With summer blockbuster season fast approaching, we bow our heads and give thanks to Hollywood for the bounty of helicopter explosions, giant gorillas, superheroes, aliens, and popcorn hangovers we’re about to receive. Hashtag blessed.
None can dispute that the summer is a massive season for movie theaters, and not just because they have air conditioning. More people are going on dates, students are on summer break, and parents are looking for fun ways to shut their kids up for 2 hours. However – brace yourselves for a controversial statement – sometimes summer blockbusters aren’t very good.
If you didn’t shriek and smash your device when you read that last sentence, it probably means that on some level you agree. Really, it’s a wonder that any blockbuster works well at all. These monumental movies often take years to put together, and with so much money involved, the production process can really steamroll the artistry out of a project - particularly in the story department. Just ask the entourage from Entourage.
Here at Flight Creative Media, we kinda have a thing for storytelling – hence our motto, "Tell your story. Take flight." We may not be making Marvel movies, but when conveying ideas on behalf of a client, using storytelling as a foundation helps us communicate as effectively as possible. Rather than getting sidetracked on what might look cool, our efforts go toward proving why the audience should care about what they're watching.
Blockbusters, though they exist on a far grander scale, often live or die by the same principles. All the visual effects in the world won't save a sloppy production. Unless you count the Transformers franchise, which has made almost $5 billion, in defiance of natural law. We suspect the Illuminati.
So in the interest of encouraging compelling storytelling from Hollywood, we’re bringing you exactly five upcoming summer blockbusters that stand out from the rest, with intriguing stories at their center. They may turn out like garbage for all we know, but we still celebrate them for having the guts to swing for the fences and try something interesting.
1) AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Release Date 🗓 APRIL 27
In 2012, The Avengers was the first movie of its kind, combining multiple heroes from separate movies into one massive event blockbuster. Many were intrigued, but few predicted how much of a global sensation it would be, grossing over $1.5 billion – more than any other superhero movie in history.
Since then, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has truly blossomed, expanding into the realms of the cosmic (Guardians of the Galaxy), the teensy-weensy (Ant-Man), the magical (Dr. Strange), the adolescent (Spider-Man: Homecoming), space gladiators (Thor: Ragnarok) and cyber-cats (Black Panther).
Tack on all the heroes from the first two Avengers movies, and that's a lot of ingredients to roll together into one Infinity burrito. But directors Joe and Anthony Russo are up to the task. The last Marvel project they co-directed, Captain America: Civil War, was the perfect proving ground for Infinity War. It featured over a dozen popular Marvel characters, but the central story was so compelling and well-staged, it didn't feel overcrowded or confusing. The titular 'Civil War' was the perfect storyline to bind the film together.
In Avengers: Infinity War, the connective tissue is Thanos – possibly the most notorious Marvel villain from the comics. The character emerged as the puppetmaster to the main villains in both Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers, and his fingerprints have been all over the post-credits scenes of other Marvel entries. It's all been building to this, and the events of this movie will undoubtedly have a profound effect on subsequent Marvel stories going forward. Plus, the multi-movie contracts are nearly up for many of the original Avengers, so at this point, almost no one is safe.
2) CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Release Date 🗓 AUGUST 3
It's amusing to think that the same studio behind Avengers: Infinity War is also releasing a live-action Winnie the Pooh movie in the same summer. Christopher Robin may seem like an odd entry in this list, but for Disney, this movie is a riskier play than meets the eye. And that intrigues us.
Had the studio decided to make another animated romp through Winnie the Pooh's world, we wouldn't have batted an eye. But Christopher Robin not only pivots the franchise into live-action territory, it ages the title character into a grown man (played by Ewan McGregor).
It's a rather bold premise, and while we've only gotten a small glimpse via a short teaser trailer, what we have seen makes us hopeful. So far, Disney has done an excellent job of translating their animated classics into live-action blockbusters. Some of these adaptations have stayed fairly consistent with their animated counterparts (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast), but some have brought compelling twists in storytelling and visual artistry to the table (Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent).
No doubt there will be plenty of lighthearted, cartoonish antics for younger audiences, but as with all kids' movies, a great story can bridge generational gaps and make this a fun film for everyone.
3) THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
Release Date 🗓 AUGUST 17
It's a safe bet that you've heard virtually nothing about this project. Neither had I, until I started combing through the upcoming summer releases for this article. 'The Happytime Murders' immediately struck me as a morbidly whimsical title, and the more details I learned about the movie, the more I couldn't wait to see how it turns out.
The Happytime Murders is being called a Neo-noir puppet comedy thriller. Oh great, another one? I know, I know. But hear me out. This isn't your ordinary run-of-the-mill Neo-noir puppet comedy thriller. This one is directed by Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets) and stars Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, and Elizabeth Banks.
The movie takes place in the underbelly of a fictional version of Los Angeles, where puppets and humans coexist, albeit with a layer of tension lingering between the two groups. The plot involves two detectives (one human, one puppet) who are forced to work together as they solve a string of murders against the former cast of “The Happytime Gang,” a beloved puppet show. The murder mystery plot, combined with the fact that the studio is likely shooting for an R rating, puts this film somewhere between Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Team America: World Police in terms of reality-mixing ridiculousness. There are no trailers yet for this one, making the mystique of it that much more intriguing. We can't wait to see what it's all about.
4) SLENDER MAN
Release Date 🗓 AUGUST 24
Of all the movies on this list, Slender Man stands on the shakiest ground. Partly because it's virtually impossible to tell if a horror movie will be any good based on the trailer. However, it's on the list because the real-life origins of the title character are too fascinating to ignore.
The origin of the Slender Man character can be traced back to a spooky internet meme that caught on in 2009. It now exists as a quintessential example of internet culture taking a concept and running wild with it.
The character made its debut as an entry in a Photoshop contest in an online forum. That entry was shared and re-shared, and as more and more users were inspired to design their own Slender Man artwork, the image of the unnaturally tall blank-faced man in a black suit spread rapidly across the internet. It even inspired an enemy character in Minecraft called "enderman".
Soon, a number of grisly stories and legends began to emerge online, crafted by scattered internet users. Then in 2014, a disturbing act of violence inspired by the character brought the phenomenon disturbingly close to reality. And now we have a movie.
So how do you take a crowd-sourced internet demon and adapt it into a bone-chilling horror movie? We’re not really sure yet, because the trailer shows us very little. So far we’ve seen no indication that the film takes place in modern times, so perhaps the filmmakers have chosen to make this something of an origin story that predates the internet. Either way, the horror genre has been killing it lately (pun intended, no apologies). Here's hoping that trend continues with this one.
5) THE PREDATOR
Release Date 🗓 SEPTEMBER 14
Yup, that's right ... the last movie on our list is The Predator. Right now you're probably thinking "Wait, isn't there already a movie called The Predator? And didn't they already release it, like 30 years ago?" Ha! You couldn't be more wrong. The movie you're thinking of was called Predator. This one is called The Predator. I bet you feel like a real dum-dum now.
Along with the super obvious difference in title, The Predator (2018) is actually poised to jump-start the franchise with an inventive new angle. What might that angle be? We have no earthly idea. We haven't seen a trailer yet, but we get the feeling that the marketing campaign won't give us any real answers either. And we're totally on board with that.
Most films can't afford to shroud their production in total secrecy, but people still love surprises. It doesn't have to be a cultural behemoth like Star Wars to make secrecy worth the effort, so long as the story we're being surprised with is surprising enough. And on that front, we couldn't be more encouraged by the involvement of Shane Black – writer of classic action fare like The Long Kiss Goodnight and the Lethal Weapon series, and writer/director of recent hits like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3.
Black serves as both writer and director of The Predator. This is his brainchild, and he's been trying to make it for years. Though his statements have been cryptic, he has expressed the goal of wowing audiences, not just with spectacle and fanfare, but with great storytelling as well. “It doesn't have to be 50 Predators riding motorcycles," said Black in a recent interview. "It just has to feel like a powerful story that has a lot of flavors and textures.” Cut me a slice of that.