Francis Ford Coppola called them “despicable.” Denis Villeneuve warned they’ve turned us into “zombies,” and Martin Scorsese said they’re not cinema. So, where do Marvel movies land on the scale between pop and high art?
Leave it to new MCU inductee Ethan Hawke to explain. In a resurfaced 2018 interview with RayWork Productions, the “Moon Knight” Disney+ star explains the distinction between Marvel films and arthouse indies.
“I love superhero movies, I love arthouse movies. I don’t think there’s a difference between high art and low art,” Hawke said. “There are movies that people put their hearts into, and there are movies that people try to cash in on. And the ones that I like are the ones that people put their hearts into, and you can feel that in a superhero movie or you can feel it in an arthouse movie.”
Hawke continued, “I was joking that if ‘Logan’ and ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Doctor Strange’ are great art films, what is ‘Fanny and Alexander’?”
And while the Oscar-winning semi-autobiographical Ingmar Bergman film may not be known to all (even though it ideally should be), Hawke encouraged modern moviegoers to learn about cinema history.
“These are my favorite superhero movies, ‘Logan,’ ‘Doctor Strange,’ ‘Dark Knight,’ these are great films,” Hawke summed up. “But they’re not the only thing, and young people today are growing up thinking that’s, you know, that’s all there is.”
Hawke similarly made the distinction that Marvel movies are “not Bresson, not Bergman.”
“I went to see ‘Logan’ ‘cause everyone was like, ‘This is a great movie’ and I was like, ‘Really? No, this is a fine superhero movie,'” Hawke said, also in 2018. “There’s a difference, but big business doesn’t think there’s a difference. Big business wants you to think that this is a great film because they wanna make money off of it.”
More recently, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” actress Elizabeth Olsen weighed in on the merits of Marvel moviemaking debate.
“I’m not saying we’re making indie art films, but I just think it takes away from our crew, which bugs me,” Olsen said to The Independent. “These are some of the most amazing set designers, costume designers, camera operators – I feel diminishing them with that kind of criticism takes away from all the people who do award-winning films, that also work on these projects.”
Ethan Hawke, America's film-studies boyfriend, is right. https://t.co/XLZpmIYmTa
— Jeff Grubb (@JeffGrubb) May 11, 2022