Summary

  • The superhero movie landscape in 2023 saw the MCU, DCU, and Sony’s Spider-Verse release a variety of content, with only a few projects standing out as exceptional.
  • Both the MCU and DCU are in a year of transition, as they work to rebuild their reputations among general audiences with their future movie slates.
  • Despite some disappointments, 2023 showcased great movies and moments, proving that there is still plenty of magic left in the superhero genre.

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The MCU, DCU, and Sony’s Spider-Verse all released a substantial amount of content in 2023, but only a few projects stand as truly exceptional. While the Spider-verse stands alone as its own narrative world (for now), the MCU and DCU both find themselves in a year of transition. The DCEU famously came to an end with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom ahead of James Gunn and Peter Safran’s DCU reboot, and the MCU is refocusing after critical flops and the legal troubles of Jonathan Majors.

If it wasn’t already clear, 2023 also proved that the days of superhero movies automatically turning a profit are far from over. Both major studios have work to do to rebuild their reputations among general audiences, which they seem set to do with their announced future movie slates. Even with some disappointments, 2023 also had several great movies and moments proving there’s still plenty of magic left in the superhero genre.

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8 Shazam: Fury Of The Gods Is Formulaic And Forgettable

Released March 17, 2023

Shazam was a surprise hit for the DCEU, delivering a fun origin story anchored by Zachary Levi’s wonderful performance as the titular kid in an adult superhero’s body. Unfortunately, Shazam: Fury of the Gods forgets much of what made its predecessor successful, sticking too much to worn tropes and forgetting to put a story behind the action and jokes. The movie doesn’t do much actively wrong, but it fails to do anything particularly right.

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Shazam: Fury of the Gods introduces a story about the fear of growing up and losing family, but that narrative threat is only given a few quick lines and largely sinks to the background. Moreover, the villainous Daughters of Atlas, never elevate beyond cliche motives of domination and vague revenge. The end result is a movie that ticks classic boxes of the superhero movie genre but never becomes more than the some of its familiar parts.

7 The Flash Wastes Some Great Ideas

Released June 16, 2023

Despite being one of DC’s most popular superheroes and a founding member of the Justice League, The Flash had a hard road to production. Initially announced back in 2014 for release in 2018, The Flash underwent several changes in behind-the-scenes talent and story. The result is a bit of a mess. The story is ambitious, adapting The Flash’s famous time-traveling Flashpoint story, but like other DCEU projects, it seems like something that should have ended a character’s movie franchise instead of starting it.

The Flash gets major credit for delivering a wonderful return for Michael Keaton’s Batman, and Miller delivers a solid performance as “present” and “past” versions of Barry Allen. Unfortunately, these are somewhat detracted from by The Flash‘s confusingly horrible CGI. Of course, Ezra Miller’s off-camera legal controversies were a bit of a PR disaster for The Flash as well.

6 Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Was A Few Mistakes Away From Being Better

Released February 17, 2023

If nothing else, nobody can say Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumani isn’t ambitious. Eschewing the earlier Ant-Man movies’ small stakes and grounded feel, Quantumania goes big by going small. The Quantum Realm may be microscopic, but it has the feel of a sci-fi space adventure, full of alien creatures and wild technology. Unfortunately, the movie loses some charm in the transition.

Quantumania introduced Kang the Conqueror, and the villain is almost compelling. Audiences are told of his conquest and power, but it simply isn’t shown on screen, and his apparent death comes before the villain establishes himself as a threat. Moreover, Quantumania‘s ending appears to be the victim of last-minute reshoots, pivoting from what seems set up to be a much darker ending in favor of something that doesn’t seem to really change the status quo at all.

5 Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom Ends The DCEU Without Fanfare

Released December 22, 2023

The first Aquaman was a surprise hit, pulling over $1 billion at the global box office. Unfortunately, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom fails to capture the fun of its predecessor and officially ends the DCEU with a decent but ultimately unexceptional adventure. Momoa plays his classic self, which is a far cry from classic Aquaman but enjoyable in its own right. Wilson steals the show as Orm, but a forgettable story keeps Aquaman and the Lost Kindgom as a fine movie instead of the exceptional on the DCEU would have liked to go out on.

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4 The Marvels Is A Solid But Safe Cosmic Adventure

Released November 10, 2023

The Marvels was a record-setting box office bomb for the MCU, but that isn’t indicative of the movie’s quality. The Captain Marvel sequel doesn’t do anything singularly new or overly exciting, but everything – from the story to the special effects – is enjoyable and fun. Following up on plot threads from several MCU projects, including Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, WandaVision, and Secret Invasion, The Marvels biggest success is the wonderful chemistry of its leads. Iman Vellani, who plays Kamala Khan, makes a particularly strong impression in her big-screen debut.

3 Blue Beetle Delivers Fun Action And A Great Cast

Released August 18, 2023

In many ways, Blue Beetle was set up to fail. The movie came out as the second-last project of the soon-to-be-rebooted DCEU, meaning its story was pre-determined not to mean anything on a franchise-wide scale. Moreover, perhaps because of it initially being set as a streaming exclusive before jumping to the big screen and perhaps because of the DCEU’s streak of box office bombs, the movie simply wasn’t marketed as strongly as it deserved. Regardless, Blue Beetle is a ton of fun.

Blue Beetle’s plot is familiar, and its villain is actively forgettable, but Xolo Maridueña infuses the heroic Jaime Reyes with a ton of heart, and the whole Reyes family is wonderfully cast and has notable chemistry on-screen. The action scenes and special effects are also well-done, outdoing DC movies with significantly higher budgets. While Blue Beetle failed to impress at the box office, James Gunn has confirmed that the character will continue on the DCU, so the character still has more story to tell.

2 Across the Spider-Verse Is True Art In Motion

Released June 2, 2023

Simply put, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is one of the most visually stunning movies ever made. The film’s default art style is good, but the unique twists on the formula elevate the experience to something wholly more impressive than the film’s predecessor. Not only do individual characters like Spider-Punk and Spot shine with unique animation techniques, but entire worlds like Gwen’s watercolor reality are paintings come to life.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse narrowly misses out on the title of top superhero movie of the year with its lack of resolution and true cliffhanger ending, but that isn’t to say that it isn’t deserving of all its praise – and more. If Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse can maintain the franchise’s quality, the trilogy is set to go down as one of the best in the superhero genre. From the characters and story to the animation and soundtrack, it’s hard to find fault in Sony’s latest animated Spider-Man adventure.

1 Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Closes The Trilogy With Heart And Spectacle

Released May 5, 2023

When it became clear that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would be the last movie for the original version of the team, it was reasonable to expect that at least a few Guardians wouldn’t make it out alive. Instead, writer/director James Gunn delivered something much more difficult to pull off – endings befitting the characters that both bring satisfying closure without death. Each member of the team is in a bold new position with an exciting future that builds perfectly on everything they’ve been through.

However, that isn’t to say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 isn’t dark. The High Evolutionary is one of the most hateable villains in the MCU, and Rocket’s abusive backstory with the villain borders on difficult to watch. The action is top-notch, the story is truly engaging, and the special effects and soundtrack are among the best in the MCU. Even still, the movie is more than the sum of its parts, placing it firmly as the best comic book movie of 2023 from the MCU, DCU, or otherwise.

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