At this point, it’s been well documented that Marvel’s first Disney+ exclusive show is a hit. WandaVision provides fans with deep characters, funny moments, and an unfolding mystery that has filled the internet with theories. However, the most interesting aspect of the show is the way it plays with the classic Sit-com genre to help build its unique identity within the wider superhero world. In a world that views Marvel films as a formulaic, cookie-cutter approach to film-making, this is a welcome and refreshing take on the MCU.
However, a quick look at Marvel’s filmography will show that this didn’t start with WandaVision. In fact, some of the best MCU films have played with genre and tropes to some degree with fantastic results.
Here’s a look at some of the best uses of genre in the MCU:
The very first MCU film may be very Marvel-like compared to some other entries on this list, but it still does some interesting work playing with tropes. Iron Man played with and avoided the tropes of superhero films at the time and created a memorable experience.
Jon Favreau’s 2008 film didn’t give us a vigilante on a crusade to protect the city he loves from crime and a supervillain. Instead, we got our first look at Tony Stark, a weapons manufacturer who’s abducted by terrorists. While still being fantastical, Iron Man feels much more grounded than Batman or Superman movies thanks to its more visceral nature and focus on character.
Plus, the film has to get credit for setting up the classic secret identity, just to shut it down with the iconic line; “I am Iron Man”
Captain America: The First Avenger
The first Captain America is unique in the MCU thanks to the time period it places itself. Set during World War II, The First Avenger provides an interesting mashup of superhero and war films.
The movie features training, battles and stealth missions, reminiscent of other WWII films, while still containing the superhero tropes we all know and love. And with the crazy gadgets, sci-fi tech, and Hydra’s evil base in the middle of a mountain give it an interesting James Bond feel.
Fans were told that Ant-Man was to be a heist comedy directed by Edgar Wright. On first hearing this sentence, you probably imagine a mix between Ocean’s Eleven and Shaun of the Dead, which sounds awesome. It’s easy to see how the tropes of the heist genre would meld perfectly with Wright’s style of filmmaking.
But of course, this isn’t what we got. Wright left the production, citing creative differences as the reason. Ant-Man ended up being far from a heist movie and seems to contain no influence of Wright’s style. Instead, Ant-Man was the most Marvel it could, so much so that it’s simply forgettable.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Considered one of the best films in the MCU, The Winter Soldier takes the superheroes deep into the spy genre. Cap is placed into the world of conspiracies, politics and secret organisations. A far cry from the battlefields of WWII.
Even the action in this movie is consistent with films like James Bond or Mission Impossible. Handheld shots and excellent choreography make every fight feel tangible and real. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best in the series.
And it gets bonus points for introducing Marvel fans to the Russo brothers. For two directors known for their work in comedy, they have proved they know how to make an amazing action film.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Is there anything to say about Guardians of the Galaxy that hasn’t already been said? James Gunn’s Sci-Fi film took Marvel to the furthest reaches of space to create an atmosphere unlike any other. Guardians features crazy new alien worlds and creatures, some great action and intense spaceship battles, and is the closest the MCU has come to Star Wars. However, Gunn’s use of comedy, bright neon lights, and an unforgettable 70s soundtrack make this an experience like no other.
Guardians of the Galaxy is known for being the most drastic shake-up of the Marvel formula and set the standard for future films like Thor: Ragnarok.
While these films aren’t part of the MCU, they’re still fascinating in the way they use genre to their advantage.
The darkest film in the X-men series, and potentially the entire superhero genre, Logan is far from anything we’ve seen before. While still containing great action and a little bit of comedy, Logan is a much slower, more emotional film. James Mangold wanted his film not to be about saving the world, but rather a simple road trip movie. Saying it was to be “an extremely bloody, existential Little Miss Sunshine.” What we got was closer to The Last of Us, and perfectly displayed the relationship between its three primary characters.
Logan is a masterpiece that is a must-watch for anyone, no matter how familiar with the X-men franchise.
The spirit of the wild west is alive and well in a galaxy far far away. Disney+’s premier series perfectly captured the classic western genre, while still somehow being exactly Star Wars. From the music, to the set design, to the characters, it’s Star Wars but like nothing we’ve seen.
The show even uses some classic tropes from the western genre. Small towns in the desert, sheriffs, bounty hunters, and gunslingers are found everywhere in this show. The Mandalorian is the perfect Space Western out there.
It should be fairly obvious at this point how good the MCU is at using genre. By taking well known tropes and implementing them into the superhero genre, Marvel have been able to make some of the most memorable films in recent history.
And with WandaVision‘s unique take on the sit-com style and the next Doctor Strange looking to be “the first scary MCU film”, I doubt this trend with stop anytime soon.
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