Much like the original, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a big jingoistic cartoon. But it’s a fun jingoistic cartoon. I say that as someone that didn’t like the original “Top Gun” so suffice to say I was hesitant going right in to it. After so many years left in film limbo, I was stunned it was so well received, as legacy sequels most of the time fall flat. While “Top Gun: Maverick” isn’t exactly a masterpiece, I could think of worse times to spend with an action movie; it’s definitely one of the better legacy sequels I’ve seen.
2018 was a big year for movies, it was a great year for animation, it was a stellar year for horror movies in general, and it was such a busy time for anyone that loved and appreciated film. Thankfully it was tough stacking a top ten that was definitive and that sit well with me because I had so many favorites. With so much new avenues to view film I didn’t get everything I wanted in 2018, but I saw enough to compile a top twenty or top twenty five.
This is my top ten films of 2018, these are films I loved, these are films that I hope you seek out if you haven’t, by now.
Honorable Mentions: Paddington 2, The Domestics, Black Panther, Ready Player One, Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse, Revenge, Tully, The Night Eats the World, Bird Box, A Star is Born
I can safely say that among the long running action franchises out there, “Mission Impossible” might just be my favorite. Not only has the series managed to re-invent itself time and time again, but Tom Cruise continues to impress and compel as series hero Ethan Hunt. He is a classic hero, a man who is bound to his work, or else the world literally falls apart at the seams. He’s a daring, bold, and clever force of nature, but he’s also one chained forever to the IMF, forced to confront not only terrorist threats, but the fall out of his past enemies that have come back to finally haunt him.
After “The Wolfman” and “Dracula Untold” failed to launch the intended Cinematic Universe, Universal has hitched their ride on “The Mummy,” a movie so broadly developed and so utterly stale, that it feels more like a pitch for a movie than an actual movie. So much of “The Mummy” and its tedious, monotonous, lifeless run time is spent propping up storylines, explaining, over explaining, and flash backs. Rather than watching characters experience, and go through the wringer, and develop, Universal spends an enormous amount of time creating this tidy, and sanitary action thriller that is hell bent on establishing the universe its set in, rather than engaging us in an actual movie that is somewhat entertaining of compelling.
Ethan Hunt is no mere agent. He’s a force of nature that keeps pushing himself to the brink of imminent death every single time we meet him. Last time he hung on the side of a high rise, and this time he hangs along the side of a flying aircraft. Not to mention he merely drowns in one of the many close call operations he and the disbanded IMF commit towards. Tom Cruise lends the character an intensity and bug eyed gutsiness that make him a hero you want to root for, and someone you most definitely want on your side at all times. Hunt has met his match this time with the evil Lane (Sam Harris), a leader of a rising organization called the Syndicate, who is always one step ahead of Hunt, while sidekick Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) displays an enigmatic aura that makes Hunt uncertain if she’s friend or foe.
It’s nice to see director Brad Bird inject a new sense of excitement and novelty in to the “Mission Impossible” movie series, as it now embraces its episodic origins to completely reboot the epic story of Ethan Hunt. After the pretty good third outing, “Ghost Protocol” sports an entirely different atmosphere, where the team from the IMF are still out and lurking about, while Ethan Hunt has become a pariah, now jailed in a Russian prison. After Simon Pegg’s character Benji stages a caper to free Ethan from prison, Ethan discovers that the world must be in dire trouble if he’s being turned to for help.
You just have to appreciate Paramount’s willingness to continue the “Mission: Impossible” franchise in the face of lackluster stories, with very good directors who fix the series to their own styles, yet keep the spirit. There was Brian DePalma’s overrated and cerebral original installment, then John Woo’s brainless, nonsensical but fun sequel, and now, as a last ditch effort, we have J.J. Abrams, creator of one of the most popular spy shows of all time, “Alias.” They have the right idea in mind. Spy movie, recruit spy show director. Voila. Instant magic. Instant magic? Not particularly.