The Marvel IP is one of the best known in the entertainment business. Since Marvel Studio’s founding in 1993, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has collectively grossed over $25 billion, making it the most profitable film franchise of all time. Part of the appeal for some is Marvel’s blend of action, adventure, and comedy.
Marvel movies and television pretty much exclusively have some level of comedy in them to earn the “action-adventure/comedy” label. But when people tune into something from Marvel, they still expect action and adventure first, comedy second.
With that in mind, it’s interesting to see Marvel release I Am Groot, the first project of Marvel’s that is focused solely on comedy. The show released to Disney+ on August 10th, with five episodes each around five minutes long. Vin Diesel returns to voice the character, although Groot is mostly silent.
It’s always worth following the type of entertainment Marvel puts out. The studio has its detractors in the world of cinema (notably a certain filmmaker whose name rhymes with “Bartin Borsese”) but its impact on entertainment is undeniable. The studio acts as a weathervane for the rest of the industry.
Marvel is not the only studio to stray away from pure, uncut comedy. While many such movies and shows exist, they’re becoming increasingly rare. And when huge comedy movies and shows do come along, they often struggle in comparison with their less completely comedic brethren.
Which is why even though almost all of the biggest hits on all screens often heavily relies on comedy, it is almost never the only focus.
Take a quick look at the most popular movies and shows of the past year. Stranger Things clearly is comedic, but would be classified more as horror than comedy. The top grossing movie of 2021, Spider-Man: No Way Home, follows other Marvel movies in never going a few minutes without a quip or a gag, but is clearly action over anything else.
The exception to the rule has consistently been children’s entertainment. Big children’s movies like Minions: The Rise of Gru are the rare holdouts, in that they break the box office while being undeniably a comedy first. While I Am Groot could be enjoyed by all ages, it is probably focused more on younger audiences than any previous Marvel work. Perhaps Marvel sees the success of other children’s comedy entertainment and is following suit.
The show wears its inspirations on its sleeve – its focus on physical humor with little to no dialogue draws obvious parallels to the early Disney and Looney Tunes cartoons. Although Groot is still seen in the hyper-realistic style we recognize him in. Strangely enough, this may be the closest we’ve seen to a big mainstream return of that old style in a while.
It’s still too early to say how big a splash the show will make. But it may be that, especially as Marvel ups its television programming, we see more of a focus on comedies from them and other big studios. With so much shakeup recently in comedy television, it remains to be seen where exactly things end up.