It's been a somewhat bruising year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its status as an unstoppable juggernaut was seriously weakened in 2021 due to a string of underperforming movies and an oversaturation of TV shows on Disney Plus, and its slate of content in 2022 did little to dissipate my increasing Marvel fatigue.
It doesn’t appear to be just me that starting to feel a little MCU burnout either. In 2022 I observed an increasingly large group of viewers express dissatisfaction with the franchise’s direction, and I have been contacted by several readers who also share with my dissatisfaction. Critical voices have also pointed out a number of recurring problems with Marvel movies and TV shows this year. At times it appears the comic book franchise is merely coasting on its previous success.
Of course, plenty of viewers remain just as enamored with all things Marvel as they’ve ever been, and 2022 did introduce a whole new squad of heroes that could become fan favorites in years to come. Nevertheless, now that 2022 is wrapping up and the MCU is looking ahead to the start of Phase 5, it’s time to take stock of Marvel’s year and recount the best and worst of the last twelve months.
But before we dive into the proceedings, remember this is all just my opinion. And Marvel fanboys should prepare themselves, you’ll find some spicy takes down below. You have been warned…
The best and worst of Marvel in 2022
Moon Knight (worst)
I’ve made no secret of my dislike of Moon Knight. In fact, I almost quit watching the show midway through the season. I persisted until the end after some passionate responses to my opinion article on the TV show, but only the penultimate episode stood out to me as worthy of all the hype.
My biggest problem with the series was that I found Marc Spector/Steven Grant a thoroughly uncompelling character and the central narrative extremely disjointed. Not to mention half the season was bogged down with overly convoluted scene-setting. And it all builds to a mostly lackluster finale, granted with an admittedly fairly cool closing stinger. I know that Moon Knight has his fans, but this Disney Plus series practically sent me to sleep.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (best)
Marvel’s first movie of the year was Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and it was a pretty good time overall. It’s far from one of my favorite MCU movies but there were enough dimension-hopping hijinks to keep me engaged, and I loved the horror touches that director Sam Raimi was able to add. I even somewhat enjoyed the gratuitous amount of fan-service cameos, if only because Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Professor X is always a treat.
Yes, Doctor Strange 2 suffers from a lot of increasingly familiar MCU problems, but I’d also argue the decision to make Wanda Maximoff the straight up villain of the movie isn’t given enough credit. That was a bold call from Marvel, and it helped make the second Doctor Strange solo movie feel rather refreshing compared to the rest of Marvel’s 2022 slate.
Ms. Marvel (best)
I’ve definitely got some issues with Ms. Marvel’s overarching plot, but the series has to be classed as a success purely because of Iman Vellani’s note-perfect portrayal of Kamala Khan. I cannot wait to see more of her in 2023’s Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels.
Curiously, my favorite thing about Ms. Marvel is it (mostly) keeps the stakes relatively low. Kamala isn’t trying to save the entire world from some universe-ending threat but is instead on a more personal journey that feels appropriate for the character. I’ve struggled with Marvel’s Disney Plus shows in general finding many of them unengaging, but Ms. Marvel definitely did enough to hold my attention even if I was a little slow finishing the last two episodes.
Thor: Love and Thunder (worst)
Thor: Love and Thunder was Marvel’s low point in 2022 and left me no choice but to conclude that the MCU is floundering. Taika Waititi’s refreshing take on the God of Thunder earned deserved plaudits in 2017 and Thor: Ragnarok has featured prominently on the best Marvel movie list ever since. But the follow-up was…a bit much.
Thor’s character development from Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame was basically erased, and the non-stop barrage of comedic quips and silly situations started to grate before the halfway point. An expanded role for Natalie Portman was welcome, but Christian Bale was absolutely wasted as Gorr the God Butcher, who bafflingly butchered practically zero Gods during the film. Frankly, Thor Love and Thunder earns a spot on the worst list just for those screaming goats alone.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (worst)
I have a confession to make: I have yet to finish She-Hulk. As much as I enjoy Tatiana Maslany’s performance in the lead role of Jennifer Walters, She-Hulk as a TV show just never quite connected with me. I found the humor extremely hit-and-miss, and the fourth-wall-breaking antics feel a little too on the nose — when will comedy writers learn that merely pointing out tropes doesn’t excuse them?
I'm aware She-Hulk has received a rave response from critics, and my (trusted) colleague Henry T. Casey raves about the series. Plus, in the three episodes I did watch, I appreciated that She-Hulk actually feels like a TV show rather than just a Marvel movie with a zero knocked off the budget as Hawkeye and Falcon and Winter Solider did. However, considering I've still not felt the urge to finish this Disney Plus Original series, it has to be judged as a miss in my book.
Black Panther Wakanda Forever (meh)
I’m somewhat torn on Black Panther Wakanda Forever because while I felt it did a marvelous job paying tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and the passing of the torch to Letitia Wright’s Shuri was handled with grace. However, the sequel is dragged down by many of Marvel’s worst habits.
The effects are extremely ropey — the aquatic scenes look even worse in the wake of Avatar: The Way of Water hitting theaters — and the narrative badly sags in the middle. Nevertheless, this is no Thor: Love and Thunder. And while I’ll probably not be rushing to rewatch when Black Panther Wakanda Forever hits Disney Plus in 2023, it’s got such an emotionally charged finale that it’s practically essential viewing for anybody with even a slight attachment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. More deserving of a spot in between best and worst, so we'll label this one "meh".
Marvel’s 2022 report card
|RT critics score||RT audience score||My grade|
|Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness||74%||85%||B|
|Thor: Love and Thunder||64%||77%||D+|
|Black Panther Wakanda Forever||84%||94%||C+|
Alongside the TV shows and movies listed above, there were also two Special Presentations release on Disney Plus this year: Werewolf by Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. I really enjoyed the former, and thought the latter was fun by flawed. Neither is substantive enough for a grading, but they deserve a mention when considering the last 12 months of Marvel as a whole.
Thankfully, Marvel’s 2022 offered a little more breathing room than its hugely overcrammed 2021 schedule, but even so the last twelve months have done little to quell my increasing Marvel burnout. The recent confirmation of the full Phase 5 and Phase 6 schedule has given us a peek of what’s to come in the future, but looking back at the very mixed bag that was this year, I’m hoping that 2023 will see a swift return to the heights of pre-Endgame MCU.