Comics Creators

Are Marvel movies too funny for their own good? (A.K.A. Sincerity in comic book movies)


Neither have I. I always took it as Leia finally admitting something Han had tried to get out of her the entire rest of the movie, which was why all those scenes existed, with Han trying to get her to be honest about their relationship, and how she felt about him. He certainly didn’t help by being such a jerk about it (apparently people don’t like that kind of behavior in real life), but when the chips were down, they were able to be adults and have arguably the best exchange of a movie full of great exchanges, an understated one in stark contrast to the one that happens a little later between a certain father and son.

The Avengers movies are such consistent hits because they fill the blockbuster mold so well. At this point it’s ridiculous to suggest superhero movies are anything like the Westerns of the past. Westerns were popular, and they were around for a very, very long time, but John Wayne never had the top-grossing movie of the year. He was reliable, and iconic, but he wasn’t actually the biggest movie star in the world. (Not that I want to discuss Arnold Schwarzenegger again…) Superheroes have coopted and defined the modern blockbuster era. You can tell how studios scramble to replicate the Avengers template that this is absolutely true, and it proves to be an incomprehensible mistake more often than not, because audiences aren’t looking for replacements, because they’ve still got plenty of superheroes competing for that spotlight.

They’re not hits because they’re great films. They’re embraced as the epitome of blockbuster moviemaking. The Criterion Collection actually added Armageddon to its collection. Know what the Criterion Collection is? It’s a prestigious, meticulously curated collection of films for the true movie lover. How does Armageddon get into something like that? Because it was recognized as a prototypical blockbuster. That’s essentially how Michael Bay’s further career happened, because he was viewed as a master of a particular form, regardless of his critical reputation. And that’s the tradition the Avengers films now continue.

What’s surprising to me, although maybe not, is that actual comic book fans embrace them so enthusiastically. You see it all the time with film adaptations “not taking the source material seriously enough” getting savaged by fans, and yet comic book fans love these irreverent, for the most part, movies, I think because they’re so successful. We seem to love that they’re so enthusiastically embraced, and so we’re happy to embrace them, too, without really caring what kind of artistic statements they make, as long as they’re enjoyable.


Marvel movies continue to make an acceptable amount at the box office, at the very least, so the answer to the question is clearly no, they are not too funny for their own good.

Whether or not individuals enjoy their style of movies is up to individual tastes, of course, but that’s the successful house style that they’re sticking to for now, which is really quite faithful to the roots of the Marvel comics.

It all started in 2008. Iron Man was a fun movie carried by the charisma of Robert Downey Jr in a piece of perfect casting as the funny, genuine Tony Stark. It was a breath of fresh air after mopey Toby Maguire, the angst-ridden X-Men and the grim Christopher Nolan superhero movies before it. At more or less the same time Marvel tried something with less levity to it in Incredible Hulk and the world at large did not give a hoot about it. So, they ditched that and let everything else flow from RDJ’s Tony Stark.

In saying that, I do rather miss the auteur-led superhero movies of the past. Nothing against any of the incredibly talented directors who have worked on the current crop of DC/Marvel movies but none of them have been allowed/willing to bring their individual flair to these properties in the way that the likes of Nolan, Raimi, Lee or Burton could get away with in the past. Perhaps one day the shared cinematic universe gimmick will run its course and we will return to that approach.


I’ve made the comparison before - the director is like a new creative team on a book. At the moment it feels like Marvel is Jim Lee on art, Whedon on script (or Lobdell these days), all day, every day. Would be nice to get a Mike Mignola / Peter Milligan movie, if you get what I mean. Just to shake things up.


Exactly like Adam West’s Batman.