Comedy saved Thor.  

I mean, who could have predicted that of the Phase One Marvel heroes, a group that included Captain America and Iron Man, Thor would be the one left standing for a fourth solo adventure?  The first two Thor movies rank among the lowest in the MCU canon, both receiving Rotten Tomatoes scores that translate to “meh.” Neither movies were without laughs, certainly, but it would be a Mr. Fantastic-style stretch to classify either as a comedy. 

Then Thor: Ragnorak struck like a goofy-ass thunderbolt. Taika Waititi blew off the doors with a candy-colored laff-fest, turning the God of Thunder into a self-absorbed, incredibly powerful dork. Somehow, the Hulk was now a grunting straight man in an absurdist comedy team, surrounded by a funky crew of nitwits and tricksters.  Suddenly, Chris Hemsworth was a Marvel main man, all due to Waititi’s fast-paced farce injection. 

Which leads us to wonder: Could a similarly silly approach help out some other MCU heroes? Here are four franchises that could use some help in the hilarity department. 

The Falcon … er, Captain America and the Winter Soldier

Poor Sam Wilson. When we first meet him in Winter Soldier, he’s actually a pretty funny guy, a self-deprecating, Marvin Gaye-recommending, Black Widow-flirting counterpunch to earnest boy scout Steve Rogers.

Then the guy gets turned down for a bank loan and his whole outlook on life goes south.  OK, maybe there were a few other galactic tragedies darkening his mood as well.  But something happened to Sam when he had to take up the shield -- he got awfully serious about the whole thing.

Which isn’t necessarily a problem. He just needs a looser, funnier sidekick to counterbalance the new attitude.  Instead, he got the scowling Winter Soldier, a PTSD-stricken survivor who can barely get out of bed in the morning to make amends.  Pair up the two of them and you get a double-dose of heartache that weighed down their Disney+ series. 

What’s the solution?  The easiest one would be to return Sam to his sarcastic self, although being the Black symbol of America might make turning that frown upside-down tougher than it sounds. So how about transforming Elijah Bradley, the grandson of the original super-serum soldier, into a wise-cracking Patriot? The future Young Avenger was already introduced in the limited series, so let’s put him to good comic use when Cap returns to the big screen. (Eli is pretty serious in the comic, so maybe Sam could teach him how to have some fun?)  

Dr. Strange

Here’s the thing -- Stephen Strange is pretty amusing already.  The problem is that his arrogant, sardonic sense of humor is awfully reminiscent of Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr. did the snark first. And he did it better. 

The problem isn’t Benedict Cumberbatch.  He’s a fine actor, but he’s being asked to play the same comic beats as Stark, the MCU’s most iconic personality.  The humor can’t help but feel repetitive.  Wong is a terrific supporting character but he doesn’t offer much help in terms of levity.

Levity.  Of course!  Maybe the comic help the Dr. Strange franchise needs has been there all along -- Doc’s Cloak of Levitation. 

Why not elevate the Cloak to the level of co-star (or something close to it)?  Not being able to speak is almost a bonus--that flying swath of magical cloth can offer a brand of silent, physical comedy found nowhere else in the MCU.  Hey, it worked for Harpo and the Marx Brothers.

Captain Marvel

Poor Carol Danvers.  Being the first female to lead an MCU movie comes with certain responsibilities, ones that rely more on kicking ass than comically falling on one’s butt.  She gets off a few good one-liners, but Carol isn’t inherently a comic character.  But could she be? 

All it takes is a post-credit sequence where the mighty Captain Marvel shows up in a teenage fan’s bedroom to suggest new comic possibilities.  Marvel has played this card before to humorous effect, most notably Tony Stark mentoring a young Peter Parker.  But -- important distinction -- Pete wasn’t a Stark Superfan.

When Kamala Khan finally meets Carol in The Marvels, the Captain Marvel sequel that will also star WandaVision’s Monica Rambeau, she is going to freak out. With some kind of cosmic catastrophe no doubt unfolding, how will Captain Marvel deal with a shrieking teenager full of questions about whether Nick Fury is a nice guy or what it feels like to blast Thanos in the privates?  Relying on your most passionate fan to help take out the bad guys is full of comic possibilities. 

The Eternals

It’s pretty clear that director Chloé Zhao had something other than a knockabout comedy in mind when she made The Eternals. It’s also clear that another Eternals flick, if there’s one to be made, needs to lighten up.

We have some ideas.  First of all, the team already has a built-in comedy ringer.

Kumail Nanjiani has a killer comic resume, and the flamboyant Kingo’s interactions with his sycophant Karun were a highlight of Eternals. The guy can even light up the Disney+ Ms. Marvel series. So we’d lean into Kingo’s involvement in any sequel, made easier because we lost a few heroes from the original overstuffed film.  He inexplicably sided with the Celestials in the first movie--maybe the second movie could explore a change of heart, given his love for his Bollywood fans?

Idea #2:  Inject a little Starfox chaos.  

The Harry Styles character was introduced in a mid-credits scene and you could already feel the audience breathe a sigh of relief. Starfox, also known as Eros, is a tricky character -- his ability to manipulate the pleasure center in people’s brains makes him a potentially problematic hero for our era. But we’re guessing the MCU will pull back from the sleazier side of his powers and lean more into his jovial, bon vivant persona. Did we mention his sidekick Pip is voiced by Patton Oswalt?  

Things are getting funnier already.  

For more ComedyNerd, be sure to check out:

The Simpsons: 15 Bands Inspired By The Show

Saturday Night Live: 5 Weird Reactions To Celebrity Impressions

Why East Beats West When It Comes To Action-Comedy

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