It’s been a big year for genre fans. From tragic deaths, surprise hits, and big ol’ corporate mergers, there’s a whole lot to unpack looking at 2018 as a whole.
We’ve tried to condense all those high (and low) -lights into the biggest stories of the year, all for good and bad reasons. Not surprisingly, Disney leads the pack when it comes to huge stories. The company owns just about everything these days, and that stranglehold is only getting tighter.
Check out our full rundown below.
The passing of Stan Lee
He’s been a part of pop culture for so long, it’s still hard to reconcile the fact that he’s actually gone. Stan Lee, creator of iconic heroes like Spider-Man and the architect of the Marvel Comics universe, died at the age of 95 this year. He created or redefined pretty much every superhero who dominates the box office on a monthly basis for Marvel Studios and popped up in most of those projects along the way thanks to a decades-spanning career as a cameo king.
James Gunn fired from Marvel
James Gunn was one of the brightest stones in Marvel Studios’ Infinity Gauntlet, but after some old distasteful tweets were resurfaced, Disney decided to let him go. Firing Gunn sent shockwaves through fandom, as well as the MCU, as plans for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 were seemingly shelved while the studio has still yet to hire Gunn’s successor. For now, Gunn’s firing means it could be another phase or two until the Guardians are back in action post-Thanos.
Surprise hits: From A Quiet Place to Venom
The success of films like Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom wasn’t much of a surprise, but 2018 also brought more than a few surprises for genre fans. Indie horror thriller A Quiet Place proved to be a breakout hit, while Sony’s mid-budget Venom has globally outperformed a few mainline Spider-Man films at this point.
The recent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has also blown away expectations, garnering numerous award nominations and practically universal critical acclaim. Thought it didn’t light the box office on fire, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water brought home the Best Picture prize at the Oscars. Not bad for a sexy fish story. Overall, a great year for genre — especially for the projects nobody really saw coming.
Disney sets Star Wars, Marvel for streaming service
The Mouse House is taking most of its toys and heading home, setting plans this year to launch its own streaming service designed to potentially rival the profile of services like Netflix. That’s big news in itself, but the real headline is what Disney plans to put on Disney+: At least two live-action Star Wars series are on the way, as well as at least three new Marvel Studios miniseries projects expected to feature film characters (i.e. Loki, Scarlet Witch). The service will also have Disney’s deep back catalog of film and television, including children's movies, the Star Wars films, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Avengers: Infinity War blows up the MCU
Pretty much everybody expected Infinity War to be one of the movie events of the year, and with a box office haul of over $2 billion, it certainly covered the spread. But, the film was unlike anything Marvel Studios has attempted up to this point — and ended its biggest movie ever with the studio’s first big screen cliffhanger. What a cliffhanger it was, too. The film erased literally half the known universe, including several A-list heroes, and had Thanos defeat Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and retire a winner. The film was a bold move for a studio that basically created the modern superhero formula and successfully transcended it in the process.
As if Disney didn’t already dominate the media landscape, the studio wrapped up a long-rumored deal to purchase most of the assets from Fox. For genre fans, that means Disney will now own and control pretty much every Marvel character, as Fox holds the reins to the X-Men and Fantastic Four universes. Looking a few years down the line, this deal opens those two massive properties up to potentially be included within the MCU. Beyond the geeky aspects, the deal also turns Disney into an even more powerful media behemoth, adding properties such as Avatar and the Planet of the Apes.
Black Panther’s impact
Being a Marvel Studios project, it wasn’t much of a shock to see Black Panther become a hit — but hardly anyone expected the Wakanda-set solo adventure to be one of the biggest films of the year. The film grossed $1.3 billion worldwide, with $700 million of that made in the U.S. Along with the financial success, Black Panther was also one of Marvel’s biggest critical hits to date, landing on plenty of “Best Of” lists and garnering plenty of awards season buzz. The film also set the stage for Wakanda to play a huge role in Avengers: Infinity War, though we won’t get into how all that turned out.
Solo becomes Star Wars’ first flop
When The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi absolutely owned the box office, it seemed like Star Wars simply couldn’t be stopped. But, nobody bothered to let Han Solo know about that invulnerability. The troubled production on Solo: A Star Wars Story saw directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller exit midway through production, with Ron Howard taking over to shepherd the film to completion. Though the finished product scored a solid critical reception, the turnover was enough to worry fans, and the film only managed to crack $392 million worldwide. For the sake of comparison, fellow spinoff Rogue One made over $1 billion. The failure was enough to spook Disney in regards to future prequels and spinoffs in the near-term, as the studio focuses on wrapping up the Skywalker saga and launching Star Wars projects on streaming.
Netflix axes its Marvel Universe
With Disney looking to launch some fresh, high-concept Marvel fare on Disney+ and yank its blockbuster movies off Netflix, the company’s relationship with Netflix has apparently gotten a bit strained. To that end, Netflix has cancelled most of its original Marvel shows, including Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Only Jessica Jones and the Punisher remain, with a season each in the can. Netflix looks to be cutting ties, so it stands to reason the days are numbered for those shows, as well. It’s a shame for fans, with virtually every show was still doing extremely well creatively. The cancellation of Daredevil, the first Netflix/Marvel collaboration, makes for the end of an era.
The first female Doctor Who makes her debut
Though her hire was actually announced back in 2017, Jodie Whittaker didn’t make her formal debut as the first female Doctor until 2018. Whittaker’s first season starring as the 13th Doctor on Doctor Who served as a new beginning for the long-running series, and fans took notice. The new season saw some of the best ratings in years, as the show shifted to a plum time slot on Sunday night. Critics and fans alike have also enjoyed Whittaker’s take on the Doctor, with the show tackling fresh stories and breaking free from much of the recent canon.