With the recent premiere of Ms. Marvel continuing the fun, lighthearted portrayal of the superhero genre the MCU is known for, it is evident that there is a clear and obvious tone spread across the franchise. Through quotable quips and jokes, the films and shows maintain a warm atmosphere that is accessible to all audience members.
However, there are times in the narratives where these jokes can drastically undercut the mood of a scene. Sometimes, this can be genuinely funny, such as when the Hulk dramatically interrupts Loki’s speech by throwing him around in The Avengers. Despite this, there are plenty more examples of jokes in the MCU undermining an emotional scene, changing the whole mood altogether.
Hawkeye: Shrunken Tracksuit Bro Has Become A Meal
In the final episode of Hawkeye, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop fend off waves of the Tracksuit Mafia in Times Square using an armory of trick arrows. One such arrow, fueled with Pym Tech, shrinks a truck with several mafia goons inside. The truck is soon swept up by an Owl and carried off into the night, never to be seen again.
Considering the light tone of the rest of the series, this is a surprisingly dark end for these poor mafia members. Neither Clint nor Kate seem too concerned about it either. Throughout the series, the duo does not kill anyone either directly or indirectly, and therefore, this scene comes out of nowhere.
What If ?: Peter Parker’s Zombieland-Style Video
The humor of ‘What If… Zombies ?!’ regularly feels forced and takes away from the gravitas of the episode. Peter Parker, one of a few surviving superheroes, reacts to the tragedy he finds himself in by creating a stylized, goofy homemade video, outlining his own rules for surviving the outbreak.
Whilst it might be in character for Spider-Man to use comedy to cope with trauma, it still comes across as in poor taste. Despite being in a very serious situation, the apocalypse is posed as a joke. If the characters in the episode do not feel threatened by the stakes established in the world, why should the audience care what happens?
Avengers Endgame: Rocket’s Inability To Read The Room
During the Time Heist, OG Avenger Black Widow selflessly sacrifices herself to retrieve the Soul Stone. As Tony, Bruce and Rocket assemble the Iron gauntlet, mere moments after learning about her death, Rocket decides to ‘break the ice’ by making the other two jump.
The joke cheapens the emotional moment as both the characters and the audience grieve a beloved character. The final act of the film is fast-paced leading up to the death of Iron Man, which dramatically overshadows Black Widow’s sacrifice. Overall, the film does not spend much time focusing on the characters’ reactions to her death, creating a weak send-off to a major player in the franchise.
Thor Ragnarok: Korg’s Comments On The Fall Of Asgard
As Ragnarok occurs and Asgard falls due to the invasion of Thor’s evil sister Hela, the remaining Asgardians are forced to flee on a spaceship. The survivors are forced to watch in horror as their home is destroyed. The somber mood is quickly undercut as Taika Waititi’s Korg makes a cheap joke minutes after Asgard explodes.
The film is full to the brim with jokes, but this one falls flat since it occurs so soon after such a huge tragedy. Such a simple joke completely ruins the whole tone of the ending, which could’ve created a deeply impactful moment for the MCU. Director Taika Waititi has shown in his past filmography that he understands when to acknowledge the seriousness of a moment, and yet his own character delivers the joke.
Shang-Chi: Katy’s Confusion Between ‘Shang’ & ‘Shaun’
On a mission to warn his sister about the looming threat of their father, the Mandarin, Shang Chi explains his tragic backstory to his friend, Katy. Despite listening to his tale, Katy remains fixated on one small detail: the fact that Shang decided to change his name to the similarly sounding ‘Shaun’ to hide from his father.
The joke drags on for too long, undercutting the seriousness of the situation they find themselves in. Shang’s story is dark and depressing, but it is quickly brushed over so Shang-Chi can move back into a comedic tone. The scene tries to establish clear stakes surrounding the film’s villain, but it is quickly replaced by a drawn-out joke.
Black Widow: Yelena Makes Light Of Something Quite Serious
After being rescued from a Russian gulag, Alexei Shostakov makes a small joke about his saviors, Yelena and Natasha, menstruating. Both then remind him of the forced sterilization they had to endure as part of the Black Widow program.
The bit is played for morbid laughs but comes across as insensitive and unnecessarily detailed. The forced surgery is turned into a gag, leaving audiences uncomfortable with its dark undertones. Making light of such a serious subject, especially since the rest of the film maintains a light action-adventure vibe, immediately sticks out like a sore thumb when viewing the scene as part of the larger MCU.
Avengers Infinity War: Drax Interrupts A Meaningful Moment Between Quill & Gamora
As the Guardians of the Galaxy prepare to face Thanos for the first time, Gamora talks to Peter Quill about the risks of facing her adoptive father. The pair share a meaningful moment, finally resulting in a kiss between them, but are interrupted by Drax.
This quick gag causes Quill and Gamora’s connection, one of the strongest couples in the MCU, to be cut short. The character of Drax is often played for laughs, but this joke falls short and kills the tone of the scene. With the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ relationship between Quill and Gamora having been built up throughout the Guardians films, this moment cheapens the pay-off for audiences.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2: David Hasselhoff Cameo
In the climax of the film, it is revealed that Peter Quill’s father Ego was the one who planted the tumor in his mother’s head, resulting in her dying of cancer. Quill is furious, resulting in an emotional standoff between the pair. The moment is soured as Ego shapeshifts into celebrity icon David Hasselhoff, whom Peter had mentioned he idolized as a child.
The cameo seems to undermine the emotional weight of the scene, using a recognizable face as a quick gag. Considering the importance of the moment, it feels cheap and unearned. Instead of allowing the scene to breathe on its own, the film implements a visual gag intended to relieve audiences from the dark revelation. This completely breaks the tension of such a serious moment.
Avengers Age of Ultron: When Bruce Falls Into Nat’s Chest
Having spent the evening at a party in Avengers tower, the Avengers scramble to defend themselves as Ultron gains sentience. As both jump to take cover behind a bar, Bruce Banner falls face-first into Natasha Romanoff’s chest.
This short sequence is turned into a gag, but it takes away from the looming threat of the battle around them. The slightly misogynistic joke is meant to highlight the budding relationship between the pair, but it just comes across as gross and unfunny. Considering more recent allegations surrounding the director of the film, Joss Whedon, it creates an uncomfortable rewatch that really takes audiences out of the movie.
Wandavision: Ralph Bohner
Part of the charm of the MCU’s first foray into television was the weekly speculation surrounding the characters and plot of Wandavision. This hype escalated as the show brought in Evan Peters as Quicksilver, with him having previously played a different alteration of the character in the Fox X-Men films.
Whilst fans hoped this casting would hint at the multiversal inclusion of the X-Men, they would soon be disappointed when it was revealed that Peters was not in fact playing Wanda’s brother, Pietro. Instead, he was playing another brainwashed Westview inhabitant named Ralph Bohner. With all of the hype culture surrounding the show when it first was airing, this felt like a gut punch to audiences. The introduction of the multiverse was sidelined for a penis joke. Not cool, Marvel.
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