(This article is part of our Best of 2021 series.)
As we said goodbye to the dumpster fire known as 2020, we hoped for a better 2021 and boy were we wrong! Now, we have said adios to 2021 and are hoping for a much better 2022. Really, it can’t be much worse, can it?
2021 saw the continuation of COVID-19 pandemic with glimpses of a return to normalcy. Normalcy, that word means so much more now. Here in the New Orleans area and Gulf South region, we suffered through wave upon wave of COVID and its variants and just when things were close to returning to normal, here comes Hurricane Ida and then more COVID variants. Movie theaters opened briefly, only to be shut down due to flooding or a loss of electricity. A return to normalcy and a return to the familiar, that’s where I start my top five films of 2021!
1. Spider-Man: No Way Home
If Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t one of the greatest super hero films of the genre, I don’t know what is. The film succeeded on so many levels; the story, the emotions, the villains and the cameos all topped off with dose of nostalgia or the familiar. For my generation, Tobey Maguire was Peter Parker, others had Andrew Garfield and now we have Tom Holland. Seeing all three big screen Spider-Man actors together was, well, amazing! The premise behind the team-up acknowledged that they all exist in their own realities. Willem Dafoe shines once again as the villainous Green Goblin and I walked away from the film with a new-found love of Jamie Fox’s Electro. Michael Giacchino’s score was a pleasant surprise as he blended so many themes in this movie; as an example, listen to “Shield of Pain” and keep an ear open for all three Spider-Man themes. My one negative, and this is a minor one, is it would have been cool to have Nicholas Hammond of the short-lived live-action Amazing Spider-Man TV series from the late ’70s to cameo as an older Peter Parker. I will say that it’s very hard to write a brief review of this film without spoilers, so go see this film if you haven’t!
2. Zack Snyder’s Justice League
I’ll be honest, I love both versions of this film. However, Snyder’s version gets the nod ahead of Joss Whedon’s watered down Disney-esque version. Snyder does what Snyder does best, provides the viewer with some incredible visuals and mind-blowing action sequences. Everything in this film “works” and feels like a natural expansion of the DC Snyderverse. This film picks up following the events of 2016’s Batman v Superman and doesn’t look back. Don’t let this film’s four hour running time scare you off, it moves quickly. With that being said, it also allows Snyder to expand on characters that Whedon disregarded and let’s not forget the copious cameos. You won’t hear Danny Elfman’s score in this version, it’s all Tom Holkenborg and its phenomenal. The negative for me was that the film was presented in the 4:3 ratio and not the typical widescreen format. It’s bothersome but doesn’t really take away from the overall enjoyment of the film. Finally, the movie does end with an eye to a sequel and that’s up to Warner Bros. but man I’d love to see it! Just remember to #RestoreTheSnyderverse.
3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
My initial thought was that this movie was going to be a gigantic turd. Yeah, I was wrong. This updated slick version of the ’70s comic Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu was a no-holds barred roller coaster of fun. Marvel Studios once again proves it can take second- and third-tier heroes and make them exciting, fresh, and leave you wanting more. Thankfully, the film corrects one of the most grievous errors in the MCU, the villain The Mandarin. I was so jazzed to see Ben Kingsley kill it as Iron Man’s arch nemesis in Iron Man 3 and we know how that went. This film corrects that and also allows Kingsley to shine comedically as Trevor Slattery. I will say some liberties were taken with the Mandarin’s rings, which are now more power bracelets than rings, but I can deal with that. Overall a great enjoyable film!
4. Venom: Let There be Carnage
I was not a big fan of the first Venom movie. How do you have Venom without Spider-Man? To me, the origin of Venom is tied to Spider-Man and I disliked the idea of Venom without Spidey. Therefore, I found the first Venom to be forced. However, the sequel seems less forced and brings Venom and Eddie Brock into conflict with Carnage. This is hardly a cerebral film, it’s just a fun action flick and it realizes it. The interaction between Venom and Brock is golden. Woody Harrelson’s Carnage is wonderfully wicked. Who can play an unhinged serial killer that bonds with an alien symbiote better than Woody? There is really nothing likeable about Carnage, he genuinely oozes evil and you want Venom to beat him. All in all, it’s a fun film!
5. The Suicide Squad
I’ll admit, this was a hard decision between The Suicide Squad and Nobody. Since I’m a gigantic comic book nerd, The Suicide Squad won out. If you didn’t see David Ayer’s Suicide Squad back in 2016, don’t worry, this is a soft reboot. The premise remains the same, villains work for Amanda Waller in exchange for lighter prison sentences. Now this version of the team is all James Gunn, so be prepared for a lot of weirdness and a heavy dose of his acting troop. If you’re familiar with Ayer’s movie, you probably cursed The Suicide Squad in the first ten minutes as Captain Boomerang bit the dust. For some unknown reason, Gunn felt compelled to wipe out most of the team by the end of the film, including Ayer’s heroic Rick Flag. Unfortunately, John Cena’s (who sucks) Peacemaker lives just to annoy me with an HBO Max series. As a stand-alone film, this movie works well. As a part of the greater and somewhat disjointed DC Extended Universe, ehhh not so much. I feel that Gunn is suffering from David Lynch syndrome; he needs guidance or parameters for his films to work as opposed to giving him free reign which results in a lot of head scratching and finishing the film more puzzled than entertained.
Well everyone, that’s my Top 5 of 2021! Feel free to toss any over-ripened fruits and vegetables at me in the comments below, except grapefruit… I hate grapefruit!