Key to their success is the sense that these films aren’t run-of-the-mill blockbusters, at least compared to their counterparts in a highly oversaturated field of competition. They’re all sequels, which feels notable, but they’ve eschewed claims of being cookie-cutter efforts made by committee. They’re works by directors with visions, even if they are limited by the constraints of maintaining a high-cost intellectual property. James Cameron is an Oscar winner often credited with revolutionizing the high-concept blockbuster. Ryan Coogler has a Best Picture nomination under his belt as well as growing stature as a powerful producer. Joseph Kosinski isn’t the most attention-grabbing person involved with “Maverick,” but coupled with the undisputed megastar that is Tom Cruise, he became a household name.
These are the kinds of blockbusters that the Academy prefers. As a voting body, the group seems to crave a vision, real artistic intention behind the massive costs and need to appeal to as many viewers as possible. That’s benefitted films like “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which combined elegant technical prowess with a dense, feminist-driven story about bodily autonomy and the constraints of fascism. Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” fared similarly with the Academy, celebrated for taking a supposedly unadaptable book and bringing it to the scale it deserved on the big screen. Even the first “Avatar” fit this mold through the sheer revolution of its unprecedented visual effects. The hope is that these films should offer more than just two-plus hours of audience thrills, and they do. These aren’t disposable movies, which can’t always be said about their contemporaries.