From Black Panther to Ready Player One: Week in geek's top sci-fi and fantasy films of 2018

Sony led the way with a spectacular Spider-Man caper, while the terrifying Annihilation reimagined alien invasion and Avengers: Infinity War delivered a shock to rock the cosmos

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Far-out visuals and madcap tomfoolery … Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Photograph: Allstar/Marvel Entertainment
Far-out visuals and madcap tomfoolery … Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Photograph: Allstar/Marvel Entertainment
Ben Child

Last modified on Fri 21 Dec 2018 02.53 EST

There has never been a better time to be a fan of comic-book movies. Marvel seems to be incapable of putting a foot wrong – three of its movies make this list – while there are undoubted signs of life at 20th Century Fox, Sony and DC, whose Aquaman narrowly failed to make my Top 10.

There are also encouraging indications that mainstream science fiction is slowly veering away from the meat-headed bombast of the Michael Bay Transformers movies. Animated fantasies have rarely reached such heights of quality, with Aardman’s Early Man and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs also narrowly missing out on making this list. Apologies, too, to the excellent Paddington 2, Upgrade and Teen Titans Go! to the Movies. So here are Week in geek’s Top 10 films of 2018.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

At last, a modern superhero movie that broke the Marvel mould and gave us something fresh and innovative. Sony has struggled to convince critics its darker Spidey-themed spin-offs, namely the undercooked Venom, can cut the mustard, so why not offer us an alternative animated take on comic-book razzmatazz? Into the Spider-verse duly doubled down on elastic, far-out visuals and madcap sci-fi tomfoolery to ensure the new wall-crawler (Miles Morales) swung straight to the top of the Spider podium on his debut outing.

A joyous, deeply human story … Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o in Black Panther.
A joyous, deeply human story … Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o in Black Panther. Photograph: Marvel Studios

2. Black Panther

If Black Panther had been brought to the big screen in any other era, it might have been a mess. The concept of an African society that blends technological superiority over any other culture on Earth with adherence to traditional tribal customs was so thrillingly out there that it is hard to imagine previous generations of film-makers doing it justice, at least without descending into blaxploitation excess. Marvel and director Ryan Coogler’s attention to detail when depicting the vivacious and fearsome nation of Wakanda, plus a bravura storyline that pitted the country against both its own offspring and the worst miscreants of the west, made this a joyous, deeply human story. That Coogler’s film represented a rare opportunity to present a mostly black cast in a tentpole feature just made the experience all the more splendid.

3. Annihilation

After imagining the downfall of mankind in his previous movie Ex Machina, Alex Garland once again delighted in feeding humanity to nefarious forces. This time, the terrifying “Shimmer” represented a very different kind of unstoppable force, a seemingly unconscious entity – reminiscent of the extraterrestrial presence encountered in John Carpenter’s The Thing – that warps, rips and splices living creatures like a god-like toddler with a set of Plasticine mannikins. An irresistible phantasmagorical horrorshow that confirmed Garland as modern sci-fi’s most singular British auteur.

Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War.
Momentous movie-making … Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War. Photograph: LMK

4. Avengers: Infinity War

Marvel spent more than a decade getting to the point where Thanos made his climactic finger click. We all knew it had to happen, yet this was still one of the biggest shocks ever seen in mainstream cinema. Household names – Spider-Man, Black Panther, most of the Hlcarpenter.coms of the Galaxy – snuffed out in a millisecond, as well as half the intelligent creatures of the Marvel universe. This was the kind of moment only ever seen before in the comics, one almost impossible to imagine happening on the big screen. Yet there it was. It happened. And the MCU may end up being all the better for it.

5. Deadpool 2

Just as loopy and off-the-wall as the first entry, David Leitch’s zippy comic-book satire made capital this time around by royally ripping the mickey out of superhero ensembles, namely the hilariously short-lived X-Force. Ryan Reynolds’ potty-mouthed antihero retains a love-hate relationship with his audience – at one moment eliciting sympathy courtesy of the horrible life he’s been subjected to, the next behaving like such a bozo that we take pleasure in watching him get battered to within an inch of his mutant life. The whole point of Deadpool is that it’s perfectly acceptable, and supremely enjoyable, to adopt both positions.

Buzzing … Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Buzzing … Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Photograph: Allstar/Marvel Studios

6. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Proof that even a puny franchise can be pumped up to giant size with a little bit of love. The first Ant-Man was hampered by the late arrival on the scene of director Peyton Reed, as well as by Marvel’s decision to allow star Paul Rudd and Adam McKay to rewrite the original Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish script in a matter of weeks. This time around, the Marvel stamp of quality was far more apparent, as Reed delved into the spectacular psychedelic underbelly of Ant-Man’s quantum realm.

7. Ralph Breaks the Internet

The original Wreck-It Ralph is underrated, and, frankly, it was about time for a sequel. If Ralph Breaks the Internet didn’t quite match its predecessor for sheer 8-bit fun, it did revive one of the most impressive double acts of the last few decades, in the shape of John C Reilly’s lovable ham-fisted video-game oaf and Sarah Silverman’s delightful candy-cane racer Vanellope von Schweetz. The scene in which Vanellope meets the Disney princesses and teaches them how to cut loose is a masterpiece of self-reflexive satire that shows how much the once-prissy Mouse House has changed.

8. Bumblebee

Goodbye vacuous bloke-movie in which mammoth robots repeatedly smash each other about their metal faces whenever the camera lens isn’t glued to Megan Fox’s bottom. Hello smart coming-of-age, girl-and-her-robot tale in the vein of Big Hero Six or The Iron Giant. Thank Optimus Prime himself that somebody chose to depose Michael Bay from his throne and hand the Transformers keys to Travis Knight, director of Kubo and the Two Strings. Long may he remain at the steering wheel.

Olivia Cooke and Tye Sheridan in Ready Player One.
Exuberant storytelling … Olivia Cooke and Tye Sheridan in Ready Player One. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

9. Ready Player One

Steven Spielberg’s virtual-reality extravaganza lacked the grimy cyberpunk majesty of The Matrix and other predecessors, a legacy of the pop culture-heavy slant of Ernest Cline’s source novel. But, despite resembling a bright and breezy gamer theme park rather than the spiky culture shock imagined by William Gibson or Bruce Sterling, this was a genuinely enticing digital wonderland. A well-chosen cast and Spielberg’s knack for sharp and exuberant storytelling made Ready Player One worthy of its very own high score.

10. The Incredibles 2

A long-awaited sequel that prompted the question why haven’t The Incredibles had more big screen adventures over the past decade. This time around it was Holly Hunter’s Elastigirl thrust front and centre, with Craig T Nelson’s Mr Incredible left to look after the kids in a neat spin on shifting gender roles. Brad Bird’s return as the wonderful superhero fashionista Edna Mode was worth the price of admission alone.

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