Ever since Robert Downey Jr. first suited up for Iron Man back in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and their slew of directors have had a daunting task of mixing various elements of action, adventure, science fiction and comedy into their plethora of super hero films.
Despite the alien invasions, civil wars, and intergalactic settings, comedy has always been a mainstay in the MCU. Whether it’s Tony Stark throwing out off-handed jabs, Rocket Raccoon stealing limbs or Thor smashing cups, MCU head honcho Kevin Feige and his underlings have made it a point to break the tension with these comedic tones. Each film in this shared universe always diverts from the main storyline to add in one-liners and laughs for fans of all ages, which inertly isn’t a bad thing. But is too much comedy in these films, especially with growing stakes heading into Avengers: Infinity War, too much?
Let’s explore a number of instances from various MCU films, starting off with the most recent addition in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tom Holland certainly made an impact when he debuted in Captain America: Civil War, bringing a sense of youth to Peter Parker/Spider-Man that had been sorely missed in both Sam Raimi’s and Marc Webb’s attempts at bringing the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to the big screen. Seeing Holland on-screen in Homecoming was refreshing and the comedic aspects to that film were well-warranted. Spider-Man has always been a smart ass kid, often talking trash to his adversaries during battle. It was a no-brainer that comedy would be a big part of this film, and rightfully so. At no point did these moments take me out of the film, as this element is a core essential characteristic of Spider-Man. The storyline was nicely plotted out and the comedy blended well within the overall film. I had no issue with comedy in this film.
On the flip side of this argument, jump back a month to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Not only did I not enjoy this film for it’s story, the film was loaded with cheap comedic moments that wholly took me out of the film. Whether it was repeated beats from the first film, Drax making poop jokes, Baby Groot being shoved down our throats or how much Mantis was dumbed down as a character, this film spent way too much time trying to get cheap laughs and it really deterred from making this film great, especially with how well James Gunn did with the first film (even with Star Lord’s dance off with Ronan, yikes). A huge miss on this one.
There are plenty of other instances of badly used humor throughout the MCU, such as Kat Dennings’ terrible character of Darcy Lewis and her calling Mjolnir “meow meow” in the Thor films, Quicksilver’s “You didn’t see that coming?” babble in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Trevor Slattery’s mere existence in Iron Man 3, or Kaecilius getting beat up by the Cloak of Levitation in Doctor Strange. I could go through each film and pick out the most cringe-worthy moments, but it would take entirely too long to do. The bottom line here is that I believe Marvel is trying to cater to the casual fan too much.
Obviously, the point in releasing these films is to make money. The MCU has to cater to an extremely large range of fans worldwide, not just the casual fan. Trying to make strict adaptations of these comic stories for the big screen is not a feasible business practice. A film like Ant-Man has to appeal to both comic readers and audience goers that have never heard of the character, so adding humor is certainly a great way to bridge the gap in these instances. The formula that Marvel & Disney have implemented cannot be disputed financially, as these films have gone on to gross billions of dollars for the studio. But is there a point where enough is enough?
When Avengers: Infinity War hits theatres next year, the fate of the entire (cinematic) universe will be in jeopardy. Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet literally have the power to destroy everything in existence. As the roster of characters pretty much includes every hero we’ve ever seen so far, what are we going to expect: Rocket, Star Lord and Iron Man cracking jokes as Thanos is throwing pieces of destroyed planets at them? Feige and the Russo Brothers need to understand the dire straits our heroes will find themselves in and reign back the use of humor a bit. That’s not to say there can’t be any kind of humor added in, but the circumstances need to dictate the banter going on in a way that doesn’t make it feel like it’s made for a 5-year-old.
Before I end this rant, I’d like to point out a quote from Thor: Ragnarok director Taiki Waititi from his recent interview with the LA Times on this very topic:
“If we were taking things a little too seriously, I would say, ‘Never forget that we’re making a cosmic adventure with a space Viking,’” said the director by phone. “That sort of captures it all. We’ve got the Incredible Hulk, and a giant woman with antlers. We’ve got aliens and spaceships. It’s almost like a bunch of kids were asked what they wanted to put into a movie, and then we just did that.”
While Waitit’s comments make sense within the context that these characters are mere figments of the imagination, it angers me a bit to think that these directors may not be giving these characters the treatment that hardcore fans think they deserve. I feel for the most part that the use of humor has been more positive than negative, but the highlighted instances have done a lot to make me fearful for the future of these franchises. I don’t want to see our heroes acting silly when things are at their bleakest.
Now I turn it over to you. What are your thoughts on the use of humor in the MCU? Do you think it needs to be toned down heading into film’s like Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War? What have been your favorite and least favorite comedic moments so far?