2022 was a big year for superhero films and TV shows. Many of these releases were highly anticipated, especially considering some faced multiple delays from the COVID-19 pandemic. As expected, Marvel and DC dominated the list of the best superhero projects of the year. Marvel has continued to delve into the small screen by producing TV series for Disney+ and hit the nail on the head with almost all of their shows this year. Meanwhile, DC branched out to HBO Max and Netflix to produce two of their best TV series of the year, while the DCEU’s single 2022 film release also narrowly earned a spot on this list as well.
The best superhero projects are ultimately those that find a balance between taking creative liberties and remaining true to the source material. They also tend to boast stunning visuals, compelling acting performances, character development, and a strong plot peppered with intriguing themes. Here are 10 of the best superhero TV shows and movies of the year.
10. Black Adam
Black Adam premiered on October 21, 2022, and marked Dwayne Johnson’s long-awaited live-action debut as the titular anti-hero. The film tracks the origin story of Teth-Adam, who rises from his slumber after a 5,000-year imprisonment and immediately attracts attention with his unparalleled power and refusal to bow to anyone. However, when the Justice Society of America (JSA) confronts him, he will need to truly decide if he wants to be the destroyer or savior of the world. Black Adam was a bit too action-packed with too little plot and character development. It also failed to create a nuanced and compelling villain. Johnson and Pierce Brosnan saved the show, though, with their brilliant performances, and the film does deliver on the excitement factor.
9. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premiered on August 18, 2022, and brought the fourth-wall-breaking Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) to the screen. The series follows Walters’ struggles as she balances being a Hulk with being a high-profile lawyer, while also facing a torrent of misogyny and sexism from the Incel community. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is masterful in its commentary on sexism and its bold decision to confront Marvel’s shortcomings. However, in terms of the plot, tone, and pacing, the show is all over the place. Many subplots and characters are forgotten and underdeveloped, leaving the audience still feeling unsatisfied at the end.
8. Thor: Love and Thunder
Thor: Love and Thunder premiered on July 8, 2022, and marked the highly anticipated fourth installment in the Thor film series. The film sees Thor summoned out of retirement to face the threat of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale). Thor rallies his allies to face the threat, including Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is now the Mighty Thor but is hiding a distressing secret. Thor: Love and Thunder is entertaining, but it is sometimes a bit too obvious in its attempts to replicate Thor: Ragnarok with its jokes, flair, and action. Even though it lacks sustenance through the majority of the film, it does end with an emotional sucker punch and a touching look into grief and loss. Portman and Bale also put up masterful performances, but the film ultimately lacked balance, restraint, and tonal consistency.
7. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness premiered on May 6, 2022, and follows the aftermath of the events of WandaVision. In the film, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) embarks on a journey through the multiverse to protect America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a mysterious young girl with coveted powers. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a very unique film that offered a poignant exploration of grief and daringly dove into the horror genre. Plus, Elizabeth Olson offered one of her most compelling and emotional performances yet as the Scarlet Witch. At the same time, the horror elements served little purpose for the plot, and many felt the Illuminati scene was rushed, unnecessary, and unsatisfying.
6. Moon Knight
Moon Knight premiered on March 30, 2022, and was a trippy and unique addition to the MCU. The show follows Steven Grant/Marc Specter (Oscar Isaac), an avatar for the Moon God Khonshu (Murray Abrahams) who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID). His fractured personalities must learn to work together as Khonshu warns him of Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), who wishes to unleash the goddess of judgment on humanity. Moon Knight was a delightfully absurd tale that entwined DID and Egyptian mythology into an intriguing story. The story was also filled with masterful performances, unforeseeable twists and turns, and a surprisingly poignant depiction of child abuse and trauma. At the same time, the ending felt rushed and incomplete, given how deep the story went.
5. The Sandman
The Sandman premiered on Netflix on August 5, 2022, and finally gave Neil Gaiman’s comic book series a live-action adaption after the project floundered in developmental hell for decades. The series follows Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), who escapes captivity after a century of imprisonment and embarks on a journey to restore his realm of The Dreaming. For fans of the source material, The Sandman was a very loyal adaption. In addition to this, the series was enjoyable as a magical fantasy adventure with strong performances and an alluring dark, dreamy tone to it. The only flaw is that it spent a tad too much time world-building and ran out of steam at the end.
4. Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel premiered on June 8, 2022, and introduced Marvel’s first Muslim superhero. The series follows Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a high schooler obsessed with the Avengers and disgruntled by her overbearing parents. However, when her powers are awakened by an inherited bangle, she becomes a hero in her own right and delves into her family history to understand the motives of the Clandestines. Ms. Marvel is a refreshing, diverse, and representative installment in the MCU. It is a generational tale that dives into the history of India and Pakistan and debuts a delightful, relatable, and charismatic new hero. The only times it flounders is when it tries to tie up too many loose ends at once and ends up falling flat in its finale.
Peacemaker premiered on January 13, 2022, and marked James Gunn’s second DCEU project. The series starts where The Suicide Squad (2021) left off, after Peacemaker (John Cena) was revealed to still be alive and back in Amanda Waller’s (Viola Davis) custody. Despite him being a ruthless murderer, he does follow Waller’s orders well and is assigned to a new black ops squad investigating a parasitic species. Peacemaker is good for all the same reasons The Suicide Squad was, with its over-the-top action, vulgarity, crass humor, and wacky delightfulness. It is further bolstered by heartfelt performances and top-notch directing that makes even the most unlikeable DC character, oddly likable. While it is wildly fun, entertaining, and well-crafted, it isn’t a particularly deep or groundbreaking premise.
2. Werewolf by Night
Werewolf by Night premiered on October 7, 2022, and marked Marvel’s reinvention of the classic holiday TV specials of the mid-to-late 90s. The film follows a group of monster hunters who gather at Bloodstone manor to compete for a powerful relic left behind by the late Ulysses Bloodstone. However, they are unaware that one of the monster hunters is a monster himself, the werewolf Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal). Werewolf by Night is a nostalgic vintage affair with a delightfully spooky premise, practical visuals, and strong performances from its lead. This black-and-white installment is a blast from the past, a refreshing installment in the MCU, and is brimming with charm and Halloween spirit. It is, however, understandably, a rather thin entry in the superhero genre given its status as a one-time special.
1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered on November 11, 2022, and marked the long-awaited sequel to the critically acclaimed 2018 film, Black Panther. The story takes place after the passing of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), when a vulnerable Wakanda must fight to save itself among rising foreign tensions and a threat from the underwater civilization, the Talokan, and their mutant leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a deeply emotional project that honored Boseman while continuing the story of the people of Wakanda. The film featured intriguing social and political commentary, outstanding performances, and a poignant discussion on grief, loss, and generational trauma. While it might not be the most exciting or flawless superhero film, it was by far the most meaningful superhero film of 2022.
(featured image: Disney)
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