It’s a tough one to call…
2021 will forever be known as the year Marvel provided fans with the goods. Conversely, 2020 was a drag. For what seemed like an age, fans eagerly awaited new MCU content in the form of Disney+ shows, and haven’t they delivered.
Ranking them seems like an unenviable task, but I would argue there is a clear winner in the battle for the best 2021 MCU content. Whilst every project has both strengths and weaknesses, all have produced some top class content and have changed the game for worldwide superhero storytelling and the future of the MCU.
4. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
Number 4 is a tough one to call, so I don’t want to label it as ‘last place’. This show was excellent in many ways, providing an in-depth look into both characters on a more personal scale in comparison to the movies and displaying the infectious relationship between Anthony Mackie (Falcon/Captain America) and Sebastian Stan (Bucky/The Winter Soldier). It was also amazing to see Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) back, who was arguably the most relatable antagonist of the MCU.
The storyline was interesting and the action scenes fast-paced, with interesting tie-ins to other projects such as Black Panther. The character of John Walker (Wyatt Russell) was also very interesting as an antagonist, who was appropriately set up for a future role in the wider universe.
The show is at number 4 predominantly due to the villainous group of the flag smashers. The villains were fairly forgettable and I imagine will blend into the MCU’s history of mediocre villains (see Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World). The show was also predictable at times, for example, Sharon Carter’s reveal as the Power Broker was expected and underwhelming. I do think this show was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the other Disney+ projects, as WandaVision and Loki focused on magic and the mystery of the MCU which seemingly have more impact on future movies.
That said, the show was thoroughly enjoyable, and watching Sam Wilson become Captain America was both thrilling and emotional.
3. Black Widow
FINALLY. It only took a year and a little bit but we finally managed to watch this movie. It was amazing to see MCU back in the cinema and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finally being given some valuable screen time and character development.
Filled with juicy action set pieces and introducing the very likeable Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Black Widow satisfied audiences by filling the gaps in knowledge about this mysterious character. The dynamic between Alexei (David Harbour), Melina (Rachel Weisz), Yelena, and Natasha was meaningful and provided some comic relief in between the moments of heavy action. Arguably Yelena stole the spotlight, a risky move from Marvel in a beloved characters movie that just about paid off.
Where Black Widow failed to inspire was the fact that the character was already dead, therefore removing any greater implications to the character and the wider MCU. This begs the question as to why Marvel decided to wait so long for a Black Widow movie. The movie portrays TaskMaster, not as the antagonist of the movie but rather a pawn of her father, General Dreykov (Ray Winstone), a twist that I enjoyed. However, more character development of these villains would have been beneficial so that audiences could understand the formation and motives behind Dreykov’s actions.
However, Yelena is one to look out for… especially based on that post-credit scene.
The Disney+ Loki series provided the character with more glorious purpose and perfectly set up what’s to come in many future Marvel projects.
Loki took audiences on an adventure through the TVA as he attempts to track down variants of himself that have diverted away from the ‘sacred timeline’ where everything must happen for a reason. It is a fresh entry from the MCU, providing stunning cinematography and visual effects along with the charisma of Tom Hiddleston and the dynamic between major characters such as Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). ‘He Who Remains’ (Jonathan Majors) was an interesting addition to the final episode, leaving audiences in suspense as they wait for the future MCU projects to explain the repercussions of branching the ‘sacred’ timeline and the expected ‘multiversal war’.
The character development of Loki was extremely interesting to watch, starting off as the ‘Avengers Loki’ working under Thanos to fighting against the corrupt TVA for what he believes is right. I loved the character of Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), who was well written and had an interesting dynamic with Loki (although I wasn’t so sure about the romantic connection in the later parts of the series). Sylvie played a key part in opening up the multiverse, and I’d imagine will play a significant role in the future of the MCU.
WandaVision reinvented Marvel storytelling, providing a unique look at the universe and delving into the past (and exploring the future) of MCU characters that thus far we have not gotten to know well enough.
WandaVision was a masterpiece. Not only did it take viewers through perfectly executed sitcoms of the last 5 decades but it explored the layers to Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) grief after the loss of Vision (Paul Bettany) in Avengers: Infinity War. With the addition of the legendary Kathryn Hahn as Agatha, the story had an eccentric antagonist who proved to be both a comical and powerful character. The show perfectly balanced the tricky mixture of comedy and action, with moments of mystery and even horror to help build the story. The weekly episodic format helped this a lot, leaving viewers on edge each week.
One major success of this show is that the supporting characters were also an amazing addition and brought so much to the show, such as returning alums Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). Teynoah Parris as Monica Rambeau was also a brilliant addition to the cast and it was amazing to see her development through the story and the tease of what is to come for her character in the future MCU film ‘The Marvels’. Each of these characters were well executed and added their own element to the storyline, unlike some of the other Disney+ projects on this list.
It is extremely hard to rate what has been such an amazing year so far for the Marvel. Each project is different and provides audiences with new characters, stories, and elements that have yet to be explored. These projects have set up for what will be an amazing phase for the MCU.