The biggest movies with something to prove in 2018

2018 is a big year for movies, with its slate including blockbusters like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War. Movies like these, however, aren't just a means to a box office end—they've each got something to prove. Some of this year's films seek to defeat stigmas against their respective genres, others are serving as proving grounds for new directors, and a few more are wholly unique endeavors. Read on to find out the challenges facing this year's most anticipated movies.

Transformers: Bumblebee

The spinoff Transformers: Bumblebee will be the sixth entry in the franchise. This will be the first film in the series not helmed by director Michael Bay, and that—fans of the Transformers brand hope—means it'll also be the first film that does justice to the original series and isn't just a shallow CGI explosion-fest. With the increasingly low Rotten Tomatoes scores and domestic box office returns of each new installment in the series, it's obvious something's been wrong for a while.

Thankfully, fans, critics, and casual viewers alike all have reason to be hopeful; the Bumblebee spinoff is being entrusted to Travis Knight. This is the guy who directed Kubo and the Two Strings, to give you some perspective. Given how utterly amazing and well-received that movie was, it's given everyone a bit of optimism that we might be on the verge of seeing the live-action Transformers series correct its course. As long as Paramount doesn't toy with his vision, Knight and his Bumblebee movie might just prove that Transformers films can be good, as long as they're handled by someone who respects the material and audiences' intelligence. Fingers crossed!

The Incredibles 2

2004's The Incredibles, one of Pixar's most beloved movies, has seen a whopping 14-year hiatus between installments. A lot can happen in 14 years. Your audience gets older, fans get more critical, and expectations rise—and not just because of 14 years' worth of anticipation. And that's not even considering how exhausted by superhero films a lot of people are. 

The Incredibles originally released in a pre-MCU age, before studios like Marvel, Fox, and Warner Bros. were pumping out more annual superhero films than could be counted on one hand. While the first film leaned more heavily on Mr. Incredible's personal journey, family dynamics, and James Bond plot devices, upending a genre that hadn't yet cemented itself in cinema, The Incredibles 2 has a lot more to live up to and will have to really work that Pixar charm in a now over-saturated market. In sum, Brad Bird and Pixar are going to have to knock this one out of the park if they hope to prove the Incredibles are truly worthy of their name.

Deadpool 2

Deadpool was, for lots of moviegoers, 2016's biggest cinematic surprise. Thanks to Fox permitting an R rating for Marvel's raunchiest, sassiest superhero, Ryan Reynolds and co. were able to do the character justice, unleashing unto the world a Deadpool who cursed, fornicated and gruesomely sliced up bad guys—all onscreen and unfiltered. It was a far cry from Deadpool's previous cinematic appearance and, well, everyone was grateful for it. Deadpool was the edgy and irreverent shock to the system that proved the superhero genre wasn't growing stale.

Fast-forward two years and everyone's gearing up for Deadpool 2, a movie that has to prove that it wasn't just a one-trick pony. Sex, drugs, violence, and meta-humor are great the first time 'round, but now that general audiences are familiar with the character's tricks, it's going to take more to keep people pleased. With the director of the first Deadpool film out, and new cast member Josh Brolin in, along with fellow merc and potential love interest Domino, it's clear the studio isn't simply doubling down on what worked before. However, it also means we can't be sure what to expect from the sequel, besides the knowledge that it'll be trying twice as hard to impress us and prove that Wade Wilson's got what it takes to stay Hollywood's edgiest A-list antihero.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story has racked up a bit of a reputation for being the problem child among Lucasfilm's current in-development projects. The first signs of trouble arose when Kathleen Kennedy flexed her executive muscles and fired directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord well into Solo's development. This massive production shakeup struck fear into fans, causing some to wonder if Kennedy was playing it too safe by firing directors over their artistic vision. Worse yet, Alden Ehrenreich, the actor portraying Han Solo, was saddled with an acting coach on-set in order to ensure his performance was up to snuff. Couple these problems with the fact that the movie's arriving in four months and Lucasfilm still hasn't publicly released a single second of footage, and it's easy to see why people are getting worried (studio execs included, we bet).

As a result of these problematic developments, Solo's got quite a bit to prove. First, it's got to show it can overcome a troubled production history. Then, it's got to justify its place in the Star Wars lineage, since any story with Solo as a hero could potentially, and retroactively, invalidate his character's starting point as a scoundrel in A New Hope. Lastly, it's got to do both of these things so well that fans don't catch Star Wars fatigue, especially considering The Last Jedi was only just a few months prior and new Star Wars installments are now expected every year.

In short, Solo's got everything to prove and everything to lose, which is probably why he doesn't like to be told the odds.

Tomb Raider

Video game adaptations have proven divisive at best and downright awful at worst, consistently failing to captivate critics and often disappointing fans to a similar degree. Really, box office returns tend to be the only saving grace for these films, and even that's extremely hit-or-miss.

Tomb Raider, an adaptation of the 2013 Tomb Raider video game reboot, needs to prove that these games can be adapted just as well as any other storytelling medium and have their dozen-plus-hour narratives shrunken down to fit within tidy, captivating two-hour cinema experiences. This film needs to show that characters who are done justice in their respective games don't have to be barely recognizable cardboard cutouts by the time they reach the movie screen.

Thankfully, the team responsible for Tomb Raider seems to understand all of this, if the first trailer is anything to go by. Featuring set-pieces and cinematography ripped directly out of the reboot, the movie seems to be playing to the source material's strengths, capturing its Indiana Jones-esque action with precision and skill. If the film copies the game's well-developed characters and realistic dialogue as well, why it could end being the first video game adaptation to overcome the genre's negative stigma.

A Star Is Born

While it's still a bit too early for anyone to have expectations regarding the movie itself (Warner Bros. hasn't released a trailer as of this writing), one aspect of A Star Is Born that's already set to be under intense scrutiny is the ability of its first-time director Bradley Cooper, who we've seen star in great films like Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, and Limitless. The question is, how will he utilize that experience now that he's calling shots on both sides of the camera? 

Cooper's got a lot to prove with this romantic movie musical; first impressions are everything, and this is a chance for him to cement himself as Hollywood's freshest double threat. With the movie experiencing two release-date delays, Cooper's been evading his Day of Judgment for some time now—a fact that will change if Warner Bros. sticks to its guns and releases the movie on October 5 as planned. Here's hoping the final product is a hit and that this film marks the beginning of a fruitful directing career for the Hangover star.

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel has a whole lot to prove. Can it successfully turn a Japanese manga into a live-action flick for the Western audience? Will it have what it takes to please series fans as well as newcomers? Can it convince audiences at large to accept those insanely unsettling live-action anime eyes?

While the third question is unique to Alita, the other two inquiries have been tackled by another recent cyberpunk anime adaptation: 2017's Ghost in the Shell. Unfortunately, that movie didn't manage to win over many newcomers or please longtime fans in Western territories, meaning it likely wasn't the success Paramount was hoping for.

Alita: Battle Angel is essentially round two at bucking the growing notion that anime and manga can't make for good live-action Hollywood blockbusters. Will this movie be the one to prove naysayers wrong? 

Sicario 2: Soldado

A lot of Sicario's edgiest content worked because of how it was portrayed by renowned director Denis Villeneuve, an auteur with the skill to deliver shocking content with nuance. Can you imagine another director helming a story where Emily Blunt starts as a strong, empowered FBI agent and devolves into a sniveling, battered and bruised little girl? A story in which we're supposed to sympathize with Benicio del Toro, whose character guns down a man's wife and children in the middle of dinner? If plot beats like these aren't handled carefully, public outrage might sink a movie before it's had a chance to swim.

This is why Sicario 2: Soldado has so much to prove. Without Villeneuve, will this movie manage to be as artfully and expertly executed as the previous installment? Will new director Stefano Sollima be able to maintain the same sophisticated approach that made Sicario 2's predecessor such a critical success? Soldado's likely going to tackle a lot of hot-button border issues, and, given the current United States political climate, any poorly implemented decisions by the director will be savaged by critics, the press, and general audiences alike. This movie's diving headfirst into a controversy minefield, and it's going to have to tread very carefully to avoid mishandling its subject matter or, worse, dishonoring its predecessor by playing it safe and not asking the real questions. Either way, Sicario 2 faces some unenviable challenges. 

Venom

Can a Spider-Man cinematic universe actually work without including Spider-Man himself? Well, that's what Sony's Venom movie is here to find out. Barring a rumored cameo by Tom Holland's MCU Peter Parker, it's fairly certain that there will be no full-fledged appearances from Venom's most iconic enemy within the supervillain's solo spin-off movie. This means all the weight of Venom will rest exclusively on the title character himself, portrayed by Tom Hardy. 

Could this villain-centric film be a bridge too far for casual fans and general audiences, most of whom might not be familiar with the character? Could this be the film that kills off the last of Sony's Spider-Man Universe plans before they've even begun? After all, not too long ago they shelved their Sinister Six movie plans as a result of The Amazing Spider-Man 2's under-performance. Considering that movie had a monster budget and Spidey himself at the forefront, and still failed to live up to Sony's expectations, one's got to wonder what the company's metrics for success will be when judging Venom. We'll all find out soon enough. The movie is slated to arrive on October 5, 2018.

Avengers: Infinity War

To say Avengers: Infinity War is one of the most anticipated movies of the past decade might very well be an understatement. Seriously, this movie is tracking to redefine what "anticipated" means. With 18 movies' worth of buildup and ten years of fan grooming in its wake, Infinity War has a name to match the expectations it needs to live up to. Marvel's ultimate high school reunion is going to have to pull out all the stops if it hopes to capitalize on the billions of dollars' worth of box office potential the movie holds. Luckily, it looks like Kevin Feige and the team are up to the task. 

Featuring the writers and directors of the critically adored and box-office-busting Captain America: Civil War, as well as the biggest all-star cast of A-list actors ever assembled, Infinity War is poised to strike lightning for the MCU. The movie will hopefully provide a solid payoff to the decade of hype surrounding it, proving that Feige's unprecedented cinematic universe endeavor wasn't all for naught. If it fails, well, it'll be ten years and billions of dollars' worth of effort capped off by one tremendous disappointment. If it succeeds, it might very well be the biggest event in the history of superhero cinema.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

The first Pacific Rim movie was a remarkable breath of fresh air. As a Western kaiju film, it did right by its fans by giving its monsters a lot of screen time, something similar movies like 2014's Godzilla failed to do. Then, on top of satiating audiences' desires for non-stop monster vs. robot fights, Pacific Rim did something even more unexpected: rather than create a coupling between its protagonists, a male and female team, the two end up as war-weary friends, forming an emotional arc entirely befitting their characters. Human touches like that made for a monster movie that elevated itself beyond the average popcorn flick. Seriously, what other movie has pulled off great character development while focusing on robots that use ocean freighters as baseball bats? (OK, a small pool to choose from there to be sure.) 

A penchant for imaginative spectacle mixed with relatable, lovable human characters is a trademark of Guillermo del Toro, the writer and director of the first movie (and now best-known for multi-Oscar-nominated The Shape of Water). Since Pacific Rim: Uprising lacks del Toro in either role, Uprising's creators have a lot to prove: can they live up to the bar that del Toro set? Can they tell a story that doesn't just retread or undo the original's narrative? Can they craft a unique kaiju movie capable of standing tall alongside its bar-setting, genre-defining predecessor?

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World accomplished something special: it resurrected a long-dormant franchise and not only gave it a new lease on life but one worth living. Jurassic World wasn't a sequel that dragged a dead franchise back into the limelight for one more nostalgia-fueled cash-grab, it was a sequel that thrust the series into global prominence, hence why World was both critically welcomed and a box office behemoth. World ushered in a new era for dinosaur movies and reminded us that extinction is only ever temporary in Hollywood, hence why we've already got another sequel coming up this year with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. As cool as the first trailer looked, Fallen Kingdom begs the question: now that Universal's resuscitated the franchise, can they keep it relevant?

Jurassic World made itself timely by toying with 2015 notions of biological engineering, which distracted us all from the fact that the updated narrative's backdrop was simply a retread of the original Jurassic Park (another theme park featuring dinosaurs destined to break free and wreak havoc). That kind of gimmick is only good once, however, and Fallen Kingdom will need something fresh to keep the series momentum going. It's got to prove that World was more than a successful one-off throwback and that the series isn't destined to become a fossil in Hollywood's history. Fallen Kingdom needs to be a successful second act to one of the biggest franchise re-launches of all-time, which is no small feat. Still, we're sure the creators will, uh, find a way.