As DC’s ‘Justice League’ prepare to assemble and look very serious while doing so, it’s worth remembering that Marvel has had one of its best years ever with three of its funniest movies to date: ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy: Volume 2’, ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, and now ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, in cinemas now.
Humour is such a huge part of what makes the MCU worth revisiting – so let’s count down the ten of the MCU’s funniest moments to date, before we have to replace every entry with something from ‘Thor: Ragnarok’… it really is that funny.
10. “I need a horse!” – ‘Thor’ (2011)
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is without a doubt the funniest movie in the MCU to date, so looking back at Thor’s origin story – with Bard-enthusiast Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair and some weighty Shakespearean themes to digest – it can feel a little dry at times. The sooner Thor’s fish is plucked out of water the better, and it’s only when he’s stripped of his powers that he realises his comedic potential. There’s no better example than when the God of Thunder marches into the local pet store and demands of the shopkeeper: “I need a horse!” After being informed they only sell dogs, cats and birds, Thor responds: “Then give me one of those large enough to ride.”
9. Tony pees in the suit – ‘Iron Man 2’ (2010)
Iron Man is the comedic powerhouse at the centre of the MCU, but it’s not all wisecracks and sarcastic comebacks at Chez Stark – in the comics at least, he has a very serious alcohol addiction. The MCU approached the ‘Demon in a Bottle’ storyline differently, with Stark’s chest reactor slowly poisoning him instead of booze, but Tony does still enjoy his liquor slightly too much in ‘Iron Man 2’, kicking off a huge house party at his mansion, blasting watermelons out of the sky with his repulsor beams like a true entertainer. And would a true entertainer call time on the fun just because he needed a wee? He would not. Tony just floods his Mark IV suit with Stark-brand urine, with the caveat that it has a filtration system: “You could drink that water.” We’ll pass if it’s all the same.
8. Intimidation Mode – ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (2017)
There was lots to enjoy about the latest big-screen reincarnation of Spider-Man, but where they really nailed the humour was in casting young: Tom Holland is barely out of his teens so has the perfect look to play Peter Parker out of his depth. We had to laugh as Spidey got to grips with his complex new suit, particularly as he attempted to forge a tough guy persona with the help of the ‘Intimidation Mode’ setting: a voice module that takes Holland’s pubescent squeak and turns it into a Batman-esque growl. However, the effect doesn’t work if you have to use the voice to convince the perp you’re trying to nail that you’re not a girl. “I’m a boy,” he snarls, “I mean, I’m a man!” Deactivate interrogation mode.
7. The reluctant henchman – ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013)
With writer-director Shane Black, you don’t add jokes to the plot, you add plot to the jokes – there’s barely a minute wasted in ‘Iron Man 3’ and even the minor characters get brilliant one-liners. When Tony is captured by Aldrich Killian and left in the company of his wisecracking henchmen, it’s not long before Stark busts loose and starts zapping bad guys. After a virtuoso action scene, we pause just as Tony lines up his sights on the last henchman, but he manages to save his life with a moment of transparency: “Honestly, I hate working here. They are so weird.” Stark lets him live, presumably on the basis he finds new employment.
6. “You are not worthy!” – ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (2015)
Not all of the humour in the MCU occurs on the battlefield – sometimes the Marvel superheroes are funniest when they’re at home relaxing. In ‘Age of Ultron’, before James Spader’s self-aware cyborg starts sleazing up Sokovia, we join Tony, Cap, Rhodey and the gang at a party at Stark’s place. The competitiveness kicks in when the gang decide to see who among them can lift Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolnir. Hawkeye can’t hack it. Banner fakes a Hulk-out but can’t get it to budge. Black Widow doesn’t even need to try. Even Stark and Rhodey combined can’t handle it. Cap, on the other hand, makes it wobble slightly, which is enough to give Thor a face like thunder. Fun’s over. Watch the moment in full above.
5. “That man is playing Galaga!” – ‘Avengers Assemble’ (2012)
Even during an alien apocalypse, you have to carve out a bit of time for yourself. There are alien beings trying to end the world on your doorstep and villains crawling out from under every rock in the galaxy – why shouldn’t a hard-working, low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. radar operator be allowed a few minutes of videogames? It doesn’t help that the man who publicly busted him was Tony Stark, and that his boss was Nick Fury – perhaps he could only get away with playing Galaga on the job when he was on the ‘eyepatch’ side of the brig.
4. Rocket and the fake leg – ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ (2014)
Everyone’s favourite trash panda carefully spells out his plans to break out from a floating prison, only for his tree-trunk buddy Groot to kick everything into emergency mode by jump-starting the escape. There’s still time for laughs, however, when Rocket tells partner in crime Peter Quill that he’ll require one inmate’s prosthetic leg among other items. Quill later returns with the leg after suffering great hardship to get it, only to find out the raccoon was joking: “I just needed these two other things,” he says casually. “What did he look like, hopping around?” Top banter.
3. Thomas the Tank Engine – ‘Ant-Man’ (2015)
A great way to get a laugh is to subvert audience expectations. During a fight with Ant-Man, his nemesis Yellowjacket is thrown onto some train tracks with Thomas the Tank Engine headed for him full steam ahead, the framing sets us up for a huge crash. However, director Peyton Reed smartly cuts to a wide shot of the actual-sized tiny train bumping harmlessly into mini-Darren Cross, complete with a pathetic sound effect. Thomas eventually gets a big-screen debut to be proud of later in the movie, when he’s enlarged and smashes through the side of the house, into the garden out front, eyes still swivelling in his head like a big mad loco.
2. Hulk smash – ‘Avengers Assemble’ (2012)
‘Avengers Assemble’ managed to do in a few minutes what 2008’s ‘The Incredible Hulk’ couldn’t do in its entire run-time – make Hulk funny. We first get a glimpse of The Funcredible Hulk in a brief moment post-takedown, where he suddenly slams a fist into the side of Thor’s head, exiting the God of Thunder stage right. The coup de grace happens a few short scenes later, when Hulk interrupts one of Loki’s many portentous monologues to pick him up by his feet and repeatedly and firmly embed him into the concrete floor. “Puny God,” Hulk mutters, having finally mastered the art of the punchline. Keep an eye out for the long-awaited “reunion” in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’.
1. Trevor Slattery – ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013)
How bold a gambit this is, how brave a joke: the big Mandarin reveal halfway through ‘Iron Man 3’ is one of the riskiest moves Marvel have ever made, sacrificing a storied villain in search of a laugh. The tension couldn’t be higher as Tony Stark scours the mansion where terrorist The Mandarin resides, but all that tension is swiftly undercut when The Mandarin exits the toilet, advising his prostitute girlfriends to leave it for a few minutes. It turns out The Mandarin is none other than Croydon-based actor, Liverpool fan and junkie Trevor Slattery, posing as a patsy for Aldrich Killian’s crimes. He warned us – “You’ll never see me coming!” – but it’s as good a comic sucker punch as the one Hulk delivers to Thor. The fact it made comic-book nerds super-angry just made it even funnier – long live Trevor Slattery.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is in UK cinemas now.
Bonus entry: This incredible ‘Ant-Man’ promo