5. DC League of Super-Pets
Easily the more enjoyable of DC’s two Dwayne Johnson-fronted projects in 2022, Warner Animation Group’s DC League of Super-Pets was way better than it had any right to be given how audiences had very low expectations and its studio buried it in a slurry of big summer releases. Sometimes all you want from your superhero movie is for it to be “fun”, and DC League of Super-Pets is fun.
The second half of the film doesn’t quite live up to the bold first half, but at times DC League of Super-Pets is belly-chuckle funny and it certainly isn’t afraid to take creative risks in both story and dialogue that really do pay off. The voiceover work is excellent, each character unique and interesting, the references to other DC films make for great winks and nods to those in the know, and cameos in the voiceover booth from the likes of Keanu Reeves (who plays Batman here) make for some great moments of fan service.
The animation itself is at times lacking – most notably in the details, which is quite the contrast to the studio’s work on The LEGO Movie – and it does suffer from the same “one million action story beats to keep your attention” issue as other superhero movies do, but this is the family-friendly comic book movie of the year and its competition doesn’t even come close.
If you had this Balboa Productions, Sylvester Stallone-fronted, relatively low budget comic book movie on your bingo card as being the 4th best comic book film of the year, then congratulations because just about nobody saw this Amazon Prime Video Original being even close to as good as it turned out to be.
Directed by Julius Avery, the filmmaker behind 2018 war-time action-horror Overlord, Samaritan worked tirelessly to respectfully present a number of themes often sorely lacking from the comic book movie genre, the most prominent of which being class and poverty. Set in a fictional city that looks eerily like the many densely populated cities of the United States’ north east, the film paints a picture of impoverished youth falling into the control of manipulative adults in pursuit of earning money and finding their place in the world, sympathetically presenting a young hero with an honest lens even in his darkest moral moments.
Stallone works well as a retired superhero who can be as good once as he ever was, his previous Rocky and Rambo movie roles informing his performance here as the bin man turned hero from across the block, and the film’s refreshingly controlled take on the superhero genre works to elevate the 80s action hero’s presence as well as build a believable world of interesting side characters, locations and wider lore.
The moments of superherodom are few and far between but made all the better for it, and there’s no doubt that this film’s qualities shine partly because of how other comic book films failed so monumentally in 2022, but if you’re looking for an alternative to the big budget comic book movie machine then you can do a lot worse than Samaritan.
3. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Sam Raimi’s return to the comic book sphere didn’t helm quite the same high level of results as his adventure at the helm of the Spider-Man trilogy in the 2000s, but all of the hallmarks of this iconic director were there to be seen even under the often suffocating hand of the Marvel machine. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a film that seemed better in parts than as a whole, but one that can certainly be respected for trying something a little different to the usual fantasy-action we’ve become accustomed to, and is a huge step up from the other Marvel Studios film listed thus far.
Hardly a classic Marvel movie, but certainly an enjoyable and rewatchable one, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had a bit more of a sense of humour than its predecessor from 2016, though its insistence upon making Disney Plus series ‘WandaVision’ a key part of its central plot is certain to have alienated a portion of its audience; a decision that makes this film more of a chore to catch up on, but equally rewards those willing to put the time in.
An undoubted highlight of a sub-par Phase 4 of Marvel’s cinematic universe, Multiverse of Madness is the fun and enjoyable crowd-pleaser of the moment, complete with wacky visuals and exciting cameos. While it will no doubt age worse than the MCU movie to come, and may eventually be considered too of-its-time to leave a lasting legacy, this film made the most of its Marvel-sized budget, was packed to the brim with creativity, and ensured that Doctor Strange will be a leading Marvel character moving forward, surpassing the films listed thus far in terms of both cultural impact and its importance to the evolution of comic book cinema.
Recommended for you: Every MCU Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked