“This is more than a movie, it’s a movement.”
That’s how director Jon M. Chu has taken to describing his upcoming film Crazy Rich Asians. And while it’s a lot to ask of any one film, even one that’s certainly a watershed moment in terms of Asian representation at the movie theater, it’s a sentiment that’s become, perhaps, thedefining story of Hollywood in 2018.
Beginning with Black Panther‘s game-changing blockbuster release at the top of the year, 2018 is proving to be a transformative year for an industry that’s generally loathe to change. And with the drumbeat for greater representation of traditionally marginalized communities in cinema only growing louder thanks to the year’s undeniable successes, it certainly feels as if there’s no going back now. It’s about damn time.
Luckily, the minute tickets became available for pre-sale, all those doubts and fears were immediately proven unfounded.
Within 24 hours, the film had the highest number of ticket pre-sales ever for a Marvel film on Fandango. In its first weekend in theaters, it would take in $242 million domestically and rank as the highest grossing President’s Day Weekend opening of all time. Worldwide, Black Pantherultimately grossed $1.346 billion, becoming the highest-grossing solo superhero film ever and the ninth highest-grossing film of all time, easily giving director Ryan Coogler the highest-grossing film by a black director in the process.
“At the end of the day, what this represents for the future generation, for these kids that are going to be watching this, for people all over the world to start this dialogue and conversation, that’s what I’m more excited about,” Michael B. Jordan, who dazzled as the film’s villain, Erik Killmonger, told E! News earlier this year. “Seeing how many more of these Black Panthers we’ll see…I’m more curious seeing the effects of this movie in the industry and how that’s going to change minorities in film and television.”
For DuVernay, the film represented the opportunity to “explore some real black girl magic onscreen,” as she told Vulture last year in a joint interview with Coogler, and “challenge the idea of who gets to be the hero.”
“To be able to make a film where a little black girl gets to fly, when I always wanted to do that,” she told E! News. “…All kinds of people deserve to see themselves in these films, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox
For Berlanti, who also helped usher in an LGBT first on TV 18 years ago when he fought for Dawson’s Creek to include the first romantic gay kiss in primetime, his position of power in Hollywood left him with a “responsibility,” as he told MTV, “to say, ‘What can I do to put something there that wasn’t there before?'”
Thanks to Love, Simon, they just might. Working off a budget estimated to be somewhere between $10 and $17 million, the film went on to gross $66 million worldwide, making it a respectable success story. And in perhaps an even bigger indicator of its cultural success, the film took home Best Kiss at this year’s MTV Movie & TV Awards for its swoon-worthy smooch between Simon and love interest Bram (played by Keiynan Lonsdale).
Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros.
With the sting of the female-fronted Ghostbusters landing with a thud just two years earlier—thanks in part to some truly heinous trolling from crybaby men and the fact that the Paul Feig-directed comedy was, in the end, simply good and not all-caps great—still lingering, what proved to be an exceptionally slick and fun heist film suddenly had a lot of weight on its shoulders.
Despite the film’s lukewarm reception from critics, it opened to $41.6 million in its first weekend—higher than all three “all-male” Ocean’s films to come before it, without adjusting for inflation—and as of press time, has grossed $275.5 million worldwide against a production budget of around $70 million. Has it put the final nail in the coffin on the relentless debate over whether female-fronted films “work”? No, probably not. But it should.
Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
“We can sugarcoat it all we want, but the moment you bring up an Asian-led movie, there’s one example to point to, and that’ll be us,” Chu told The Hollywood Reporter. “To be on the biggest stage with the biggest stakes, that’s what we asked for.” He’s not kidding. Before ultimately going with Warner Bros., Chu and Kwan turned down a massive payday and guaranteed trilogy from Netflix to ensure that the film played on the big screen and had box office receipts to back-up its performance.
Chu added: “We were gifted this position to make a decision no one else can make, which is turning down the big payday for rolling the dice [on the box office] — but being invited to the big party, which is people paying money to go see us.”
For Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu, who plays the film’s leading lady, Rachel, the film is important because it’s been “far too long” for it to even happen in the first place.
“And because I know that the only thing that’s separating Asian-Americans or Asian-British, anyone who is not the dominant culture who is otherized, is opportunity,” she told E! News. “And sometimes you don’t get opportunity unless you see possibility. So we are putting possibility on the screens out there to show everybody that Asian-American stories are worthy of their own stage, and hopefully we’ll hear very many that are different than ours, you know?”
“It’s been 25 years,” Awkwafina, who also stars in the film, told Daily Pop‘s Carissa Culiner and Morgan Stewart during a recent appearance. “That’s a full-grown adult, if you think about it, that’s been walking around without representation, so it matters. Representation matters.”
Let that be the lesson of 2018 that Hollywood simply can’t afford to forget.