2021 has been a weird as hell year. You’d think after everything in 2020, this pretty awful ‘new normal’ of things straight out of a bad sci-fi wouldn’t have been such a surprise. And yet. Here we are, preparing for more of the same come 2022. But it wasn’t ALL bad, thanks to the Hollywood machine marching ever forward to make our days just a little bit brighter.
Marvel Studios, darlings of box office reports, managed to release 10 things this year. That’s pretty impressive, right? Not to mention, they were mostly pretty great. Those things (in no particular order) were “Hawkeye,” “Loki,” “WandaVision,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Black Widow,” “Eternals,” “Venom Let There Be Carnage” (yeah, yeah, Marvel Studios in partnership with Sony Pictures, so it STILL COUNTS), “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” and “Marvel’s What If…?.”
We thought we’d poll the staff here at Nerdbot and get an idea of which Marvel Studios releases were a hit, and which landed on the more “Thor: The Dark World,” “Iron Man 3” side of the MCU.
1. What if
2. No way home
3. Black widow
8. Falcon winter soldier
Since I didn’t see Eternals or Venom 2, i’m leaving them out. Otherwise, from the top of the list we have the most exciting, the darkest, and the most interesting thing Marvel’s done so far. As we continue down, the excitement falls down as well, the creativity depletes, especially as we get into the shows. They were incredibly boring, though each had their moments. Loki and Hawkeye were the least boring, but they still we’re dragged along quite a bit.
6. Black Widow
8. Venom 2
9. Marvel’s What If…?
10. Falcon Winter Soldier
I wasn’t expecting Hawkeye to be so good. Really liked the dynamic between Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner. Tom Hiddleston is always great eye candy. WandaVision was a clever play on television, which I watch a lot of, and it hit all the right notes. I really enjoyed the fantasy aspect of Shang-Chi, and all the characters were great. I don’t feel there was enough character development in Black Widow. I didn’t see Eternals or Venom 2, but this is where they go on the list. I really wasn’t into the animation style of “What If…?,” and I don’t really like military stuff like TFatWS.
I (Mab) said:
3. What If
7. Black Widow
Shang-Chi takes the cake this year for all the reasons it should be celebrated. No one was expecting Hawkeye to be good, especially after the major disappointment of Falcon and Winter Soldier, and yet there it is in #2 for me. Seriously, how do you make the Sam / Bucky buddy show so freaking BORING? I’d actually give Black Widow the up over WandaVision, but that damn “what is grief” line gives it the edge. If we had gotten Black Widow 10 years ago- hell, even 5 years ago when we were SUPPOSED to- this would be a much different MCU. Also Loki, I love you, but you were kind of a mess at the end there. Look, I know EVERYONE loved Spider-Man, but it just wasn’t a best film personally for me. Some minor tweaks, like how we meet the Spider-persons, would have done wonders for my enjoyment. I didn’t hate Eternals, but I do wish it had been the multi-episode series and Falcon the film. And Venom 2…what a mess of a movie.
1. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was one of the best entries into the MCU that managed to exceed even the most egregious expectations. Action packed, humorous and heartfelt, this is what movies we love are made of.
2. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was a definitive announcement of Simu Liu as a star in the making, and sports one of the best first acts of 2021. Thrilling and fun and proof that the MCU can do martial arts.
3. “WandaVision“: One of the most unique visual experiences on Television and sets the tone for all the new and weird directions the MCU is going. Powerful and unique, this was a great foot to put forward even if it wasn’t as originally intended.
4. “Hawkeye“: Hailey Steinfeld and Florence Pugh in one show? Sold. This is also a great break from the weighty, drama heavy entries that preceded it, and marks a much needed, lighthearted holiday romp.
5. “Loki“: I still motion for “Work your loki” to be added to urban dictionary. Packed with game changing implications and stellar performances, this was a show I was looking forward to the least and ended up enjoying the most.
6. “Eternals”: Sure, it’s rife with problems and should have been a TV series, but I enjoyed it much more than the critical response would dictate, and its only real drawback is how much more I wanted from it.
7. “Marvel’s What If…?“: I know it didn’t resonate as much as they intended, but I thoroughly enjoyed the unabashed freedom the Multiverse allowed MCU creators to work with. It’s not the best by far, but it’s fun and unique.
8. “The Falcon and the Winter Solider“: This one is more of a victim of circumstance than actually being worthy of being so low. There was just simply so much else that came out that ended up being better, and I haven’t given much thought to the events since the show ended.
9. “Black Widow“: Too little too late even though it isn’t as bad as people have painted it. It just feels so out of place, telling a story with a definitive end and is more of a vehicle for Yelena than the Black Widow Solo film we wanted.
10. “Venom: Let there Be Carnage“: This shouldn’t even be considered an MCU movie, but it made the worst of 2021 list, so ya it makes the bottom of this one, too.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
- Black Widow
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
- Venom: Let There Be Carnage
- Marvel’s What If…?
This year was an embarrassment of riches for Marvel. However if I look at what it means long term for diversity and representation in the MCU – “Shang-Chi” eeks out the top spot. It was fun without requiring you to remember tooooo much of the last kajillion films. It had a balance of humor and action. Plus Tony freaking Leung AND Michelle Yeoh. Seeing so many fellow Asians and Asian-Americans (and Asian-Canadians) on screen in one film felt so momentous. “WandaVision” comes in at a close second as it showed us just how spectacular the Disney+ Marvel series can be. The willingness to experiment with style pushed the genre.“Spider-Man: No Way Home” was also a serious contender for top spot as I think it was the most fun I’d had at the movies all year. However there were some pretty questionable plot points and it didn’t quite feel like it advanced the overall next Phase (that could change after we see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” but at this moment in time it’s still TBD). The only true disappointments for me this year were “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” which was to be expected. Finally, I personally couldn’t get into “What If…?” due to the animation style and some of the wooden voice acting (just because you can act live-action does NOT make you a voice actor).
1. Spider-Man: No Way Home – the best of the Tom Holland Spider Man entries, and it holds up both by itself as well as expanding on and improving on the prior live-action Sony entries and gives those an even stronger punch.
2. Shang-Chi – new characters, new backgrounds, and it too improves on an earlier much-maligned
3. Marvel’s What If…? – taking new looks at various characters and weaving all of the episodes towards and overall season arc. It was solid and didn’t seem like it was trying to just be self-serving.
4. Loki – alright, this one is just about the fun of seeing Loki (and all of the variants), mixing in callbacks to various comics incarnations as well as letting us have fun with his particular style of humor.
5. Black Widow – There’s nothing wrong with Widow, it should just havee been done years ago, and now suffers more for it’s comparison to Atomic Blonde than for any MCU-specific failings. When you have various god-level hereos and a few that are just secret agents, there’s going to be some disparity in tone. But it’s still a fun ride.
6. Hawkeye – Finally giving him his own spotlight, like with Black Widow, is well past time. It’s fun, serious, and helps us appreciate where an imperfect person is in the midst of the Avengers crew.
7. Venom 2 – Including this seems really odd, even with the pair of credit scenes. It will almost be like when the time comes to loop in Deadpool, the tonal issues of how different his violence and humor will be next to something like Shang-Chi will be even more jarring than the experience of watching Venom and trying to figure out what it’s reason for existing is other than watching Tom Hardy talking to himself for a few hours.
8. WandaVision – far too interested in its own cleverness to bother wih a story that merited a full season. More than 1/2 of the runtime of the painfully short episodes were focused on each episodes kitsche time-period back-patting.
9. Eternals – Be honest, how many people even really remember this film even came out this year? It feels like a random experiement in a new tonal approach or something that should have been fleshed out in more than a single installment (it would have perhaps been better served as one of the series).
10. Falcon Winter Soldier – watching this feels like time you first had to slog through the whole section of the Lord of the Rings books where Frodo is chuning through the swap, or Wheel of Time anytime characters are in the desert – “why am I here and having to grind through this?”
1. Wandavision: Imaginative and enjoyable, it wanted to be something different and ran with it gleefully.
2. Spider-Man: No Way Home: Blissful for this tired old millennial to see the return of such an amazing performance as Molina’s Doc Ock one more time.
3. Falcon & Winter Soldier: From two perpetual second-fiddle characters, I found them a strong duo with some solid villains.
4. Hawkeye: Every pizza dog deserves his day. Street level heroes are easy to enjoy, and the exasperated Clint is better than ever.
5. Loki: A good time-bending yarn, but when will Marvel give us back the character of Loki as he used to be? Reduced to a side-character in a show named after him is not a great look for the once God of mischief.
6. Eternals: Some great performances, and I like something new, but the whole thing felt like spinning wheels in the wider scale.
7. Marvel’s What if…?: For a show that can do ANYTHING, why is it that it never really does? From strong episodes to mediocre-at-best, this is the most turbulent in quality of the lot.
8. Shang-Chi: A charming lead performance and the uniquely Asian American experience story held back by a simplistic by-the-numbers Marvel formula. TOO MUCH AKWAFINA.
9. Black Widow: Too little, too late.
10. Venom 2: Look how they massacred my boy…
So, as you can see, Nerdbot’s opinions were kind of all over the place. This is why there are so many offerings, right? Something for everyone.
We certainly can’t wait to see what Marvel Studios has in store for us in 2022.