical wizardry all the more impressive.
  • The scene where Rob has to tell his mother that his brother died is so, so great. Once again, it’s not the type of shit you usually get in a monster movie. You don’t get the time to see the direct human cost of the monster wreaking havoc, at least not as it extends outside the core group of characters. Of course all the mothers of the world would be calling their children. And of course a fair amount of those mothers are going to end up heartbroken.
  • I remember there being a huge uproar from people about how stupid it would be for someone to keep filming throughout the entirity of such a crazy attack. But, personally, I never got the argument. Hud from the beginning explains why he keeps filming everything (“People will want to see this”), and I found the sentiment mostly rang true. It was also clearly a way for him to handle the enormity of the situation, which rather intelligently made the motif an additional, but intrigual character quirk. Also, in the modern age, the idea of someone filming everything they are seeing is more believable than ever. If Cloverfield actually happened in real life, you bet your ass someone would be streaming the entire thing on Youtube.
  • The tunnel scene is TERRIFYING. The visualization of the hatchlings is just so perfect, with the creature designs overall being top notch. Props to man designer Neville Page and the rest of his team on that.
  • Marlena’s exploding head death was a visual that stuck with me for a decade. That’s when you know a film is good.
  • The slanted skyscraper also made for some neat compositions, and even cooler set designs.
  • Pulling the rhubarb out of Beth’s shoulder is horrifying, and without even showing a damn thing. It’s the little things that make this movie so great.
  • “What is that!” “It’s a terrible thing!”
  • “What is that?!” “I don’t know, something else, also terrible.” Like any good thriller, Cloverfield also takes the time for some very much appropriate comic relief. Shame it has to come out of the mouth of T.J. Miller, though. Time has been kind to Cloverfield in many areas but, uh, not that one. 
  • Speaking of genuine emotions: I love how people are actually FREAKING THE FUCK OUT throughout the entire film. Not your standard screams and other crowd noises, but genuine “OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO DIE” rantings. Can see how some could be turned off by the detail, but it just makes me appreciate the film’s authenticity even more.
  • The shot of Hud being eaten/seeing the monster for the first time. Next level stuff, people. Matt Reeves is a brilliant, brilliant man. I’m so happy he’s doing a Batman, and I have all the confidence in the world it will be great.
  • “My name is Beth McIntyre. And I don’t know why this is happening.” Can’t think of a more succinct line to express the film’s ultimate theme than that. At the end of the day, the main characters are just a bunch of tiny figures, going through a world-shattering event, and trying their best to make it out alive.  And, if a monster attack happened in real life, you can bet the vast majority of audiences would be right there with them.
  • “I had a good day.” And then that final line is just…mean. 


Also published on Medium.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

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Let’s Speculate Wildly: Is Marvel Laying The Groundwork For A Thor Crossover In Black Panther 2?

The endings of Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther could open up quite the intriguing storyline for Black Panther 2…if the studio chooses to explore it.

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***This post contains spoilers for the end of both Thor: Ragnarok AND Black Panther. Don’t read this if you haven’t watched either film. You have been warned.***

I had a lot of thoughts floating through my head as I watched Black Panther this weekend. First and foremost was awe — Marvel pulled off another great movie, which is increasingly becoming the norm for that company. Secondly was tremendous respect for Ryan Coogler, who managed to not only deliver an incredibly fun superhero movie, but a blockbuster with something important and fascinating to say. Third was a simple wish to have Letitia Wright as my new best friend which, c’mon, shouldn’t be that hard, right?!

But one thought that was in the back of my mind throughout most of Black Panther was, admittedly, a rather geeky one. And the kind of geeky thought that stems from nothing more than the rather childish instincts of having all my favorite toys playing together. Sure, that is a major part of the fun that the Marvel Cinematic Universe represents, but it doesn’t make the instinct of “oh, what if these two met and became BEST FRIENDS?!” any less of a reductive thought. All that being said…wouldn’t it be super awesome if Thor: Ragnarok’s Valkyrie met the Wakandians?! I mean, she would LOVE it there, right? A warrior culture of advanced lifeforms who are primarily protected by a troop of badass, all-female fighters? She would have SO MUCH fun! And since she was the undeniable MVP of Thor: Ragnarok (next to Korg, at least), it would be a lot of great to see her hang out with the great ensemble that was built up in Black Panther. 

…Which got me thinking.

The way Thor: Ragnarok ended left a huge question mark in that particular area of the MCU. Choosing to literally destroy all of Asgard, leaving its occupants in flight and in search of a new home, was kind of a ballsy choice for the sequel. And then when Thor suggested immigrating to Earth in the final line of the film, I couldn’t help but stifle a chuckle. The world can barely handle the people it has — Thor is in for a rude awakening if he thinks that they will just invite a whole crop of alien refugees to share their resources. In a post Brexit, Syrian refugee crisis world, the idea of the Asgardians just coming to Earth and being welcomed with open arms is (sadly) laughable.

But, regardless, the question still remained: what would become of the Asgardians as they made their way to Earth? Clearly, Marvel has a plan here, as it would be very unlike them to set up this plot point without ever addressing it again in the future. If they had no plan for the ship full of Asgardians, why even save them? Well, I have a theory: they were saved because they will serve an important purpose in a future MCU installment. Namely? Black Panther 2. Or whatever it will end up being called. Marvel doesn’t like numbers anymore.

But that’s beside the point. Let’s now shift focus to the aforementioned Black Panther, which concluded with King T’Challa finally realizing (through the inactions of his ancestors) that Wakanda could no longer be a nation of isolationist. That, in the modern world, Wakanda could just not turn its back on people who need aid. He spoke to the UN about creating “bridges” rather than barriers to outside countries, which made for a rather rousing and uplifting message for the film to conclude on.

But what made Black Panther a great movie is how it didn’t rely on moral absolutism, even for things that seemed obvious (i.e you should help those that need it.) Killmonger was one of Marvel’s best villains because he had a point, and was correct in many of his stances towards how Wakanda was doing a disservice to the world. But opening the doors to the outside world has its fair share of potential issues and problems too, which the film briefly addresses as light rebuttals to Killmonger’s main points. If Wakanda shared its advance knowledge with the world, how much of it would be used for ill? What responsibility does Wakanda even have towards the world at large? Should it take precedence over their well being as a singular culture? The film wisely doesn’t provide clear-cut answers for these issues and, though what T’Challa does is ultimately the “right” thing, the right thing can often lead to consequences of their very own.

Which is what I imagine the potential sequel will tackle. Just like how Iron Man 2 delt with the fallout of Tony revealing his identity to the world, and how Captain America: Winter Soldier dealt with the fallout of Steve Rogers being a man out of time, Black Panther 2 will absolutely have to tackle how the massive change in status quo for Wakanda impacts its people and their king. And what better way to do that then by actually showing Wakanda literally opening its doors to another people? Say another people with an equally strong sense of culture and traditions, who are currently floating through space without a home of their own? If my theory is even slightly correct, than Wakanda would be the perfect place for the Asgardians refuges to settle…and Black Panther 2 would be a perfect place to give such a move its due.

After all, such a migration would lend a Black Panther sequel a ton of interesting, relevant themes to dwell upon, themes that can build upon those of the first Black Panther, and can be just as politically relevant and insightful. What kind of conflicts arises when two ancient, powerful cultures are forced to share the same living space? What becomes of the nation of Wakanda when it actually puts its money where its mouth is and adopts a more multi-cultural approach to its civilization? Would doing so risk diluting the culture of Wakanda as it stands, erasing the identity of the people with it? And how would the Asgardians, previously a nation of conquerors and “protectors” over all others, move into a more submissive position in which they have to rely on another people for support? And how would the two kings caught in the middle (Thor and T’Challa) deal with such a cultural clash? Now normally I wouldn’t predict a superhero blockbuster to so strongly address a real-world issue (in this case, the Syrian refugee crisis), but I sure as hell didn’t expect Black Panther to address the themes it did either. So if any modern blockbuster series would, it would be this one. The themes are already baked into its DNA, after all, and the way the way the overall story is moving in the MCU itself would seem to lead to such a plot turn.

And while I can see certainly see a bit of cynicism to the concept of Black Panther 2 so heavily absorbing another branch of the MCU (“What, does Marvel not think Black Panther is a strong enough series to support itself without a big crossover?), I think the potential of the story outweighs the fear of this becoming a paint-by-numbers superhero team-up film. And recent Marvel history not only shows how open and willing they are to play with their characters in this way, but also gives them the benefit of the doubt to do it. Even if this hypothetical Black Panther includes Thor and his brood of supporting characters (who at this point are only Valkyrie and Heimdall, really — technically Loki is with him too but, let’s be honest, that dude is TOAST come Infinity War), I trust the people at Marvel can find a way to add these characters into the world while still allowing the movie to be a Black Panther sequel. Throwing in Hulk for Thor: Ragnarok never made that one feel like less of a Thor movie. And, despite what could have happened, Spider-Man: Homecoming remained a Spider-Man film, and didn’t ever become “Iron Man and His Amazing Web-Swinging Friend” as initially feared. Hell, Captain America: Civil War included nearly all the Avengers in substantial roles, and I still feel like the center of the story was on Steve Rogers and his overall arc. I see no reason why bringing in Thor, Valkyrie, Heimdall (and, of course, Korg) would take away from the focus of the story being on T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, W’Kabi, M’Baku, et al. And the dramatic potential this story could have on the Black Panther AND Thor characters far outweighs the potential negatives, in my mind.

Of course, I have to end all this blatant fan theorizing by stating the obvious: I have no idea whatsoever what will happen in future Black Panther installments, or the rest of the MCU for that matter. Everything I am writing here is pure conjecture, based on nothing, and I very well could be wrong about where this entire thing is heading. After all, Avengers: Infinity War is going to come and blow all my MCU theories out of the water anyways. What the shape of this universe will be post-Infinity War/Avengers 4 is anyone’s guess. For all I know, Infinity War might go full Alien 3, and begin with Thanos killing off every Asgardian aside from Thor. But, like I said, I have more faith in Marvel’s storytelling abilities than that.

And even if Black Panther 2 doesn’t have anything to do with the universe of Thor and its characters…I have to imagine there will be a grander purpose for the Asguardian refugees. And with the movie directly after Thor: Ragnarok concluding with a separate, powerful group deciding to open their borders and help those in need (including by taking in refugees, as directly stated by Nakia earlier in the film)…well? All I can do as a viewer is try to connect the dots.

…AND fanboy out about my favorite characters meeting some of my other favorite characters. Valkyrie and Okoye need to swap war stories about protecting kings. And share fighting tips. And just be awesome, in general. And since the MCU is built specifically to facilitate such team-ups, I argue: why the hell not? We might end up getting something pretty damn interesting out of it along the way.


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Thanks For The New Incredibles 2 Sneak Peek, Disney, But…Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?

Or just move the release date to tomorrow. You know, whatever works.

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Fourteen years. Fourteen goddamn years. That’s how long we’ve all been waiting for a follow-up to Pixar’s The Incredibles, and I quite frankly can’t wait another second longer. Unfortunately, the film isn’t coming out until this summer, so I’m left waiting many million seconds more. Approximately 10,398,000 of them, in fact. But, ha ha, who’s counting?!

Yes, the wait has been rough but, at this point, we’ve already waited nearly a decade and half…what’s another three months? That’s what I am telling myself, at least. And unlike in the previous years, we’re actually getting to see something from the film, and receiving concrete proof that yes, this sequel is real and coming soon. And though the initial teaser trailer and posters only gave us a quick hint at what was to come for the film, this new “sneak peek” aired last night during the Winter Olympics gives us by far our biggest glimpse yet of the superhero sequel.

Why is it referred to as a “sneak peek,” you ask? Honestly, it beats the hell out of me. At a minute and a half, this more than qualifies as a teaser trailer, even more so than the 55-second one released in November. And this trailer actually delves into the plot of the film, which is once again more than you can say for the first teaser trailer. But, for Disney, this is nothing but a mere “sneak peek.” Let’s just hope the semantics are only to serve the release of a full-length trailer in the not to distant future (maybe with Wrinkle in Time in March? With a final trailer in front of Avengers: Infinity War in May? I certainly hope so!)

But labeling of marketing material aside, let’s talk what actually happens in this “sneak peek.” The footage opens right from where the first one ended (with the attack of the Underminer), which is a nice little bit of continuity between the two films. But though the original Incredibles ended with the promise of the superpowered family being able to fight crime as public heroes, this footage quickly establishes that it wouldn’t be so easy. And considering the impressive world that was built in the first, that’s not too much of a shocker — the golden age of heroes making a comeback seemed like it would be an uphill struggle, and Mr. Incredible makes that quite clear in the opening of this footage.

Of course, it doesn’t take long before the superhero shenanigans commence once more, this time around led by Elastigirl/Mrs. Incredible, and bankrolled by new character Winston Deavor, very clearly (and delightfully) voiced by Bob Odenkirk. Of course Deavor will probably turn out to have interior motives in trying to restore the world of super-heroics (and working with Elastigirl to do it.) For now though, Elastigirl gets to have a cool motorcycle and cool grey outfit, which is enough for this sneak peek.

Other than that though, the brunt of the new footage rests with Mr. Incredible in stay at home Dad mode, first teased in the last trailer. As funny as some of this looks to be (I particularly laughed at Mr. Incredible’s rant about how math is different, both very much in character for him AND performer Craig T. Nelson), I will admit, this plotline runs the danger of being somewhat hokey. While I’m all for Elastigirl taking the lead (and essentially upending the status quo of the last film), I do think this story runs the risk of being the standard “ha ha, Dad’s can’t parent, what a buffoon!” storyline we’ve seen time and time again. I mean, do we really need Mr. Mom with superheroes? Eh, maybe. If anyone could make it work, it would be Pixar.

And, besides, fuck reservations — I’m supposed to be excited for this one, and this sneak peek mostly made me plenty. I mean, look, it’s Frozone! And Edna Mode! And the Demon form of Jack-Jack! Come on now, my excitement remains through the roof. And if I’ve learned anything from long in development sequels like The Phantom Menace, Ghostbusters, The Hobbit, and Tron Legacy, it’s that being unreasonably excited for something is a recipe for being completely, 100% satisfied. Always!

Incredibles 2 (no “The,” it’s cleaner) hits theaters June 15.


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Fox Once Again Rearranges Its Future Slate, To Increasingly Confusing Results

Forget it, I don’t know what Fox is thinking anymore.

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A few weeks back, I expressed pretty abject confusion about Fox’s decision to rearrange its big X-Men properties around on their release slate. I just didn’t see any sense in shifting Deadpool to the crowded May release frame, nor did I see the reasoning for pushing back New Mutants a massive 10 months down the calendar (aside from the assumption that the film was in trouble, which Fox of course categorically denied.) I tried to wrap my head around it based on the PR spin Fox was utilizing, and I started to see how maybe there was a little sense then. After all, their reason for shifting these two films was because they were afraid of oversaturating their releases, and believed that some space between the two was necessary. Sure, more than half a year of space might seem like an overreaction but, I can see that reason for moving the releases to their new dates…if I squinted REALLY hard.

But now Fox has once again rearranged their next year of releases, shifting two of their biggest blockbusters from their previous release dates and adding yet another. And, believe it or not, said shifts only make their schedule even MORE confusing. Even if, on the surface, you can see the logic of what they did on an individual basis. Let’s jump right into it.

Starting with Alita: Battle Angel, the freaky looking sci-fi anime adaptation from director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron. Fox seemed pretty intent on having this one be one of their big tentpoles of the summer, but no longer — the studio has pushed the film a substantial five months, from a July 20 launch all the way to December 21, 2018. This is the pre-Christmas release spot that obviously served Cameron’s Avatar quite well, and has helped similar blockbusters ever since.

…Which is why it’s currently occupied by two other huge blockbusters in the form of Paramount’s Bumblebee and Warner Bros’ Aquaman. That’s not to mention Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse a week earlier, and Disney’s own Mary Poppins Returns a week late. It’s an insanely crowded release area, is what I’m saying, and there’s absolutely no way in hell Alita: Battle Angel is going to break out as a stange looking sci-fi film with little franchise awareness. It already had slim chances at the end of July, but Christmas 2018? Fox just sent the genre picture out there to die, regardless of its quality.

Meanwhile, Fox has also shifted the release of another one of its summer blockbusters, Shane Black’s The Predator. Originally set for release on August 3, The Predator will now land on September 14. While that used to be a dump month, the gargantuan success of It (and, on a smaller scale, Fox’s own Kingsman: The Golden Circle) makes this now a viable month for more horror-tinged blockbusters, a factor I’m sure Fox considered when it moved the film. Still, this is a strange decision in that it leaves Fox with only ONE blockbuster this summer, the aforementioned Deadpool. Which was moved to May, in the fear that it was releasing too close to New Mutant’s previous April date. But you know what would have helped that? Putting Deadpool 2 on the July 20 date now left vacant of any big summer blockbuster (unless you count Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again)Instead, Deadpool 2 now has to compete with the tail end of Avengers: Infinity War, and have its own legs cut off by Solo: A Star Wars Story…for some reason.

Anyways, in less confusing release date moves, Fox has placed Murder on the Orient Express sequel Jewel on the Nile for a release date of November 8, 2019. Of the three release date, this one makes the most sense, as Murder quietly made over $100 million domestic with a similar early November date. And though Wonder Woman 2 might make for some heavy competition just a week before…look, there’s like NO room left anymore for a would-be blockbuster to have any time to itself, so a week break is all Jewel on the Nile can probably ask for. This was a smart release date decision on Fox’s part. But I can’t say that for their decisions overall! I guess we’ll see who is right, though, when all these films hit theaters. Which, to reiterate, is…

  • Deadpool 2 on May 18, 2018
  • The Predator on September 14, 2018
  • Alita: Battle Angel on December 21, 2018
  • New Mutants on February 22, 2018
  • Jewel on the Nile on November 8, 2019

As always, these are where the release dates rest right now. Who knows what can shift in the months ahead. Stay tuned.


Also published on Medium.

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