5. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Venom sequel Let There Be Carnage was everything that its predecessor was not: narratively focused, tight to the point of being a breeze to watch, and a whole lot of fun.
With a story co-written by star Tom Hardy and the film directed by Lord of the Rings alum and Mowgli director Andy Serkis, gone were issues of there being too many villains and too little reason to care, Let There Be Carnage instead offering a villain with something of a meaningful backstory and vitally expanding on Eddie Brock and Venom’s likability as an unlikely partnership.
Leaning into the homoeroticism that was born out of fan reactions to the original film, Venom: Let There Be Carnage created a believable dynamic between Brock and his alien parasite, and it bravely stuck to its universe separation from Spider-Man and the central Marvel Cinematic Universe to offer something fairly unique in the modern age: a sequel better than the original, and one that had no glaring in-film promotions for other releases.
A Venom sequel was always unlikely to rival the meatier films to come on this list, but for what it was – a fun and enjoyable ninety minutes of carnage – it more than lived up to its end of the bargain, providing escapist entertainment with few glaring issues.
4. The Suicide Squad
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad was funny and original, and it featured some of the most memorable moments from superhero cinema in 2021. It may not have been the knock-it-out-of-the-park instant classic that Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy was, but it did a fine job of scratching our collective itch for off-kilter super-powered comedy.
Disappointing use of Harley Quinn aside (especially in the shadow of Birds of Prey, 2020), The Suicide Squad offered a strong and original group of lovable losers. John Cena’s Peacemaker and his interactions with Idris Elba’s Bloodsport were perhaps the backbone of this DCEU entry, though Gunn’s talent for creating memorable and lovable supporting characters was also evident, Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark and David Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man setting the internet ablaze in a quieter than usual summer blockbuster season.
The Suicide Squad doesn’t sit atop of the films to come on this list due to how the top three did more to re-shape the genre and offer audiences catharsis, but it certainly remains one of the most noteworthy comic book movies of the year not least due to its hilarious and memorable prologue; one of the very best in comic book cinema history.
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3. Zack Snyder’s Justice League
The controversial and divisive remake of Justice League tore fandoms apart in the early months of 2021, Zack Snyder’s intended vision for his trilogy-ending Justice League movie finally realised in a boxy 4:3 format and going straight to HBO Max.
At nearly 4 hours, Zack Snyder’s Justice League can be considered one of its director’s more self-indulgent offerings in a career already filled with three hour films, but given the circumstances of his original exit from the 2017 Justice League movie (family tragedy) and the years of support he received from die hard fans who failed to acknowledge controversial filmmaker Joss Whedon’s tonally erratic realisation of Snyder’s vision, who can blame him?
As rhythmic as the director’s best work, and fulfilling life-long dreams of seeing the Justice League on the big screen together for many a fan disappointed by the original edit of the film, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was the blockbuster we all needed in the baron early months of the year; a must-watch event movie and social media talking point that reminded us of why comic book cinema exists, and why each of us missed the theatrical experience so much.
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