Who's 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron's Funniest Avenger? Let's Break It Down
In grave contrast to the very serious style of Warner Bros.' DC Comics-based superhero movies (Man of Steel proved itself a faithful observer of this, for instance), it seems that the Marvel Cinematic Universe only gets funnier and funnier over time. In 2008, Iron Man kicked off the Marvel franchise with the compulsively comedic Tony Stark, played by the likewise impetuous jokester Robert Downey Jr. — and, in the years since, we've seen humor accumulate to new levels in The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Guardians of the Galaxy— and now in The Avengers: Age of Ultron , which is quite possibly the most laughter-heavy of the films yet to come. At this rate, The Avengers: Infinity War — Part 1 might just be a total comedy!
(OK, probably not, but you get my point.)
But Age of Ultron isn't jam-packed with the vacant one-liners and silly puns that you'd find in a '90s Schwarzenegger flick, thankfully; the humor is largely character-based, and is extremely smart at that. The question is, then, which character is the chief purveyor of the new Marvel film's comedy? Is it a witticism-veteran like Tony Stark, or perhaps a more surprising champ like Steve Rogers? Here's my breakdown and take on the standings.
[Note: There are some SPOILERS ahead for The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, so proceed with caution.]
The Iron Wit
When you think of the comic prowess of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you most likely think of Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark. The most overtly humorous character — he is the only team member who, in universe, is constantly trying to be funny — and the purveyor of what might be considered Marvel's first genuine action-comedy film: Iron Man 3. (Since the film's 2013 release, Disney has offered up Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, which both follow suit of Iron Man 3 in the prioritization of comedy above much else.)
In Age of Ultron, Tony adheres largely to "business as usual." He dishes out jabs at his colleagues and adversaries indiscriminately, concerned less with who he levels to humiliation than with how many people see him do the leveling.
Boasting the highest volume of jokes of any one Avenger, Tony is a tough subject for the singling out of standout comic moments. He maintains a steady amenable snark from beginning to end, though doesn't lay claim to any of Age of Ultron's most memorable big laughs.
The God of Laughter
Much of the comedy of the Thor movies, popularly considered Marvel's stiffest line of standalone features, is situational. Even though a few good laughs did come from the character's introduction to worldly luxuries like coffee and coat racks, Thor's "fish out of water" shtick as a newcomer to the planet Earth can only carry him so far; luckily, Chris Hemsworth is leagues more charismatic than anyone would have given him credit for at the inception of his MCU legacy.
And it's courtesy of that Hemsworth charm that we earn a few surprisingly delightful gags throughout in Age of Ultron, each deriving from some perturbing of Thor's childlike bullheadedness.
While the character gains big laughs for his misguided consolation of a downtrodden Bruce Banner and his blunt head-to-head with Tony over the impressiveness of their respective lady friends, Thor's chief source of humor in Age of Ultron is of the silent variety: Befuddled wordless takes when his indomitable might in the realm of hammer-wielding is rendered anything but. As Hemsworth proved with facets of his recent Saturday Night Live performance, he is funniest when he's cutting down his own intrinsic bravado.
The Master of Black Comedy
Outside of the Marvel realm, Scarlett Johansson might likely be considered the most versatile of the actors thereto attached. That said, Natasha Romanoff has stuck pretty rigidly to one reliable comic shtick, one somewhat in the vein of Groucho Marx. She's always three steps ahead of her screen partners, mining her upper hand and superior intellect all the while for a type of comedy that only benefits the real world viewer (whereas Tony's jokes are largely for the benefit of an in-universe audience).
In Age of Ultron, however, Natasha gets to try something different. Sure, she's offered plenty of opportunities to play with that signature acidity we loved in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but Natasha is also permitted to try her hand at vulnerability. Believe it or not, her soft side is just as rich with wit as her rough. Natasha offers the sporting half of a heightened flirtatious banter early on in the film — it's a routine that might not earn the loudest and liveliest of laughs, but it certainly plants some comic feel-goodery deep in your heart and soul.
Red, White, and Blue-in-the-Face
You'd have to comb through the MCU canon pretty diligently to find instances of Steve Rogers actually making a joke. More often than not, Chris Evans plays his earnest-to-a-fault American hero as the straight man amongst corroded company, usually cementing himself as the butt of a gag in the process. In fact, the few "one liners" for which Steve has been responsible in the past (his elated, "I get that reference!" in The Avengers, spoken in response to an allusion to The Wizard of Oz, for example) play largely on the adorability of his purity in a world soaked in cynicism.
Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn't change this formula, but it does certainly up the ante. Steve's very first line (in fact, it's part of the first exchange of dialogue in the movie on the whole) is a dweeby comment he quickly comes to regret, as it spawns the sardonic wrath of his cohorts to form one of the feature's best running jokes.
The defining characteristic of Bruce Banner and his alter ego The Hulk doesn't leave much room for laughter. Steeped in immeasurable torture, the character can barely ever crack a smile, let alone whip up a play on words. Interestingly, all of Banner's comedy in The Avengers comes when he breaks free from human form, allowing his mania to take hold; think of the Hulk's demolition of the high-minded Loki, and the sucker-punching of his pal Thor.
Banner probably comes in last in our ranking of Avengers: Age of Ultron's forces of comedy. He maintains his usual despondent presence from beginning to end, with only one quick glimmer at brighter capabilities. Shortly after a flirtatious face-off with Natasha, we see the usually sturdy Bruce in a rare state of jostlement. Funny though the turn may be, it's one of Mark Ruffalo's only comic beats in the film.
Sharp as an Arrow
With the fewest big screen appearances of the bunch, Clint Barton hasn't exactly had a fair hand at showing off his personality. But — though perhaps it's a fate abetted by low expectations — Hawkeye might just be the funniest character in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No, he doesn't have as many jokes as Tony Stark or Natasha Romanoff, nor as vivid and bold a comic persona as Thor, but that's actually part of the fun. He's a regular guy dealing with highly irregular circumstance. From this paradox, and his resultant frustration, comes Clint's brightest contributions: a late-in-film pep talk to one fellow hero, a lamentation of another, and occasional preoccupations with his life outside of Avenging. It's all gold.
Images: Marvel (7)