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How Marvel is hurting itself with humor

This is a trap Wonder Woman avoids completely

Superhero movies are kind of ridiculous by default, and it’s very easy to make fun of something that’s being sincere and honest about the emotions it’s trying to evoke. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, as a whole, seems to be very aware that it can find itself the butt of the joke if it leans too hard on open emotions.

This is why the films so often pull their punches by adding in humor during their quiet moments, and it’s a mistake.

The video above from the consistently interesting Just Write channel does a really great job of explaining the use of humor to deflate a film’s seriousness, and why that strategy can fall so flat. The use of jokes in these moments signals to the viewer that the people behind the film don’t really believe what they’re saying, and they know it’s kind of absurd to expect you to feel anything about these characters in their spandex and capes. So the drama cuts to humor, and everyone gets to feel self-aware instead of vulnerable.

It’s not the greatest sin in modern movies, but it often keeps the Marvel films from feeling like they really mean what they say. This stands in sharp contrast to Wonder Woman, a film that is unapologetically sincere and hopeful. Whatever else you want to say about the movie, it stands behind what it’s trying to say and lets you know that it really believes in its message.

It’s not that Wonder Woman doesn’t have jokes — and the lighter feel of Marvel’s films is usually an asset compared to the grimdark tone of previous Warner Bros. superhero movies — it’s that it knows when to use them.

That’s a breath of fresh air in the age of masks and superpowers.

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