2022 was the year that Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World Dominion, and Avatar (probably) unseated Marvel's dominance at the box office, but is that a sign of superhero fatigue or just a lack of good comic book movies in general?
Marvel and DC have both released plenty of movies throughout the year, as have Sony and Warner Bros. Animation, with mixed results from all camps.
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We take a look back the superhero movies of 2022 to see which were pulling their weight, and which were like pulling teeth...
With the likes of Safe House and Life on his CV, it’s clear that Daniel Espinosa is a good filmmaker. He will make more good movies. But Morbius — the latest film in Sony’s Spider-Man universe — is not one of them. Starring Jared Leto as the titular Doctor who infects himself with a form of vampirism when trying to find a cure for his rare blood disease, it’s a story that’s at best boringly generic and at worst, forgettable.
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Add that to the awful CGI, slim character work, and one of the worst, nonsensical post-credits scenes of all time, and it’s at the bottom of the barrel not just for superhero movies this year, but the entire genre as a whole.
9: Black Adam
It’s hard to believe that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson being cast as Black Adam predates the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Given that it’s taken 15 years for it to come to fruition, you would think the final product wouldn’t feel so dated. But let’s start with the positives: the action comes thick and fast, and at times it’s colourful and inventive. Lorne Balfe’s score is catchy and propulsive. And casting issues aside, Pierce Brosnan is a consistent highlight as Doctor Fate, a heroic sorcerer.
However, the Justice Society doesn’t get nearly enough setup or depth (the two new members they draft in for this fight barely register). Its 'heroes don’t kill people' dialogue feels like it’s written by people who have never seen a film set in this universe (where Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have all murdered people). And there’s little to no variation in Johnson’s stoic line delivery. Finally, he’s an American actor playing an anti-hero from the Middle East – can we please take this into consideration when casting these roles, Hollywood?
8: Thor: Love and Thunder
After the franchise-rejuvenating Thor: Ragnarok, anticipation was high for Taika Waititi’s follow-up adventure with the God of Thunder. There are a few bright spots to be found – specifically, Christian Bale’s intense performance as the villainous Gorr, the black-and-white visuals of the Shadow Realm, and a rocking score by Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad.
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But the balance between weightiness and jokes is poorly calibrated this time round. Natalie Portman’s returning Jane Foster eventually brings some much-needed substance, and her Thor looks great in action (even if her worthiness is shortchanged by a poor screenwriting decision).
Watch a trailer for Thor: Love and Thunder
But there’s only so many times a viewer can watch yet another fake death before wondering whether anything matters, and Love and Thunder has several. Add that to an underused Tessa Thompson and an overused Korg, and Thor’s fourth solo movie is middling at best.
7: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
It’s taken six years for Doctor Strange to be the focus of his own story once again, and it coincides with the return of Sam Raimi to superhero blockbuster fare. His directorial stamp is pleasingly evident throughout the movie, but it’s counterbalanced by a screenplay which too often prioritises plot over character and thematic weight. Some suspect CGI aside, the magic on display is colourful and imaginative – one standout sequence sees Strange weaponise musical notes and use them as shuriken, all soundtracked to Danny Elfman’s creative score.
With that being said, Multiverse of Madness doesn’t feel like a film that maximises the promise of its title. And while Elizabeth Olsen convinces as a Wanda who breaks bad, her one-note arc here is inferior to the complexity of WandaVision, not helped by the complete absence of her android beau.
6: Werewolf By Night
Michael Giacchino went from composer to director with decent results in Werewolf By Night, the first of Marvel’s not-quite-feature-length ‘Special Presentations’. Focusing on a group of monster hunters who gather to compete for a legendary bloodstone, the film earns points for freshness (it’s markedly different to anything the MCU has tried before), its beautiful black-and-white visuals, and its 1930’s filmmaking inspirations.
It almost goes without saying that the score is also excellent – a monster twist on the traditional fanfare is a fun tone-setter. Kevin Feige has said this corner of the MCU is going to become more important in future phases. On the basis of this, we're excited to see just what that means.
5: The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
In 2023, James Gunn will be back for one last Guardians of the Galaxy film: Volume 3. But in the meantime, this holiday special — which sees team members Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) head to Earth to kidnap Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon) as a surprise Christmas present for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) — is a fun, if slight time-passer.
The key to both the most laugh-out-loud scenes and the more poignant moments is Klementieff’s Mantis. The former comes when she’s pratting around with Drax — her comedic timing is impeccable, and her off-kilter chemistry with Bautista is fun to watch — and the latter comes with the reveal of an emotional revelation in the movie’s final minutes that tugs at the heartstrings. This is truly the galaxy’s weirdest family, and it’s still a joy to hang out with them.
4: DC’s League of Super-Pets
The ‘Legion Of Super-Pets’ is not a very well-known DC comic book, but its core concept makes for an entertaining animated family film in League of Super-Pets. Voicing Krypto the Super-Dog is Dwayne Johnson, who must join forces with a newly superpowered rag-tag shelter pack – including Ace the hound (Kevin Hart) and Chip the squirrel (Diego Luna) – to save the Justice League when they’re captured by Lulu the guinea pig (Kate McKinnon).
McKinnon is especially good here, leaning into the megalomania of her villain with each hilarious line reading. And though the themes and messages about friendship and unconditional love are simple, they are also endearing. Good dog.
3: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
How do you make a sequel to Black Panther — a billion-dollar grossing cultural phenomenon that changed the world — without your lead character and star? It’s a daunting question that writer-director Ryan Coogler and his collaborators have answered in classy fashion with Wakanda Forever, a film that doesn’t forget to thrill and entertain while it pays tribute to the great Chadwick Boseman, who passed away from cancer in August 2020.
In Boseman’s absence, the rich ensemble cast that was so wonderfully established in the first movie comes to the fore. Shuri is especially prevalent this time round, as she reckons with her grief in the aftermath of her brother’s death. Letitia Wright’s performance is equal to the emotional depths it demands, and Angela Bassett’s Queen Mother Ramonda only adds further heartfelt weight in key moments.
Watch a trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The arrival of antagonist Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the ruler of underwater kingdom Talokan (which is stunningly introduced), benefits from him not being entirely wrong about what’s motivating his actions. He and his warriors also make for formidable opponents in battle, and every fight sequence feels impactful in ways that other MCU projects don’t always manage.
Add all this to yet another brilliant score by returning composer Ludwig Göransson, and you have Marvel’s best movie of Phase 4.
2: The Batman
How do you make the third big screen Batman in the last decade feel different enough to what’s come before? Hiring Matt Reeves and casting Robert Pattinson is a good place to start. In their hands, this rawer, grittier iteration of Gotham’s Caped Crusader is still figuring out if his vigilante is more effective as a boogeyman or an inspiration, an arc that has many layers that the film satisfyingly unpacks.
It’s aided by a smart antagonist in The Riddler (a chilling Paul Dano) — who constantly tests Batman’s mind and morals — as well as Zoë Kravitz’ cunning Selina Kyle and Jeffrey Wright’s steely not-yet-Commissioner Gordon. Throw in some gorgeous cinematography from Greig Fraser (the last few minutes are especially beautiful to look at) and multiple catchy themes from Michael Giacchino, and you have an excellent foundation for future Bat-sequels to build on.
Let’s get this out of the way: yes, RRR is a superhero movie. The first 15 minutes gives us two fantastic action scenes featuring its characters fighting off hundreds of men at once and outrunning a wolf, and it only gets more impressive from there.
Read more: How RRR became a global phenomenon
Because this is a really, really good superhero movie that focuses on Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr) and Raju (Ram Charan), whose fast friendship is on a collision course with their own separate goals. Every element of this works together beautifully, from the ‘Naatu Naatu’ musical sequence — the synchronised dancing is a wonder to behold — to the ambitious, inventive action that repeatedly and satisfyingly ups the ante. The inventive filmmaking on display here makes Hollywood's 2022 superhero movies seem creatively constipated.
The success of RRR — streaming on Netflix now — means that a sequel from its director S.S. Rajamouli is on the way, and that’s something we can all get pumped for.
Watch a trailer for RRR