After a one-year hiatus due to COVID delays in 2020, fans are still experiencing the most plentiful era in comic book movie history. Last year, 7 superhero blockbusters of varying quality hit theaters. Just when audiences thought that was the peak of fandom, 10 will release in theaters in 2022. Undoubtedly the biggest year in comic book movies since, well, last year.
It begins this weekend with The Batman and will end in December with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. In the middle fans will experience another Sony Spider-Man anti-hero, the MCU Multiverse slip into madness, and the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe change forever. There are even two animated entries into the library in 2022. One is a fun family trip to the theaters while the other is the sequel to what some consider the greatest comic book movie of all time. Oh, and Michael Keaton is in 20% of superhero movies set to release this year.
With all of that being said, on an opening day for Matt Reeves' The Batman, The Direct ranked all 10 comic book movies set to release in theaters this year in order of how excited we are first each...
Before diving into the list, it is worth noting Batgirl is set to be released on HBO Max in late 2022. While Batgirl will not be hitting theaters, DC is still treating it as a high-budget feature film starring Leslie Grace as Barbara Gordon and Brenda Fraser as the villainous Firefly. The excitement level of this movie is tough to gauge due to the lack of knowledge about the film itself. Fans know that JK Simmons is reprising his role as the Snyderverse's Jim Gordon and that Michael Keaton is suiting back up to play Batman.
So the question really is, which universe is this movie a part of? With The Flash set to answer these questions, audiences will surely have a better idea before this movie's release. But with nothing besides a few set images and a look at the classic purple and gold Batgirl suit, that is about all fans have at the moment.
So, while it does not qualify for our list of most anticipated movies released in theaters, Batgirl will surely set the tone for DC's movie streaming future.
10. DC League of Super-Pets
Coming in at number 10 on the list is DC’s League of Super-Pets. Starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, this film is a tried and true child-focused cartoon built for a family trip to the theaters. A fun look at the pets of DC’s biggest names, this animated movie was expected to land at the bottom of this list.
There is nothing this movie can or will do wrong to deserve this bottom spot, however, in the cinematic universe world, this movie is undoubtedly the most inconsequential. That is spotlighted even more by the fact that the lead voice, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is also the lead of another film on this list.
While there is a built-in excuse of the animated movie ranking lower than live-action, DC’s League of Super-Pets is not the only animated film in 2022. And the other is very different and ranked much higher.
At number 9 is the latest installment to the Sony Spider-Man Universe, Morbius. Following in the footsteps of Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the Jared Leto-led film is another addition to the anti-hero rouges gallery being built in this Sony universe. With an adjacent relation to the MCU Spider-Man, fans are excited for potential bridges between cinematic universes, but not much else.
The reality is that the lack of hype for Morbius can be drawn directly back to the poor reception of Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The marketing campaign for that movie was primarily focused on the post-credit scene. Which ended up being an ambiguous blending of universes between Sony and Marvel Studios that was “resolved” in Spider-Man: No Way Home, leaving more questions than answers.
Similar to its universal predecessor, the marketing for Morbius highlights other potential world-building elements from not only the MCU Spider-Man (Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes) but also the early 2000s Sam Raimi universe and the Andrew Garfield-led TASM (The Amazing Spider-Man) universe.
With the majority of the stake being in supplement facets of the movie, the excitement for Morbius is less than stellar despite stars like Jared Leto, Tyrese, and the aforementioned Keaton.
8. Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom
On the surface, seeing the sequel to the DCEU’s first (and only) billion-dollar movie this low on the list feels like a letdown. And for all intents and purposes, it is. But it is hard to blame Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and not the universe it is tethered to.
Contained to itself, the sequel for Jason Mamoa’s Arthur Curry has plenty of opportunities to meet the bar of Aquaman in being a fun and colorful underwater superhero-popcorn flick. But with the DCEU being as in flux as it is, it is understandable that people are having a hard time getting too excited.
Something to keep in mind is that Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom releases after The Flash, a multiversal movie that is set to reset, rework, and/or reestablish the DC Extended Universe. Which would ideally get people on the same page ahead of Aquaman 2.
7. Black Adam
While Lost Kingdom is a step forward for the DCEU, Black Adam looks back to rebuild this fragmented universe from the ground up. Dwayne Johnson is Black Adam giving lore and mythos to the Shazam character, while also putting a very powerful and anticipated player on the field for the DCEU.
The star power is all the way there, the cast of characters is something they put marketing behind, and this has the baseline of popcorn high-action fun. The opportunity to surprise with great world-building and character development is what fans are hoping for.
This movie landing higher than the 7 spots at the end of 2022 would be two birds one stone situation. It would introduce an exciting new franchise with Johnson’s Black Adam, while also propping up the already established Shazam! Franchise, starring Zachary Levi.
6. The Flash
And finishing the run of DCEU 2022 movies, The Flash is being touted as the rebuild project of the DCEU. The movie that has been in the works for seemingly forever, the first-ever theatrically released Barry Allen movie is in an interesting spot.
While many comic fans are excited to see the Scarlett Speedster finally get his shine on the big screen, this movie is just as much about Batman as it is about Flash. With both Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck set to return, many fans are just as if not more excited about those appearances.
Add in the potential for this movie to completely reestablish the DCEU, it is plausible that Flash is the 3rd billed attraction for The Flash movie. While that may bum out hardcore Barry Allen comic fans, it will bring plenty of people to theaters for curiosity alone.
5. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Much like Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, asking someone in 2018 to guess where the Black Panther sequel would fall on a hype-list of 10, the 5 spots would feel like a letdown. But this is a very different situation.
The tragic passing of lead man Chadwick Boseman was the first domino to fall in a line of hurdles for Ryan Coogler and his team. Between offscreen controversy, injuries on set, and a COVID scare within the cast, there are plenty of reasons to doubt that Black Panther Wakanda Forever will live up to the original.
But with an IP like this and the love for the Black Panther character, chances are the first look will put this movie at the forefront of everyone's mind. People are waiting how Marvel Studios will pay respect to one of the most beloved members of the Marvel family.
4. Spider-Man Across The Universe
Another sequel is being tasked to live up to the elite success of its predecessor. Spider-Man Across the Spiderverse Part 1 has everything in front of it to do what Into The Spiderverse did and become an instant classic.
Much like ITSV, this sequel is coming out in a year full of some of the biggest comic book movies of all time. But this is where the animated aspect plays an advantage. Across the Spiderverse Pt. 1 only has one thing to focus on, being a great sequel to a great movie. No universal guidelines to follow while at the same time, limitless possibilities of scope.
It is hard to any reason for people to think this movie doesn’t live up to the number 4 hype. When Into The Spiderverse was as successful as it was, there is nowhere to go but up.
3. Thor: Love and Thunder
The first-ever 4th installment of a franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Love and Thunder are holding its cards very close to the chest. But everyone is expecting those cards to be laced in neon, heavy hair metal, and enormous arms.
Previously one of the lower-tier members of the MCU roster, Thor has rebuilt into not only one of the best IPs on the team but also one of the most fun. With only one Taika Waititi installment on the books, everyone is looking for how weird and wild we can go.
Thor: Love and Thunder are set to feature new characters, return fan-favorites, and advance a story that can and will go anywhere it wants. With the baseline of “fun” established in this IP, nothing but excitement for Love and Thunder.
2. The Batman
As The Batman roars into theaters this weekend, it is the second most anticipated movie of the year for the staff at TheDirect.com. One of, if not the biggest name in comic book movie history, the 11th appearance from live-action Batman puts people in the seats.
The early reviews have thrown gas on the fire and the bar is set high for Robert Pattinson’s Batman. For almost 2 years, trailers for this movie have been praised across the internet, and rightfully so.
A big aspect of anticipation for these types of movies is the trailer and being able to get a sense of what is happening. But it is not a matter of “you’re excited because it is the next thing”. After all, Morbius releases less than a month later, and it falls on the opposite side of this list.
Read our full review of The Batman.
1. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Marvel fans have been on a year-long run of peeling back the layers of the multiverse in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starting with WandaVision, being developed in Loki, and coming ahead in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the pinnacle project of the Multiverse Saga arrives on May 6.
Seeds have been planted, questions have been asked, and pieces have been put on the board. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness rides the hype wave of No Way Home with an equal promise of moving forward and looking back.
The importance of Multiverse of Madness to the grand narrative of the MCU is enough to bring in almost every fan that cares about the red brand. By a rather large margin, it is the most anticipated comic book movie of 2022.