Thanks mainly to Marvel's intention to take over streaming services the same way they approach box office success, 2021 was the year we invited superheroes into our living rooms for brand new adventures.
In all, there were 12 releases from the MCU and DCEU - cinematic and televised - and we've ranked them all in order from our least to most favourite!
#12. What If...? (Marvel)
Taking last position is Marvel's experimental animated entry, What If...? Though not lacking in originality or creativity, the standalone series lives and dies by its alternate universe theory that ultimately means what happens in each episode becomes irrelevant to the larger MCU. Despite a couple of stellar episodes - and the wishful fanfic reality of the series itself - it's just too low stakes to appear any higher on the list.
#11. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony Pictures)
In 11th place is Sony Picture's batshit sequel to Venom. We said in December that it lacked nuance but has a cool charm nonetheless. Tom Hardy is as committedly crazy as he's ever been and the credits sequence hints at overall better films in the future.
#10. Loki (Marvel)
Kicking off the Top 10 is the 3rd series in the MCU's Phase Four and widely acclaimed upon release, Loki is an engaging watch with unlimited potential. Led by a gung-ho Tom Hiddleston, the repeated multiverse story tends to play fast and loose with causal consequences which can make the episodes run a little too long.
#9. Eternals (Marvel)
Director Chloe Zhao's divisive entry Eternals lands in 9th position. We commented in November that the film itself is thoughtful and engaging, though its focus ebbs and flows owing to its lengthy runtime and numerous characters. Still, when it works, it really, *really* works.
#8. Falcon & The Winter Soldier (Marvel)
Falcon & The Winter Soldier seems smaller in scale than its 2021 counterparts but what it lacks in fantasticality, it more than makes up with emotional punch. Anthony Mackie's portrayal of Sam Wilson (the incumbent and decidedly black Captain America) finds gravitas and guile, while giving the wider franchise an inspiring, and never preachy, social commentary.
#7. Black Widow (Marvel)
In 7th place is the MCU title that has come to define the word 'delay': Black Widow. Boasting slick stunt choreography, a good story and a winning performance from MCU newbie Florence Pugh, this standalone Natasha Romanoff adventure suffers from the bitter taste of knowing that it came five years too late.
#6. Hawkeye (Marvel)
Although Scarlet Johannson doesn't appear, the legacy of Natasha features heavily in Hawkeye, the fifth MCU series to land in 2021. Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld are brilliant as the unlikely duo targeted by New York crime bosses. Last month we said "Hawkeye is a stronger and more consistent series than any of Marvel's previous entries, with one (upcoming) exception."
#5. The Suicide Squad (DC)
One film that balances the multi-character-arc-movie better than Eternals is DC's The Suicide Squad. Assured, stylish and more importantly, a hell of a lot of fun, James Gunn's acclaimed sequel benefits from a much tighter script, stronger character choices, and an even more endearing performance from Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn than her previous deliveries.
#4. Spiderman: No Way Home (Marvel)
Into the Top 5 now and the third entry into Marvel's Spider-Man trilogy (and what is sure to be one of the biggest box office draws of all time) is a largely successful action-adventure filled with great stunts and winning performances. For the few of you left to witness it we won't spoiler the reveal but rest assured, Tom Holland's Peter Parker provides plenty to love. It's also one of the few recent Marvel films to absolutely deliver on Act III, it's final hour of runtime a breathless, beautiful ode to comic book filmmaking. It lands only at #4 on account of its first half, which is comparatively slow and safe.
#3. WandaVision (Marvel)
When WandaVision was released a year to Disney+ we weren't quite sure how it would play out. All the informed guessing couldn't have prepared us for what we eventually got - a uniquely charming dramedy that gave us character depth, fan service and plenty of surprises along the way. Paul Bettany is always a win, but its Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff that anchors and informs the audience. It managed to make a headliner of a supporting character, and it did so with stylish aplomb.
#2. Zach Snyder's Justice League (DC)
In our runner-up position is the director's cut of 2016's Justice League. It is absolutely the DC superhero film we deserved, and were so frustratingly deprived of for so long. Here our heroes' individual stories are given room to breathe, while far greater nuance is afforded to our villain character and underlying motivations. At over 4 hours, it carries a little too much unnecessary filler but for the most part, Zach Snyder has given the mash-up tale of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash a stunning new life, worthy of repeat viewings.
#1. Shang-Chi & The Legend of the Ten Rings (Marvel)
Taking out the #1 spot on our list is Shang-Chi & The Legend of the Ten Rings. Destin Daniel Cretton's directorial debut was a fantastic achievement in Marvel movie making and despite hitting the beats we've come to expect from superhero origin stories, Shang-Chi is beautifully original. In October's rave review we said, it's a film that leads with its heart, runs heavy with humour, and features some of the most exquisitely realised computer imagery scenes Marvel has ever produced. Repeat viewings have only added to the satisfying solidification of Shang-Chi into the MCU, and for that, it deserves the top spot in our ranking.
2022 looks set to be just as big! Here's the current release schedule:
Peacemaker, January (streaming now on HBO Max/NeonTV)
Moon Knight, March
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, May
Thor: Love and Thunder, July
Black Adam, July
The Flash, November
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, November
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, December
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, December
Ms. Marvel, TBC
Secret Invasion, TBC
RāViewz resumes February, 2022.