Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe Finally Willing to Go Darker?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the biggest shared movie universe of all time. Each film and TV series connects to a bigger picture that’s unlike what we’ve seen from other franchises. Since Marvel movies have been ruling the box office for over a decade, it has heavily influenced the rest of Hollywood. More and more blockbusters have since adopted Marvel’s action-comedy formula and sense of humor. What’s been dubbed as “Marvel humor” has bled into just about every other major movie franchise, so much so that fans expect it whenever they go to the theater. 

However, it’s become somewhat of a drawback of the acclaimed film series. The humor has worked extremely well for movies that are intended to be comedies, like Guardians of the Galaxy, and if it fits a particular scene or character, like with Iron Man’s sarcasm. There have been a large number of times, though, where the humor feels out of place despite the majority of MCU movies being action-comedies. Yucking it up during the destruction of Asgard or while hundreds of people are being slaughtered by Ultron’s robots isn’t exactly appropriate. 

Marvel Studios used their often repetitive sense of humor to downplay their more emotional scenes, as if they’ve been too afraid to let their stories feel too dark. It’s almost as if they’re concerned their audience wouldn’t want to watch something too sad or serious, so they relied on their humor as a crutch. 

As of late, though, Marvel has seemed to be much more willing to allow their movies and TV series to be more serious and have darker tones. This started with Avengers: Infinity War which led to a rather heartbreaking end after all the fun and fanservice. That feeling of heartbreak was solidified in Avengers: Endgame when we said goodbye to the likes of Iron Man and Captain America. They allowed these moments to have time for us to feel sad for these characters and feel how serious their situations are. 

Even more recently, Spider-Man: No Way Home provided fans with some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most emotional moments and ended on a rather somber note. This film’s praise and success proves that Marvel Studios had nothing to fear when it came to using darker tones for their stories. It was sad, serious, and dark, but it still felt like it belonged with the rest of the MCU. Fans and critics alike loved the bold lengths the filmmakers were willing to go for it.

Not only did Spider-Man: No Way Home showcase some sadder moments and darker tones, but there’s even a scene where Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock a.k.a Daredevil shows up. Vincent D’Onofrio also reprises his Daredevil role as Wilson Fisk a.k.a Kingpin in the Hawkeye Disney+ series. This is the first time the larger MCU has acknowledged the Netflix Marvel series. This is huge because, even though we already knew that these series were canon to the MCU, it’s nice to finally have more of a confirmation of that. It also confirms that the MCU has contained these stories that are much grittier than what comes to mind when we think about the MCU. 

The upcoming Disney+ TV series, Moon Knight, looks incredibly dark. It matches the Netflix series like Daredevil and The Punisher more than it does The Avengers. It was also recently announced that those Marvel shows will be leaving Netflix soon, which might mean they’ll eventually end up on Disney+ with the rest of the Marvel media. More and more it seems that Marvel is finally embracing darker tones where they work best. 

With how annoyingly repetitive some of Marvel humor can be, and with how frequently it feels inappropriately-timed, it’s genuinely exciting that the MCU may now be willing to go darker. It will also open the door for different kinds of stories we have yet to see in the expansive film and TV franchise. Who knows what they’ll do next with this newfound acceptance of more serious tones? 

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