Marvel-ous year

Ellie Levine, Reporter

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had a record year in 2021, releasing a total of nine projects, including many movies and Disney+ TV shows. All the 2021 releases were nuanced, with deeper meaning beyond all of the superheroes and fighting. 

The year kicked off with “Wandavision,” a brilliant love letter to television. Taking place directly after “Avengers: Endgame,” protagonist Wanda finds herself overwhelmed with grief after losing the love of her life, Vision. While the story was focused on heroes, it went much further than that. The series explored the impact of loss, grief and pain, making the show relatable.

Next, the MCU released “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” a show about passing the mantle of Captain America and showing the devastation after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” The show explored themes that parallel our world, such as racism and the displacement of people. The arc of the show was brilliant and effectively showcased the emotional journeys of both title characters. However, the show’s structure did not serve the story well, as the final episode was packed with information but lacked the quality of storytelling that the other episodes had. In the end, I really enjoyed this series and think it is a great watch for any fan of Marvel.  

Then came “Loki,” which was much more intertwined with the existing MCU than the previous shows. The show follows Loki’s escape at the end of “Endgame” and his interactions with the Time Variance Authority: an organization dedicated to controlling time. The series was not outstanding in comparison to other projects, often feeling disconnected from itself. While the show had entertaining moments, it seemed intended to further other stories in the MCU, rather than its own. Had the show focused on the individual story and characters, it would have been more interesting. Instead, it felt like it was a show made to strengthen future installments. 

“Black Widow” was the first movie release of the year, which followed Black Widow Natasha Romanoff, after she became a fugitive in “Captain America: Civil War.” While on the run, Romanoff is forced to face her past. The movie was wonderful and entertaining, telling a vital story about child trafficking and abuse. 

“What If…?” was the next project and a first for Marvel. The series consisted of nine episodes, each of which took place in a different universe, with a twist on beloved characters. The show was a venture into animation, exploring different fragments of the multiverse in a unique way that would not have been possible in live-action. This series is truly for hardcore Marvel fans; it is fun and entertaining if you have a connection to the characters and watched the previous movies. 

Another first for Marvel followed; “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was the first Asian-led movie in the MCU. It follows Shang-Chi as he learns how to reconcile the life he escaped from and the life he created for himself. It included some of the more realistic aspects of the Marvel universe, but also tapped into some of the more fantastical sides that had not yet been showcased. “Shang-Chi” was solid escapism, and is worth the watch.

“The Eternals” came after “Shang-Chi” and was an outside of the box film for Marvel. The film followed the story of the Eternals, who protected humanity from the Deviants, an evil race who prey on humans, over thousands of years. The movie was more artistic than anything else in the franchise. While the change in tone worked for the most part, there was an issue with the pacing as the beginning of the movie was more of a plateau rather than an intense build-up. 

The final Marvel TV show of the year was “Hawkeye,” a story of passing the torch from Hawkeye to Kate Bishop, an archery prodigy who had idolized him for years. Over his ten years in the franchise, Hawkeye lacked a definitive personality, but this series made him more likable than ever before. Another important piece of “Hawkeye” was that it provided the goodbye to Natasha Romanoff that we never got in “Endgame.”  

Last, but most definitely not least, was “Spiderman: No Way Home.” This movie was this year’s crown jewel for hardcore fans of Marvel. “Spiderman: No Way Home” follows Peter Parker as he tries to finish high school while the whole world knows he is Spiderman. It was a film that managed to live up to fans’ high expectations. The movie was done with clear intention and purpose; there were no points where the story became congested, contrary to other Marvel movies.

While I don’t think that any of the projects this year were poor, I do think that “Eternals” ranks the lowest. The story was fascinating, but I don’t think it was executed in the best way. 

I believe that the absolute best Marvel project of the year was “Wandavision.” In addition to the beautiful story it told, it sparked a cultural movement. If you watch nothing else from Marvel this year, I recommend watching “Wandavision.” It is beautifully done and enjoyable for anyone watching, whether you are a new or die-hard Marvel fan.