2022 officially marked the year the general public began to lose interest in the MCU, with many audiences fed up with the oversaturation and mediocre VFX. However, it wasn’t all bad, and you can read on to find out which content is worth your time!
9. Ms. Marvel (Directed By Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Meera Menon, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy)
I’m going to preface this by saying that I know this show is not made for me. The teenage coming-of-age superhero drama, with a Pakistani lead, has meant a lot to so many of the people who feel represented by it, with Twitter flooded with praise during its release. However, in terms of entertainment and enjoyment, this was really just not my thing.
The show certainly has praisable aspects, with the camerawork and stylization being far more inventive than the somewhat cinematically-lacking MCU (and that’s the kind way of putting it) is known for, and Iman Vellani is a wonderfully charming lead, who I hope has a very strong career ahead of her. The problem lies in that the show’s writing just does not do it justice at all.
The dialogue is often cringey and feels rather forced, and I get it: teenagers are cringey. They’re awkward, embarrassing, and moody, but there’s a certain direction to take when portraying them, and this was just not it. They speak how an AI-fed generic teenage dialogue would, and it means that a lot of the show’s drama and jokes just end up falling flat.
The VFX work is also rather awful (which is not a surprise given how Marvel has been treating their VFX workers. Hint: awfully), which doesn’t help when protagonist Kamala’s superpowers are entirely CGI-based. There’s also the inherently bizarre change to transform her powers into ugly, shiny crystals as opposed to the stretchy body-morphing she can do in the comics. It just doesn’t work, something that can be said for the show as a whole.
Best Moment: Any time the music kicked in; the soundtrack was awesome.
Worst Moment: The sheer disappointment that kicked in every episode as I realized it was once again going to be bad.
8. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Directed By Ryan Coogler)
This one hurts, it really does. I was so ready for Wakanda Forever to be one of my favorite films of the year; the trailers looked gorgeous, reviews were raving and the general consensus was that it was a return to form for the MCU. However, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed as the credits rolled like there was a far greater film hidden within the one we got.
Don’t get me wrong, despite its low ranking, Wakanda Forever is not a bad film, far from it! Just an incredibly disappointing one. The beautiful cinematography (seriously, some of the more intimate scenes are shot gorgeously) is consistently undercut by blatant and ugly green screening, and the editing is bizarre, to say the least, with some rather laughable cuts.
However, it’s a Marvel movie, those aspects could be forgiven if it actually delivered on what these films promise: an epic story. The idea of a grieving Wakanda having to fight off those who’d wish to exploit them, whilst remaining as the last line of defense between the underwater kingdom of Talokan and humanity, is an interesting moral conflict, but the film just doesn’t seem to do very much with it.
Credit’s due where credit’s due though: the performances are phenomenal. Angela Basset holds the acting power as a grieving Queen, whose simultaneously loud and quiet pain will pierce your heart. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, and Winston Duke all also do a great job reprising their roles from the last film, but the real star of the show here is newcomer Tenoch Huerta as the film’s seaborn antagonist, Namor.
Huerta delivers his lines with both emotion and a terrifying lack thereof when needs are, as he plays a god-like king who is willing to do anything to protect his people against the oppression of the surface world. His scenes are brought even higher by the film’s stunning musical score, which has a high emphasis on vocals that really bring something unique and wonderful to the table.
Hopefully from this short review, you can see: I did not hate this film and I’m glad so many people loved it. Hell, perhaps if I try it again in the future, I’ll enjoy it more, but for now, it sits as a rather large disappointment within the dusty caverns of my mind.
Best Moment: “The boy without love”, Namor’s haunting origin. It’s shot gorgeously and is easily the most memorable scene in the film. I wish it went on longer!
Worst Moment: The final battle is an ugly CGI-fest, with some obvious and flat green-screening that lets down the rest of the film’s gorgeous visuals.
7. I Am Groot (Directed By Kirsten Lepore)
I love baby Groot. You love baby Groot. Who doesn’t love baby Groot? Did he need his own series of animated shorts? Probably not. Were they particularly good? Not really! But who cares, it’s baby Groot! He can do whatever he wants and I’ll still love him. He wants a show? Give him a show. His own franchise? Sure, why not! I want him to be everywhere. Now go watch every episode twice so Marvel knows we want more!
Best Moment: Baby Groot!
Worst Moment: Baby Groot!
6. Moon Knight (Directed By Mohamed Diab, Justin Benson , Aaron Moorhead)
Now onto the 2nd major disappointment of Marvel’s 2022 output: Moon Knight. The trailers sold Moon Knight as an exciting, dark, psychological thriller blended with the superhero genre, and oh what a fool I was for thinking the MCU would put out such a thing; I expected something on the level of Netflix’s Daredevil, but instead got CW’s The Flash.
Oscar Isaac is one of my favorite actors on the scene at the moment, and, to his credit, he does a fantastic job here, balancing between two distinct personas, although the nervous and wobbly Steven Grant is certainly a lot more interesting than the steel-faced action hero Marc Spector, although watching Isaac shift seamlessly between the two characters is very enjoyable.
The show just makes the mistake of turning the normally dark, gritty, and street-level Moon Knight into a galavanting adventurer, trading out cold urban fights for CGI monster fests, complete with a big sky laser and all. That reminds me: once again, the CGI and green-screening are disappointing, to say the least. It also, once again, hinders the show’s otherwise solid cinematography, and you’d think that if their products are turning out this consistently poor, maybe they should treat their VFX artists with more respect?
Of course, given that the shifting mind of Marc Spector is the most interesting part of the show, Moon Knight elects to sideline it for a forgettable plot about a bizarrely underutilized Ethan Hawke wanting to judge the world with an Egyptian God. For every brilliant moment we get that explores the hero’s fractured psyche, we get another two forgettable misfires. Hopefully, if the character returns, he’ll get the respect he deserves.
Best Moment: The use of “A man without love”. That song had an unbreakable grip on TikTok for months, and for good reason too.
Worst Moment: Just any of the bland, boring “world adventure”. It sucks.
5. Werewolf By Night (Directed By Michael Giacchino)
A pleasant surprise, Werewolf By Night was a relatively simple but wonderfully stylized tribute to classic monster movies set inside the MCU. Whilst it is quite clearly just a filter, the black and white adds a lovely bit of atmosphere, and the violence and gore, which was far over Marvel’s usually tame standards, was a treat for splatterfest horror fans for sure.
However, given that it was only a TV special, as opposed to a full-length movie, the most interesting and unique product of the MCU this year (as opposed to perhaps the #1 entry on this list) did not have time to properly develop its world or characters, which is a shame leaving me with a pleasant monster mash, but still hungry for more.
Best Moment: Watching a werewolf violently tear through through the bad guys; it was gore-ious.
Worst Moment: When I realized how quickly it was going by. It needed more!
4. She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (Directed By Kat Coiro, Anu Valia)
You know what? I had a great time with She-Hulk. It sure as hell wasn’t perfect, but it very much did its job as a feminist-superhero-legal-comedy and delivered some solid and wholesome content. Tatiana Maslany is absolutely wonderful as the titular She-Hulk, trying to find the balance between the struggles she faces as a normal woman, and the respect and power she gains from “going green”.
Whilst it may not be the greatest television ever written (the meta humor does get a bit too self-congratulatory in places), the jokes often land, and the characters are entertainingly endearing. Watching Jennifer struggle through the world of work, superheroes and men is a surprisingly grounded and emotionally endearing struggle for the MCU, in which a struggle is normally a purple man throwing moons around like tennis balls.
Of course, a special shoutout has to go out to the Daredevil episode, which, on its own, is easily the greatest piece of MCU content this year, and not just for the obvious reasoning of the return of Charlie Cox. No, the episode utilizes the character to further Jennifer’s own arc, and she finally finds a man who treats her how she deserves to be in the form of our horned hero himself.
The main issue is that the show doesn’t seem to recognize its own greatest strength: the superhero of the week factor. If every episode was an enclosed adventure with a different Marvel hero facing their own unique problem that Jennifer had to solve, I think the show would’ve been better for it. Still, what we got was wonderful, and I’m very much grateful for it.
Best Moment: Any scene that Matt and Jennifer share; their chemistry was wonderful.
Worst Moment: Realising the whole show could’ve been this good.
3. Thor: Love And Thunder (Directed By Taika Waititi)
Okay, here’s a controversial one: I really enjoyed Love and Thunder. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a particularly well-made film. It’s light, silly, lacking almost any form of dramatic depth, and feels cheap in almost every aspect. Why is it so high up on the list then? Because I had a bloody blast.
Whilst not quite a character study of the titular character, the film puts its hero in a place of self-reflection, as he decides where his future lies. Moving on from the Guardians of the Galaxy (who’s appearance is very much appreciated, if not just for the bromance between Thor and Star-Lord), he finds himself looking for his place in the universe, and who better to help him through that than his newly superpowered dying ex-girlfriend Jane.
After distancing the character from his first two films as much as possible, Taika decides to come full circle with this one and blend the old with the new, with some fun cameos from characters absent from Ragnarok. It’s fun seeing Natalie Portman given a chance to transform what was a throwaway role in other films into something meaningful and watching her character and Thor rebuild their relationship is a cute bit of fun.
However, where the film fumbles royally is in its actual plot, or rather, lack thereof. Christian Bale, the incredibly talented actor, is soul-crushingly wasted on bland and inconsistent villain Gorr the God Butcher who, for some reason, doesn’t seem to do much god-butchering. The film’s lack of self-seriousness means that trying to tell a story about a man seeking brutal vengeance doesn’t quite work. Hmm, I wonder why?
All in all, though, it’s a fun romp, and as long as you don’t enter the film with particularly high expectations and are ready for a bit of mindless fun, you’ll have a blast. Plus, it’s miles above 2022’s other “mindless fun” superhero offering, Black Adam, which straight-up sucked. Sorry, that’s not that relevant, I just really didn’t like Black Adam.
Best Moment: Anytime my ears were blessed with Guns N’ Roses.
Worst Moment: Gorr the God Butcher telling jokes. What the hell were they thinking?
2. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (Directed By Sam Raimi)
One of the most divisive films of the year, people either loved Doctor Strange 2 or thought it was a dull disappointment. Me? I swing both ways. The film is a camp blast that never quite reaches its full potential.
There are two clear highlights here: Sam Raimi’s iconic directorial style, full of bizarre, inventive flair like always, and Elizabeth Olsen’s show-stealing performance as the Scarlet Witch, who’s gone full villain mode in order to restore her stolen “children” (who weren’t really her children but we roll) back into her life, tearing through the multiverse until she finds a happy Wanda she can possess.
However, despite Olsen and Raimi’s best efforts, the film still isn’t quite perfect. Stephen Strange still struggles to be a particularly interesting character, despite Cumberbatch’s best efforts. The script also leaves something to be desired, failing to deliver a particularly interesting narrative. Then there’s the Illuminati.
I’m not really sure what was going on here. The Illuminati in the film is quite clearly meant to represent what happens when superheroes go unchecked; they are arrogant, cold, and just rather rude to be honest. Thus, when they are (SPOILER ALERT) torn to literal shreds by Wanda after their first encounter with her, it makes sense!
The problem with the Illuminati lies within the marketing; Marvel promised the Illuminati as these big, hype-culture cameos designed to get oo’s and ah’s like the (far better) No Way Home did. But that’s clearly not what they were intended for in the story and you just end up with this bizarre set of glorified cameos that are brutally eviscerated before your very eyes. Lovely, I’ve always wanted to watch Professor X get his head snapped.
Now I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a rant here, but really, for all its flaws, I do love this film; it’s just a victim of cinema’s recent obsession with hype culture.
Best Moment: Wanda, she IS the moment.
Worst Moment: America Chavez becomes a plot device as opposed to a character.
1. The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (Directed By James Gunn)
In the year of our lord 2022, James Gunn really sat down and said: screw it, this year, I’m Santa Clause, and delivered what is easily the best MCU product of the year… in the form of a TV Christmas special.
Now, that may sound like an insult, but this actually was really good. It’s fun, sweet, light-hearted, emotional, and best of all: Christmassy. Plus, they kidnap Kevin Bacon. PLUS it’s got the Guardians of the Galaxy in it. What more do you need? I’d say that if you haven’t already, watch it right now but… it’s a bit late for that, as it’s not Christmas anymore. You’ll have to wait til next December sorry…
Best Moment: That crazy-ass opening Christmas song. Hearing aliens completely misinterpret Christmas whilst jamming out on a guitar is brilliant fun.
Worst Moment: When it ended.