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How Marvel Movies Totally Shook Up The Comedy Genre

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree with the sentiment that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been nothing short of a game-changer for not just the subgenre of superhero movies, but the entire movie landscape. From the moment Iron Man kicked things off in 2008 to a rousing $585 million worldwide box office return, things were never going to be the same. In fact, beginning with The Avengers in 2012, there has been at least one Marvel superhero movie in the top 10 worldwide box office list every year — at least until 2020 broke the entire industry with a global pandemic.

Generally speaking, the 2010s were the superhero decade — they were in our movie theaters, they were on our television screens, and they became part of the cultural lexicon on a global scale in a way that, arguably, superheroes simply never had before. What you may not have considered, though, is the impact that their prominence might have on other genres.

In a recent interview with Games Radar to promote his new HBO Max original movie An American Pickle, actor and filmmaker Seth Rogen talked about how the MCU has impacted the world of comedy.

What can comedies offer when Marvel movies already bring the laughs?

Asked how he viewed the state of comedy movies at the moment, Rogen had a very interesting response. "Something that me and [producing partner] Evan [Goldberg] talk about a lot is how Marvel movies are comedies," says Rogen. "Thor: Ragnarok is a comedy. Ant-Man is a comedy at its core. So that's what's out there. There are $200 million comedies out there, and so that's something, as a comedic filmmaker, to be aware of. That is the benchmark that people expect! If you're going to make a big huge comedy, just know that your competition is, like, Marvel."

Rogen explained that, with Marvel in the mix making big-budget comedy, people like him and his team are forced to ask, "What am I offering [audiences]?"

"That's why something like Good Boys does well," explains Rogen, "because we're not offering scope. What we're offering is pure comedy and emotion and relatability and nostalgia. That's the trade-off. You don't get to see the God of Thunder being hilarious, but you get to see something that maybe represents your actual life, and that's very gratifying in another way."

It'll be interesting to see how comedies fare when theaters re-open. In 2019, the highest grossing comedy was the Jennifer Lopez-starring Hustlers, which brought in $157 million worldwide on a $20 million budget. That may only place Hustlers at the #50 spot on the worldwide box office chart for that year, but it still shows how mid-tier comedies can bring in a significant amount based on investment. Whether or not that's enough remains to be seen, but Rogen is right — the MCU is absolutely impacting comedy films... along with every other kind of film while they're at it.