Adventure Movies possibly cover the widest gamut in the range of modern Hollywood Blockbusters released every week. Every film showcasing a hero like figure overcoming obstacles in an outlandish setting quickly transcends into the ‘adventure’ category. For that reason perhaps, adventure is almost a common precedent for action, fantasy, sci-fi and even survival flicks. In simpler terms, it isn’t a line along which this distinction stands, it’s a whole wide band of greys. A lot of the obvious choices you must have felt should be a part of the list but aren’t didn’t make it on account of this distinction in their primary genre as a purely action or fantasy film.
However, despite that — and even because of that in a lot of ways — adventure movies have one of the widest viewership numbers across the globe and inadvertently appeal to a larger range of age groups. This list intends to celebrate such movies. These are films that awaken a sense of adventure in the viewer himself, or create equally immersive environments for the viewer to engage his flights of fancy. From sprawling gorgeous locations on the face of this Earth, to surreally reimagined locations to even virtual reality, these films are sure to leave you with a sense of longing awe. So, without further ado, here is the list of top adventure movies of 2018. The list includes best action adventure movies, best sci-fi adventure movies, best fantasy adventure movies and even best family adventure movies.
10. Tomb Raider
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‘Tomb Raider’, the cinematic reboot of the character earlier played by Angelina Jolie in a pair of films joins the long list of poorly received films based on video games. At this point, it just seems like an unliftable curse and filmmakers cannot seem to translate to film what is simply great about the video games. Perhaps, the realm of video games exists to fulfill parts of the human flights of fantasy that movies possibly can’t, and any attempt to do so should prove futile any which way.
However, that is a discussion for another day. About the latest cinematic retelling of Lara Croft’s origin tale, I can’t say that I fully support the makers’ decision to make a character like ‘Lara Croft’ grounded and more ‘human’, which is in direct contrast with the videogames, wherein she is definitely tougher and more grunge, and her skills with weapons, especially the bow and arrow, are superhuman to say the least. Here, she is punched, beaten, and brought down in unspectacular fashion multiple times, and although she does rise up to give it back by the end, you can’t help but feel a disconnect from her video game persona. Despite the major shortcoming of the film, Alicia Vikander’s performance is consistently good and she works with what she is given. Some of the action sequences with the vine slinging, archery and the occasional hand to hand are nicely done too. The final word would be that you are bound to enjoy the film to a much greater extent than you would if you can’t let go of its videogame legacy.
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‘Adrift’ treads on familiar territory and spends almost its entire runtime fending off a ‘been there, seen it’ feel that it inadvertently has, owing to its plot involving a shipwreck and being stranded at the sea. The familiar tropes of such a film, the helplessness upon being lost in the vastness of the seas, the hallucinations, the crying for help, the regaining of an undying spirit and finally making it ashore are all present, and quite frankly this is what the narrative of the film is all about, except that it is all based on an incredible true story, and the romantic angle, even though done to death before, succeeds in adding a lot of pathos to the events in the film. To add to the film’s credit, the non-linear cycling of the film between the present sequences of peril at the sea and the stranded and separated couple’s lives before the unfortunate event add great emotional depth that in a way makes the struggle more meaningful.
However, all of it could have been in vain if it were not all seamlessly tied together and held in place by Shailene Woodley’s incredible act. Her performance doesn’t have a single false note, even when the film hits many. This isn’t a true blue adventure movie with special effects and a ‘Hobbit’ like spirit, but has a heart that’s bigger than most multi-million franchise product. It is not an adventure you’d want to be a part of willingly, but you’ve got to admire the resilience of the human spirit of survival at every step.
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8. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
The complaint about this year’s ‘Fallen Kingdom’ taking itself too seriously is not completely wrong. In the process of floating away from the unabashedly commercial nature of the first film, it is torn somewhere in the middle. On the bright side though, the fifth instalment in the ‘Jurassic’ franchise toys around with some brilliant ideas about the relationship between humans and animals, and frequently plays along blurring the very fine line of what distinguishes them from us; the scenes between Pratt’s Owen Grady and Blue, the velociraptor from ‘Jurassic World’ are especially laden with a lot of pathos. The scene of the volcano explosion somewhere midway along the movie, while lasting for a few minutes, also always had me at the edge of my seat.
The film, thereby, has a lot more scenes that are a victory on the technical and effects front, but not many on the story front of it. There will be several moments in the film when you wonder how many more outings would it take for the humans of this franchise to stop messing around with something they can’t seem to fully understand and control either! However, while pondering over the question, if you care to indulge yourself with a drink and some popcorn in front of an IMAX screen, I can guarantee that those will be two hours well spent, and that, again, is essentially what keeps this franchise going.
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Hands down one of the best looking films of 2018. The cinematography on the wide-angle shots is quite simply, breathtaking, and is best experienced on the big screen. I won’t put it any other way. ’Alpha’ has a narrative with a bold claim: the very first relationship between humans and their ever faithful companion canines, by showcasing the trials of a young hunter kid and his companion wolf during the ice age. In that, like many others on this list, ‘Alpha’ works as an adventure cum survivor flick.
Luckily for me, I’m a dog person through and through and the story tugged at my heartstrings just as any other well-made canine movie out there would. I realize that the charm of the canine companion may be swaying my judgment a bit, but it is nearly impossible to not give in for the journey, the chemistry between Kodi Smit McPhee’s Keda and the wolfdog Alpha being the absolute highlights, with even a tearjerker or two somewhere in between. There is no question if you are a canine lover, you have to watch it.
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‘Annihilation’ is the product of a bold vision executed with meticulousness, and the merit of the movie lies in showcasing that, even when a lot of what happening on the screen may not fully make sense to the viewer. The visuals in this sci-fi survivor flick are fantastic, the act is more than serviceable, and Alex Garland (Ex Machina) directs the film in a very atmospheric and tense manner for the most part.
Despite the polarizing reception this film has received, I’ll give you this: ‘Annihilation’ uses its visual medium in a rare, arresting manner that is sure to transport you to a different environ altogether, and some of its more surreal imagery is bound to stick too. What brings the film down despite that is the plot of the film, getting experimentative to the extent of exposing a barrage of plot holes. However, there exists virtually no movie that doesn’t have plot holes when you look closely enough, and ‘Annihilation’ is no exception. Here is a film that dares, soars, falters, and falls and picks up repeatedly, and for an attempt and the visible earnestness in that, I am more than willing to look past some inconsistencies.
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5. Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero
The story of Sgt. Stubby is as legendary as it gets. A war hero and the only veteran canine to hold the title of Sergeant ever, Sgt. Stubby’s inspiring tale deserved a retelling exactly this warm, sensitive and yes, animated. The film unfortunately didn’t perform too well at the box office, but don’t let that stop you from venturing into this movie with an open heart and coming off with a full one. You have to know the exploits of Stubby including sniffing gas bombs, catching infiltrators, and even search and rescue ops to fully appreciate the hero this animated film is celebrating, but even if you don’t, this is a story worthy of celebration and the film does full justice to it. A wonderful film for kids that is as informational as it is entertaining.
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4. High Life
There are a lot of mysteries that we want to unravel and a lot of places that we want to go. But the first time, the experimental stage requires someone to make sacrifices for the good of the whole world. Now, if there is an energy source on the fringe of a black hole, someone will have to go there and have the courage to take the risk of turning into a spaghetti (‘Interstellar’ didn’t tell you that, did it?) if anything goes wrong and they fall into it. In a distant future, the scientists have figured out a solution for that. ‘High Life’ revolves around, Monte (Robert Pattinson), who is one of several death row inmates given the opportunity to forego their sentence in exchange for manning this suicide space mission. On top of that, the spaceship’s doctor is also conducting an experiment of her own, obsessively testing human’s ability to reproduce in space.
‘High Life’ is a visually arresting adventure sci-fi story that is challenging, confounding, and ultimately rewarding. After all, fans expect nothing less from one of the greatest directors of the modern era, Claire Denis.
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3. Isle of Dogs
‘Isle of Dogs’ is vintage Wes Anderson, whose films should by now be declared as belonging to an altogether separate genre called ‘Wes Anderson films’, with a completely different yardstick for merit. However, even if the yardsticks are the same, ‘Isle of Dogs’ is one of the most fun films to have come out this year. You are immediately transported to the quirky and whimsical world Anderson creates, and one of the great things about it, apart from its obviously visible aesthetic charm is that you just cannot stay out of that world, its painstaking attention to detail in almost every shot, even the composition of it, demands that you enter.
One of the film’s core strengths is its animation that is still composed of relatively less rendered polysolids than regular animated flicks, almost having a stop motion like quality, and the film thereby sides more with ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ more than the superior ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ among the director’s other works. I am not sure that the quaint, minimal aspects of Japanese culture and cities could have been done justice in a medium other than this, and ofcourse the fact that this film has talking dogs just freezes it. You can almost always argue that Anderson’s films have more style over substance, but even despite that, if a product of film is this well thought of and this gorgeous looking, shouldn’t you give it a watch anyhow?
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2. Ready Player One
‘Ready Player One’ is the cinematic adaptation of the 2011 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline. The novel falls under a rather interesting category of science-fiction, litRPG, or literary Role Playing Game wherein the protagonist happens to be a role-playing gamer, and the game itself forms a sufficient fraction of the plot. Lucky for WB, they got Steven Spielberg to co-produce and direct the film, with Cline co-writing it with Zak Penn, and Spielberg’s Midas touch serves its purpose here.
‘Ready Player One’ is, in my opinion, what every modern blockbuster should aspire to be. It isn’t perfect, but it is perfectly entertaining, has a more than serviceable plot that actually makes sense, top-notch special effects and technical wizardry at display, and tight direction that seldom squanders even when the script does. The first fifteen minutes are especially enthralling. The video game fan in me couldn’t have asked for a better film, and all the pop culture references of the 80s and 90s including the Iron Giant, ‘The Shining’ hallway scene and many more had me giddy in my seat with excitement. There is a message or two about the dehumanization technology can lead to if you want to take that home, but even apart from them, ‘Ready Player One’ remains one of the most funs sci-fi adventure movies of the summer.
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1. First Man
I don’t think this is a fact that requires any explanation. ‘First Man’ is notches above any film on this list, and has more craft on display that any one of the films above do. That is in no way an understatement for the other films on this list, equally entertaining in their own right, but a testament to how well crafted ‘First Man’ is. In a lot of reviews for the film, I have consistently read that a lot of people and critics felt that Damien Chazelle won’t be as consistent with his film following unprecedented successes. Of course, this film proved them wrong, but I am unsure as to why this notion existed in the first place. To his merit, here he handles material that is almost polar opposite to what he has before and bereft of a common strength that defined ‘Whiplash’ and ‘La La Land’, the music. There are tense moments with a thumping score in the background, and moments quietly underplayed for solid emotional impact. A lot of viewers may have found the build up to the finale to be too long and tenuous, but to me, that was the beauty of it all.
‘First Man’ showcases all the years of struggle and sacrifice, the simulations, the trials, the failures and the personal toll it took on Armstrong with pining detail, and that is precisely what makes the finale on the Moon that much deserved. I had the pleasure of seeing the film on an IMAX screen, and the final twenty minutes will be etched in my mind for a long time in glorious HD.
I won’t be surprised if the thought of ‘First Man’ not even being in the same league as the other films on this list doesn’t cross your mind, what with the Oscar buzz and given the non-commercial nature of the film, but think of this: what greater adventure than man’s own quest to conquer that which at some time was deemed impossible? “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Goosebumps guaranteed.
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