By Stephen Ippolito | December 30th, 2021
After being shut out in 2020 because of the pandemic, Marvel Studios bounced back in 2021 and released nine projects (four films, five shows). Because it was the first year that they released shows, it was by far the most content that they’ve dropped in one year (previous was three).
Overall, there wasn’t a single film or show that I didn’t enjoy. Of course, I did think some were better than others which is exactly what this list is.
9. Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Falcon and the Winter Soldier was Marvel Studios’ second series released on Disney+ this year (first episode premiered March 19th). Unfortunately, it takes the bottom spot on my list. Running six episodes in length, my biggest issue with it was the final episode.
Other than Sam Wilson’s Captain America suit reveal, I thought the entire episode was a mess. The pace of it just felt out of whack. It was filled with non-believable plot points, like Sam convincing a group of senators to back down with a cheesy speech. It’s a shame because I thought the first five episodes were rather enjoyable.
By no means did I think Eternals deserved the Rotten Tomatoes score it was given. It was definitely different than anything the studio had done before but not the worst. However, it was my least favorite out of the four films released this year.
My main issues were the runtime (second longest MCU film) and the lack of action. There were just too many times that I remember watching it and thinking that this is kind of dull. Maybe years from now, when I’ve watched it more, I’ll feel different. But for now, it sits near the bottom of my list.
7. What If…?
In August, Marvel Studios debuted their first animated series on the Disney streamer. Based on the comic book series of the same name, What If…? was a good start to what looks like many animated projects to come for the studio.
The reason I don’t have it higher on my list is because I just thought there was too much of a gap between the episodes that I loved (Zombies, Ultron wins) and the ones that I didn’t (Peggy Carter becomes Captain America, Killmonger one). In addition, I didn’t think the finale was that great after a fantastic penultimate episode.
6. Black Widow
After being delayed three separate times, the Scarlett Johansson-led film was finally released in July. While I did enjoy being able to watch an MCU movie in theaters for the first time in two years, the film overall was just “ok.”
Some of the side characters introduced (Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova and David Harbour’s Red Guardian) were fun. Still, the film just felt average all around. From the fight scenes, comedic puns, and plot, it just felt like a typical MCU film and nothing else.
Like Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye was finally able to headline his own MCU project this year. Released on Disney+ from November to December, the series overall was fun and entertaining.
The highlight of the show was the introduction of some major new characters to the MCU, like Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop and Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez (AKA Echo). After being rumored for months, the series also brought back Vincent D’Onofrio to play Kingpin. The actor, of course, played the role on Netflix’s Daredevil series.
So why don’t I have it higher? I just thought the plot and pace of the series was messy at times. It’s similar to how I felt about Falcon and the Winter Soldier but not nearly as bad.
In what feels like 10 years ago now, WandaVision was the very first MCU show or film to be released this year when it arrived on Disney+ in January. From a creative standpoint, the series was by far the best thing Marvel Studios did this year. To see Wanda (played Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (played by Paul Bettany) parody decades of famous TV comedies was great to watch.
The reason I don’t have it higher on my list is because of a couple of gripes I had with it that I’ve actually written about before. For one, there was no big cameo at the end (Doctor Strange) that we thought was coming. Two, the show got off to a slow start and didn’t start to get really going till the third episode.
Of the five MCU shows that debuted this year, Loki was my favorite. Released over the summer, the Tom Hiddleston-led series was creative, exciting, fun, and thrilling. It also provided something that WandaVision failed to do, have a big cameo at the end.
Overall, it was an excellent first year for Marvel Studios’ shows. While they don’t quite have the budget the films do (close though), the studio was still able to provide high quality content that connects directly with its films.
2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a really fun movie. Marvel Studios once again nailed the casting of Shang-Chi by choosing Simu Liu. The actor brought a lot of life into the film that I honestly didn’t have that high of expectations when I went to see it.
It was also the funniest film or show that the studio released this year. The scene where Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery is explaining how he thought the actors playing monkeys in the old Planet of the Apes films were real monkeys was probably the hardest I laughed in a theater all year.
1. Spider-Man: No Way Home
While Shang-Chi was the most fun I had in a theater this year, Spider-Man: No Way Home was the most memorable. I’ve seen the film five times now, and during each showing, when two certain actors appeared on screen for the very first time, the audience cheered. It was one of those experiences as a Marvel fan that I’ll remember for a while.
Sure, the movie was not perfect. I thought it had plot issues here and there. But overall, it was definitely my favorite film or show that Marvel Studios released this year.