Announcements are not actual things. They are promises of things to come. But at times this year, it felt like all of pop culture was actually just an announcement about pop culture in the future. That’s because 2014 is the year that every movie studio Marvelized into megafranchise factories, with one company after another making bold (and frequently insane) promises about movies that will come out three, four, five years from now.
2014 is also the year that the whole process of “announcing stuff” took on a decadent pageantry. You can feel how badly everyone wants to break the internet now, attempting to compose their Mega-Announcements with a unique buzz-creating rhythm. Do you host an announcement event, or quietly post an update on your website? Do you tease the announcements for weeks ahead of time, Taylor Swift-style, or just unload lots of top-secret intel all at once, Beyoncé-style?
The great Big Announcements of 2014 are not actual things—and it’s worth having a separate conversation about how we’re trending toward a culture of anticipation, one that talks more about the post-credits teaser than the pre-credits movie. But in some respects, the Mega-Announcements of 2014 are more important than the various projects they represent. They feel like an essential snapshot of our internet era, a moment when memes get generated out of pure vapor and any reasonable conversation about movie culture needs to include films that haven’t even been made yet. (Video games got there years ago.)
Here are the seven best announcements of 2014: A vision of the future, or at least a vision of the future where all this stuff actually gets made. (For the benefit of the future, we’ve also ranked these announcements on a sliding scale from 1 to 10, 10 being “it’s already happened” and 1 being “Christian Bale’s Terminator trilogy.”)
7. Legendary’s monsters
Comic-Con is Patient Zero for the Announcement Era—but in 2014, most studios kept their biggest new news away from San Diego, perhaps fearing a pile-up. That left mini-studio Legendary free to make the most least expected announcement of the year: The creation of Skull Island, a sequel or a prequel or a reboot or whatever of King Kong. In the same session, Legendary announced the upcoming monster-mash of Godzilla 2. The implication: Legendary is looking to corner the market on franchises about monsters your grandparents have heard of. This, in the same session that also saw Guillermo Del Toro take the stage to talk about Pacific Rim 2! That means one skyscraper-sized monster movie per year, starting in 2016.
Likelihood That This Will All Come To Pass: 7. Del Toro’s so deep into Pacific Rim 2 that he’s already talking Pacific Rim 3, and Tom Hiddleston’s signed onto Skull Island. The Godzilla sequel is scheduled for 2018, although director Gareth Edwards’ attentions may be wandering—see #3 on this list. The bigger question: Is Legendary building towards a 2020 movie where a bunch of giant robots fight Godzilla and King Kong?
6. Apple’s iPhone 6
Among his many other skills, the late Steve Jobs was one of the greatest MCs in history. His Apple announcements set a standard for nonchalant Silicon Valley consumerist cool. Pretty much any time an executive gets onstage in front of a thousand people and/or the internet, they’re doing some kind of Steve Jobs impression. That includes Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, who led the September corporate rally wherein Apple introduced the bigger-and-better iPhone 6 and the wearable-but-otherwise-basically-an-iPhone Apple Watch.
Likelihood That This Will All Come To Pass: 10, because Apple typically only announces things when those things are ready to ship at a moment’s notice. The bigger question is whether anyone will want to buy a $350 accessory that requires a separately-purchased iPhone to do basically anything. But the biggest question of all is: What happened to Scarf Man?
5. Showtime’s Twin Peaks reunion miniseries
Not every announcement comes with a bells-and-whistles media event. When Showtime decided to tell the world that it was bringing back David Lynch’s ahead-of-its-time-and-out-of-this-world horror soap, it simply released a short teaser that’s barely more explicable than anything that actually happened on the series.
Likelihood That This Will All Come To Pass: 9. Lynch hasn’t made a feature film in eight years, and on an artistic level, it feels like his attention has been freely wandering into tangents for most of that time—not exactly the kind of temperament that lends itself to directing nine episodes of television. But Lynch and co-creator Frost have been chatty about their return to their twisted tale. And now there’s an official website, so it must be happening. Right?
4. DC has a universe, too!
Going all-in on its rebooted Superman franchise, Warner Bros. officially announced in October that it’s prepping double-digit superhero movies to close out the 2010s. 2016’s Batman v Superman will lead into a whole universe of superhero movies with “-man” in the title.
Likelihood That This Will All Come To Pass: 6. Since the announcement, Warner Bros. has made some exciting pre-production moves, hiring Michelle MacLaren to direct Wonder Woman, signing Dwayne Johnson as the bad guy in Shazam, and fast-tracking the craziest-sounding superhero movie ever (see #2.) But it’s easy to announce a Marvel-style slate of movies—Sony did that last December. It’s a lot harder to deliver on a multi-year build-up towards a megafranchise. And the fact that the announcement included the promise of a Green Lantern movie in 2020 felt like an act of upper-level Fortune 500 trolling, since 2011’s Green Lantern movie is one of the biggest critical and commercial flops in recent superhero history.
3. Star Wars has all the actors and all the directors
Star Wars doesn’t need to do much to take over the internet besides just being itself—a fact confirmed earlier this year, when Disney/Lucasfilm opted to quietly post all the biggest news about the galaxy far, far away in modest press-release blog posts on StarWars.com. First came the first picture of the complete Episode VII cast hanging out together at a script readthrough—a picture which already feels like canon, insofar as we’ve all spent months trying to figure out just what JJ Abrams is saying to Harrison Ford. Then came word that Star Wars was signing all the young directors, hiring Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards and Chronicle‘s Josh Trank to make upcoming spinoffs, plus Looper‘s Rian Johnson for Episode VIII.
Likelihood That This Will All Come To Pass: 7. Disney hasn’t been shy about its aggressive plans for the Star Wars series—one per year remains the current plan—but that’s a lot of schedules to line up, scripts to develop, and hot young directors with other franchises to corral.
2. Suicide Squad will be crazy, crazy, crazy
And now for something completely different: Warner Bros. quietly announced via press release the craziest cast and concept for a major superhero movie in living memory. Oscar-winner Jared Leto will join beloved megastar Will Smith and human headlock Tom Hardy in a movie about supervillains working for the government. The whole thing’s being made by David “End of Watch” Ayer, and it’s based on a comic book known for its irredeemable, oft-killed characters.
Likelihood That This Will All Come To Pass: A complicated response here. The movie is definitely getting made (10), but the bigger question is whether Suicide Squad will be the unfiltered crazypants blockbuster opera of a thousand fanboys’ dreams. Let’s optimistically call it a 9 and hope that Margot-Robbie-as-Harley-Quinn and Jared-Leto-as-the-Joker will basically be a superpowered Sid & Nancy.
1. Marvel’s Phase 3 has Phases within Phases
Who’s having more fun than Marvel? 2014 saw the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, two blockbusters that became commercial successes and critical darlings. They’re just a few months away from releasing Avengers: Age of Ultron, the beyond-anticipated sequel to the biggest superhero movie ever. Oh, there was that bit of unpleasantness with Ant-Man—a movie that seems destined to be subsumed into the Summer of Avengers 2—but Marvel closed out a triumphant 2014 by opening up the vaults and announcing every movie that could ever be announced. Iron Man joins Captain America 3! An official release date for Thor 3! A two-part Avengers prequel! Movies that don’t star white dudes named Chris! All this, plus a sense of humor: Thanks to an initial joke title for the Cap threequel, “Serpent Society” was a thing that was trending on Twitter.
Likelihood That This Will All Come To Pass: Every time Marvel says that something is going to happen four years from now, one’s natural inclination is to be a little bit skeptical. So let’s give this one a 9, but only because it seems entirely likely that Marvel will shift around release dates to fit in a few more movies between now and 2020.