Considering the entire universe is at stake in Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios' usual quippy banter and comic relief may be at odds with the frightening prospect of the battle against Thanos. More specifically the film's marketing might indicate a very different take on the nation of Wakanda than what audiences fell in love with in director Ryan Coogler's Black Panther earlier this year.
While the superheroics of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and co. have been marked by plenty of spectacle and thrills, they've also almost universally featured plenty of comedy to keep moviegoers from taking it all too seriously. In fact, several of the films released to date arguably been all-out comedies, with last year's Thor: Ragnarok serving as a prime example.
Fans have every reason to be excited about seeing star Chadwick Boseman and his Black Panther co-stars reprise their roles in such an epic adventure. But with Infinity War bringing back Thor (who was absent during T'Challa's first movie appearance in Captain America: Civil War) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (whose movies lean heavily on comedy), Infinity War could risk undermining Black Panther by playing Wakanda for laughs.
The Marvel Comedy Track Record
For the most part, the light-hearted style of the MCU has delighted audiences and allowed Marvel Studios to transform more obscure titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man into crowd-pleasers. However, despite its general success with moviegoers and critics alike, the MCU's reliance on comedy is viewed by some as a weakness. The aforementioned Thor: Ragnarok, for example, was specifically called out for undermining serious moments like Odin's death and the destruction of Asgard by inserting a one-liner or other comic moment. It's one thing for a film to infuse a sense of fun into its story, especially when it centers on heroes like Doctor Strange and Iron Man who use humor to cope with the dangers they face, but Avengers: Infinity War is expected to change the MCU forever.
The stakes have never been higher for Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and after so much build-up, it would probably disappoint fans if Thanos' arrival and the long-awaited collision of most of the MCU's heroes turned out to be little more than a series of gags intended to contrast their personalities. In a recently-released clip, for example, Bruce Banner and Doctor Strange are trying to impress upon Tony Stark the devastation that Thanos could unleash on the universe, but after just a few serious lines the movie jumps into comic relief to keep things from getting too "heavy" - with Tony mocking Strange's dramatic manner of speaking, and Strange slapping Tony with his cloak.
To their credit, the Russos have been responsible for some of the best balancing acts in the MCU, shifting deftly from character-based humor to a fight to the death, particularly in Captain America: Civil War. In that film, the airport showdown encapsulates the spirit of fun that has become the MCU's trademark, while the latter Cap/Iron Man/Winter Soldier battle was driven more by emotion than the sheer joy of seeing your favorite heroes collide. So, should we really be worried about how they handle Infinity War's Wakanda scenes?
What We've Seen So Far
Based purely on the marketing for Avengers: Infinity War, the film does look to trade heavily on the fish-out-of-water humor that will spring from the Avengers' arrival in Wakanda. In a recent TV spot, Shuri and Bruce Banner come face to face, and as many fans have foreseen, the Wakandan princess and lead scientist easily demonstrates her technological superiority over the Incredible Hulk's alter-ego. It's a quick moment in which arguably the MCU's brightest scientific mind (and breakout star of Black Panther) gets to subtly show off her skills in assisting an ailing Vision and further proof that Letitia Wright is ready to steal some more scenes.
More pointed, however, is a brief exchange between T'Challa and Okoye in another TV spot. The pair discusses the aftermath of Wakanda revealing its true strength to the world, and the latter — who is more of a traditionalist than Black Panther himself — proclaims that she would have preferred that Wakanda got a Starbucks or the Olympics rather than get swept up in an intergalactic conflict. In context, such a comment might be harmless, but it certainly doesn't sound like something that Danai Gurira's character would say, especially with as serious of a warrior as she is.
It's natural for the Russos to want to compare and contrast the residents of Wakanda with Earth's Mightiest Heroes, especially since it sounds like nearly everyone winds up in Wakanda by the film's climax. In fact, the chance for such interactions is one of the best aspects of these epic team-up films. In many ways, Wakanda is operating leagues beyond where the rest of our heroes have been for years, and with the nation's newly open status (and Black Panther's newfound popularity among even casual moviegoers), Infinity War would be wise to play into that and take every opportunity to involve characters like Shuri, Okoye and M'Baku. That doesn't mean that their portrayal is consistent, though.
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