Somehow I was completely cognizant of the end of the year coming up and yet it didn't occur to me I should probably put another one of these together for the sake of consistency. Until now.
- Moon Knight: I am very, very torn by this series. It's well-made, well-written, a great exploration of what makes Marc and Steven tick with a really great villain. On the other hand... the scale of the overall plot and especially the finale doesn't feel very much like a Moon Knight show. The big giant CGI battle at the end in particular had me rolling my eyes pretty hard, it was genuinely starting to feel like Marvel Studios is actually allergic to doing more low-stakes street-level stuff. Between She-Hulk and the eventual new Daredevil show it seems like that isn't the case anymore, but as a Moon Knight fan it still kind of hurt. Still, I'm absolutely hoping for a continuation, there's too much good stuff here just to leave it sitting on the table.
- Morbius: ... Okay so I know I didn't cover Venom 2 last year because it's not Marvel Studios, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that Sony is desperate to give their sinking ship legitimacy by tying it to the MCU, so I'll include it if only to say: this was bad. This was a nothing of a movie. It's dull, it's stale, it's an absolute waste. Jared Leto meanders from one plot point to another because otherwise there wouldn't be a movie, and eventually it doesn't even end, it just stops. And somehow the post-credits scenes are even worse than the movie itself.
- Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness: My favorite MCU movie of 2022. This is what I'd hoped for in a Doctor Strange movie all along, crazy unrestrained magic that doesn't need a shit-ton of explanation, and despite having America Chavez as co-lead and Wanda as the villain she's always been (sorry not sorry XD) it still feels like it is mainly Strange's story with an arc that fits his character. Plus some really great cameos, two of which were absolutely mind-blowing for me.
- Ms. Marvel: There is a really great teenage superhero story arc heavily laden with the perils of institutional racism in here that unfortunately has to battle for screentime with a much less interesting arc about the Clandestine and Kamala's family history. No I am not just sore about them not using The Inventor, although I am miffed about that YOU COULD'VE HAD HIM WORKING FOR DAMAGE CONTROL FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. It just feels like this series got hit harder than most with not having the time it needed to tell the story it wanted and the family trip to Pakistan story could've been saved for a hypothetical season two. But Kamala's great, her supporting cast is great, and she has me more excited for The Marvels than anything else we know about it so far.
- Thor Love And Thunder: This is the first MCU movie where I left the theater in a bad mood. Waste of the villain, waste of Natalie Portman, waste of Tessa Thompson, an over-abundance of Taika Waititi on-screen and off, and then they have the gall to feature a post-credits scene teasing the guy whose movie this should have been. Entirely too goofy, clashes with the rest of the MCU tonally and logistically (do not get me started on the Eternity wish thing because I hate it so much) and utterly wrecks Thor. A worse Guardians of the Galaxy in almost every conceivable way, including the soundtrack.
- I Am Groot: I... think this counts? It's cute, Baby Groot is an adorable little gremlin and the apparent lack of supervision goes a long way to explaining why Teen Groot is the way he is I think. The last short is my favorite.
- She-Hulk Attorney At Law: Not a huge fan, but I don't think it's bad. If anything I think it was maybe misaimed in its marketing? There were definitely things that got a laugh out of me, but on the whole I thought it was weird to pitch this show as "Marvel's first comedy" because I don't really find it as funny as the Guardians/Ant-Man/Spider-Man movies? And also that it's weird you kept writers who, by their own admission, weren't great at writing legal scenes for your lawyer show? Jen's fine though, no notes, I like the fourth wall breaking even if I think the ending's... weird, in a "yes it's very cute of you to point out how stupid this all is writers, but you also could have... done something better instead?" Some great use of characters for cameos too.
- Werewolf By Night: I love this. I need more of this yesterday. This might be the most "targeted at me specifically" thing that Marvel has ever done. I love schlocky horror movies and Marvel utilizing that aesthetic to give us a cheesy monster-hunting special brings me joy in a way I am not used to experiencing. My literal only problem is that I wish it had been longer. Like actual made-for-TV-movie length.
- Black Panther Wakanda Forever: That this movie is as good as it is given the circumstances is absolutely amazing. And it is sad. Profoundly, distressingly sad. But I mean that in the best possible way. And it even got me to like Ironheart, which I thought would be impossible. The Ross/CIA subplot is kind of clunky, but I'm sure it'll pay off later (oh hey, he's in Secret Invasion this year isn't he?). And of course Namor's a great new addition to the MCU and I'm very excited to see what they do with him. If they end up making a third movie and it somehow ends up being Doomwar I am actually going to lose my shit with hype.
- Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special: Disney+ series are dead. Long live Disney+ Special Presentations. When they first announced this my initial reaction was "I never knew I needed this until now but also how dare you make me wait this long for it." A great way to give Mantis and Drax some extra spotlight after they've been given less focus in recent projects, and like all of Gunn's work on this franchise it's as emotionally-moving as it is gut-bustingly funny. I am going to be heartbroken when Volume 3 comes out and this comes to an end.
Overall, I feel like the back half of Phase Four has been... more uneven than the first. On the one hand, some really great creative choices and some of my favorite things Marvel Studios has done in... ever. On the other hand, my actual least favorite thing they've ever done. But hey, whatever. The whole idea of expanding out in different directions and aiming more things at specific demographics means not everything's going to click with everyone, and that's fine
except Thor Love and Thunder if you like it we can't be friends anymore
No really, it's actually pretty fitting. The MCU was never going to recapture that Endgame magic right off the bat and expecting anything like that was folly. But it doesn't feel like that struggle to determine what they're about going forward is completely inorganic; it's pretty well baked into the narrative with old characters struggling to figure out where they fit in and new characters rising to take the mantle of people who aren't there anymore.
Ultimately, Phase Four was an interesting experiment, and I'm hyped to see where it goes in Phase Five.