Directed by Peyton Reed — Screenplay by Jeff Loveness.
Trilogies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe aren’t really trilogies. You can’t watch the Iron Man or Captain America trilogies without knowing what happens in the Avengers films. Or, of course, you can, but it would be a strange exercise as those trilogy films eventually reference other films, are reliant on those other films’ setup, or are direct continuations of a film that isn’t technically in that very trilogy. This has also been true of the Ant-Man trilogy. If you just watch Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp (both directed by Peyton Reed), you’ll definitely have some questions about why Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is under house arrest and about what the hell happened in the 2018 sequel’s mid-credits scene, in which most of the cast suddenly disappeared (thus stranding Scott Lang in the so-called Quantum Realm). Similarly, those who have decided to live under a rock (or simply ignore every other Marvel movie — including two of the biggest films of all time) would probably be really confused as to what happened between the 2018 sequel and this 2023 sequel. I suspect very few people would find themselves in that situation, but I mention all of this because the interconnected nature of the incredible achievement that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) can be both very exciting and confusing depending on who you ask.
Directed by James Gunn — Screenplay by James Gunn.
I’ve made it no secret that the Guardians of the Galaxy films mean a great deal to me. I saw the first film in theaters with my family when we greatly needed something to smile about and we all absolutely loved it. It came around at the exact right time, and James Gunn’s spin on these C-List Marvel characters has made them family favorites (and I’m sure that isn’t just true in my family). I’ve often said that it had the potential for a Star Wars-like impact on a generation, and so I thought it was a hilarious and brilliant idea for James Gunn to add to his overarching narrative about this group of Guardians with a holiday special, as Star Wars’ infamous 1978 holiday special is still spoken about to this day. Thankfully, whereas the Star Wars special was criticized so much that it has never been officially rereleased, this Guardians of the Galaxy special feels much more appropriate to the tone of the films it has spun off from. Like how Werewolf by Night was an entertaining Halloween Marvel Studios special presentation, James Gunn’s Christmas special is exactly what I needed to reconnect with the holiday spirit just in time for December.
Directed by Ryan Coogler — Screenplay by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole.
How do you follow up on one of the most popular superhero films of the last decade, when the incredibly magnetic actor portraying the titular iconic character is no longer with us? Such was the seemingly impossible task for Ryan Coogler when he sat in the director’s chair for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. As I sat down to watch the film, this was the big question that was on my mind. Chadwick Boseman, the charismatic actor who passed away in 2020 due to a private battle with colon cancer, was such an amazing screen presence, and he was the focus of that first film, and you definitely miss him in the sequel. However, it must be said that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever actually does work quite well in spite of the big missing link. One of the reasons why it works is because the presence of a gaping hole at the center of it is an intrinsic part of the plot in more ways than one.
Show Created by Jessica Gao — Directed by Kat Coiro and Anu Valia.
The first Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe series, WandaVision, was released in early 2021. Now, in October of 2022, Marvel Studios has fully released eight different Marvel series on the Disney streamer. While I’ve enjoyed watching all of them, I really do think that many of them would’ve been better as films, as these shows — like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — still swear by the classic Marvel template. Honestly, I think only WandaVision, Loki, What If…?, and Ms. Marvel were right to be made into series rather than films. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, however, is the kind of story that feels appropriate for the streamer as a series. It doesn’t take the overarching Marvel storylines all that seriously and, even though I’m a fan of the MCU, that feels really refreshing.
Directed by Michael Giacchino — Screenplay by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron.
Since the launch of Disney+, Marvel Studios has pumped out a plethora of straight-to-streaming series. It has, honestly, been a little bit overwhelming at times, and not all of the shows are equally good. One of the things that excited me about this streaming service, and the potential for Marvel Studios on it, was the general idea that this gave Marvel an opportunity to break from their formula and try new things. To give examples, Marvel has done that somewhat with Ms Marvel but also with She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, which is this sitcom that doesn’t take the overall universe as seriously as most of the Marvel films do. With Werewolf By Night, Marvel Studios has released their first so-called ‘special presentation.’ This is essentially a Halloween special just like how we know a Christmas special is coming down the line from James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. And think outside of the box they certainly have, as Marvel Studios have hired their frequent composer Michael Giacchino to direct for them on the streaming service. and this special presentation proves that if they need a director for a future feature-length theatrical project, then Michael Giacchino could very well be their guy. Werewolf by Night is surprisingly good.
Show Creator: Bisha K. Ali — Show Directors: Adil & Bilall, Meera Menon, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.
It’s interesting to me that most of the Disney+ shows thus far have really been aimed at the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s mainstream die-hard audience. I sort of expected Disney+ to get into more shows that focused on family fun. I think Hawkeye felt like a family show, but no show has been as close to feeling like a Disney Channel show as Ms. Marvel did. Don’t misunderstand me. That isn’t a diss or a criticism. I think it’s refreshing to see a true young adult family-oriented MCU show. I also think that is the right way to introduce this fan-favorite character to the mainstream audience. I’m glad they gave her a Spider-Man: Homecoming-esque Disney+ show.
Show Creator: Jeremy Slater — Show Directors: Mohamed Diab and Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson.
My most anticipated Marvel Studios Disney+ series thus far was, without a doubt, Moon Knight. Ever since I first started reading comic books about him on Marvel Unlimited several years ago, I have been waiting for the chance to finally see this character in live-action. When it was announced that two of my favorite actors — Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke — were going to be in it, my excitement for the show reached a fever pitch. I’ve now seen the show, so how is it? Well, overall, it’s quite good, but it still suffers from some of the early Marvel-Disney+ problems that we saw in many of last year’s Marvel Cinematic Universe shows.
Disney’s Marvel Studios — the masterminds and architects of the global cinematic sensation, the Marvel Cinematic Universe — now also spends a lot of time on TV/Streaming shows due to the arrival of the streaming service Disney+, which Disney knows can thrive on several shows aimed at the Marvel and Star Wars fandoms. In the first year with MCU content straight-to-Disney+, Disney and Marvel Studios gave us four live-action series and one premier animated show. In this article, I’ll take a look at each of the ‘first-year’ shows in bite-sized reviews.
Directed by Chloé Zhao — Screenplay by Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo.
Although their films are immensely popular, it isn’t every day that Marvel Studios work with Academy Award-winning film directors, which makes Eternals special even on paper. Chloé Zhao, the Chinese-born acclaimed filmmaker behind Best Picture winner Nomadland, did, however, choose to have a major superhero blockbuster film be her follow-up to her poetic Oscars-favorite. In my experience, Zhao’s films (of which I think The Rider is probably her best work), which often feature non-actors, are defined by their open landscapes, contemplative themes, and an unshakable feeling that her narrative films are documentary-like. Therefore, this superhero epic is almost certainly her most accessible film, but it is also true that it feels different than most Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. Frankly, while there is a lot that I like here, I think Eternals ended up being a little bit too ambitious for its own good.
Directed by Jon Watts — Screenplay by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers.
Next year is the 20th anniversary of the first-ever live-action Spider-Man film, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, which catapulted an already immensely popular comic book and animation character into big screen superstardom. A lot has happened since then. At this point, three different actors have played Marvel’s beloved wall-crawler on the big screen, and all of them have devoted fanbases. This, Spider-Man: No Way Home, is the third solo film in Tom Holland’s tenure as Peter Parker, but it is so much more than that as trailers have revealed. Rest assured, this is a spoiler-free review that will not reveal anything you wouldn’t already know from promotional material. Promotional material — trailers and posters — have revealed that No Way Home will feature villains (and the actors that originally played those villains) from the previous two Spider-Man sagas and thus connect the different cinematic universes. It is a massive crossover event for Spider-Man fans. My one worry going into the theater was that this movie might be too big to work, but, ultimately, I don’t think that is the case. Because at its heart, this is very much a Spider-Man movie, and I think they manage to balance the various elements of the film remarkably well.