There’s arguably never been a better time to be a fan of superhero movies. Long-awaited Marvel films like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War are just around the corner, DC finally managed to get it right this year with Wonder Woman and the future looks relatively bright for a genre many thought was on its way out years ago. Despite their meteoric rise in popularity over the last few decades, not everyone is quite so thrilled about the utter dominance of superhero movies at the box office.
“Formulaic.” “Predictable.” “Over saturated.” These are just a few of the most common complaints lobbed at modern superhero movies, but disgruntled fans and critics aren’t the only ones complaining. Even as industry veterans and rising stars line up for superhero projects left and right, there are plenty of celebrities happy to publicly express their disdain for the superhero genre. Whether they just can’t stand capes and tights or they believe the films are “propaganda,” “cultural genocide,” or akin to fracking, many a celebrity’s jabs at superhero movies seem to come from a very personal place. For this list, we’ve compiled 15 of the more off the wall gripes made by celebrities about the superhero boom.
15. JASON STATHAM’S GRANDMA
Thanks to his reputation as one of the most accomplished action stars in Hollywood, Jason Statham was a popular pick for actors that many fans would most like to see come to the MCU. In fact, there was a time where rumors were swirling around the web that the Transporter star was in talks with Marvel to play the villain Bullseye in Daredevil Season 2.
Statham squashed the rumors (and fans’ dreams) when he took a shot at Marvel’s stunts while promoting his film Spy. “Any guy can do it,” he said. “I mean, I could take my grandma and put her in a cape and then put her in a green screen, and they’ll have stunt doubles come in and do all the action. Anybody can do it.”
14. ROSE McGOWAN DISLIKES GOBLINS, TIGHT OUTFITS
Back in 2015, actress Rose McGowan took to Instagram to share her “thoughts on the current state of tent pole films, aka superheroes.” Unfortunately, this boiled down to little more than McGowan hurling insults at both the people who create superhero movies and the audiences that enjoy them.
In McGowan’s opinion, “what’s wrong with superhero movies is they lack complexity, story development, character development, freedom of thought — it’s lazy and average male filmmaking. If it’s okay it’s considered good, if it’s good it’s great, and the reality is no thinking person agrees.” She went on to attack superhero movies for their lack of human stories, “green goblins and tight outfits,” and a lack of female directors. Guess she hadn’t heard about Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman yet?
13. TIM BURTON AND THE HAPPY HERO
Tim Burton, the filmmaker behind your favorite angsty teen movie, thinks the world could use a “happy superhero” for a change. During an interview in support of his 2014 film Big Eyes, Burton slammed Marvel for what he sees as the issue with their formula, “Yes, we all know that superheroes are damaged individuals. Maybe we need to see a happy superhero?”
Of course, this may sound more than a bit ironic to anyone familiar with Burton’s moody brand of film making. However, it’s an especially strange criticism when you consider how often fans and critics alike have criticized Marvel films for their often campy sense of humor. This is all not to mention the fact that it was Burton himself who revitalized the genre with his darker, more adult take on Batman back in 1989.
12. JOHN McTIERNAN VS. AMERICAN HYPER-MASCULINITY
Speaking of notable directors ironically criticizing superhero movies, John McTiernan the filmmaker behind action classics like Predator and Die Hard, has a problem with Captain America. During an interview with The Guardian, he had this to say: “The cult of American hyper-masculinity is one of the worst things that has happened in the world during the last 50 years. Hundreds of thousands of people died because of this stupid illusion. So how is it possible to watch a movie called Captain America?”
These are some pretty strong words coming from someone who built his career making some of the most hyper-masculine action movies of all time. One can’t help but snicker at his comments when you consider that McTiernan’s most well-known creation is none other than the macho, plays-by-his-own-rules, cop John McClane.
11. AKI KAURISMAKI AND THE HERO HUNGOVER
There’s a good chance that if you’re an American, you’re not familiar with Aki Kaurismäki’s work. However, European readers are likely aware that he’s widely regarded as Finland’s best-known director. Though his own work often deals with violent themes, in an interview with The Guardian, he expressed a personal distaste for violence in the media he likes to consume, with one exception.
After a long night of drinking Kaurismäki says he likes to nurse a hangover with a superhero movie while simultaneously poking a bit of fun at them, “I never like showing [violence]. And I don’t want to see it in films, especially when it is comic. On the other hand, if it is Sunday and I have a hangover, I can watch those senseless Marvel things. I’m too afraid to watch anything else in that condition.”
10. TERRY GILLIAM: COMICS VS. THE BIBLE
Director, member of Monty Python and all around creative juggernaut Terry Gilliam is unique on this list for being one of the only celebrities who admitted to enjoying a Marvel movie, specifically Antman. During an interview on LiveTalksLA, Gilliam said that while he felt the movie was technically “brilliant” it was ultimately “predictable.”
That’s a reasonable enough complaint, right? It’s what he went on to say that landed him on this list. “I also worry when things become so repetitive, and now we’ve got to get all the Marvel universe dancing with each other, so Superman has now got to make love to Batman or something,” he said. “And these are the things that create that complete and hermetically sealed world, [and that] really bothers me, because the Bible is more interesting, and the stories are more surprising, and actually more human.” Wait, what?
9. RIDLEY SCOTT’S SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF
Ridley Scott, the visionary behind sci-fi classics like Alien and Blade Runner, seems to have a real ax to grind. During an interview with multiple press outlets Ridley was asked about the possibility of him ever doing a superhero movie and responded, “[I’ve been asked] several times, but I can’t believe in the thin, gossamer tight-rope of the non-reality of the situation of the superhero.”
However, unlike some of the other filmmakers on this list, Ridley Scott seemed aware of the irony of his statement and doubled down to take another potshot at superhero movies. “I’ve done that kind of movie,” he said. “Blade Runner really is a comic strip when you think about it; it’s a dark story told in an unreal world. You could almost put Batman or Superman in that world, that atmosphere, except I’d have a f****** good story, as opposed to no story!”
8. ROLAND EMMERICH VS. FUNNY COSTUMES (BECAUSE GERMANY?)
Given that Director Roland Emmerich is the King of the disaster film and one of the most successful Directors of all time at the box office, it’s not surprising he has some choice words for his caped competition. When a comparison was made between his movies and the superhero genre during an interview with The Guardian, Emmerich took offense, “When you look at my movies it’s always the regular Joe Schmo that’s the unlikely hero.”
However, what really seems to bug him about superhero movies aren’t the powers or the settings; it’s the costumes, “A lot of Marvel movies, they show people in funny suits running around. I don’t like people in capes. I find it silly when someone dons a superhero suit and flies. I don’t understand it. I grew up in Germany, that’s probably why.”
7. MEL GIBSON THINKS THEY COST TOO MUCH
After over a decade away from the spotlight, Mel Gibson put his career back on the map with 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge. The film was yet another successful directorial effort for Gibson, grossing over four times its $40 million budget. Maybe that’s why the massive budgets of most superhero movies are such a turn off to Gibson.
“I think there’s a lot of waste, but maybe if I did one of those things with the green screens I’d find out different,” he told Deadline. “I don’t know. Maybe they do cost that much. I don’t know. It seems to me that you could do it for less.” Gibson went on to ask what Warner Brothers was “admitting” to spending on Batman v. Superman, and upon learning the studio spent a whopping $250 million before marketing he simply said, “And it’s a piece of s***.”
6. CILLIAN MURPHY HATES SUPERPOWERS
Fans of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy may be surprised to learn that Cillian Murphy, the actor who portrayed Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. the Scarecrow, hates modern superhero movies. The reason? Super powers. During an interview with Vulture, Murphy followed up snarky comments like, “Have they exhausted every single comic book ever?” with an explanation of why the superhero movies he was in were, of course, the exception to the rule.
“I think they’re so grounded in a relatable reality,” he said. “Nobody in those films ever had a superpower. Do you know what I mean? It’s a slightly heightened level of storytelling, where New York is Gotham, and no one did anything magical. Batman in his movies just did a lot of pushups and was, like, British. So that’s what I loved about them.”
5. DAVID CRONENBERG THINKS BATMAN IS STUPID
Not everyone on this list is willing to give The Dark Knight trilogy the same level of credit, however. It should come as no surprise that an auteur like David Cronenberg isn’t exactly a fan of popcorn flicks. But not even the work of a Director he likes could win him over, “I don’t think they are making them an elevated art form. I think it’s still Batman running around in a stupid cape.”
Though he went on to praise Nolan’s films for their technical achievements, he was far less kind about the films themselves. “What he is doing is some very interesting technical stuff, which, you know, he’s shooting IMAX and in 3-D,” he said. “That’s really tricky and difficult to do. I read about it in American Cinematography Magazine, and technically, that’s all very interesting. The movies, to me, are mostly boring.”
4. LUC BESSON CALLS SUPERHERO MOVIES PROPAGANDA
Filmmaker Luc Besson is arguably best-known for his work in sci-fi on films like The Fifth Element, Lucy and most recently Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets. Though his latest movie was based on the classic French comic of the same name, Besson is apparently “totally tired” of superhero movies.
Speaking with CinePOP, Besson said that his primary issue with the films was their pro-American message. “But what bothers me most is it’s always here to show the supremacy of America and how they are great,” he said. “I mean, which country in the world would have the guts to call a film ‘Captain Brazil’ or ‘Captain France?’ I mean, no one! We would be like so ashamed and say, ‘No, we can’t do that.’ They can. They can call it ‘Captain America,’ and everybody thinks it’s normal. I’m not here for propaganda, I’m here to tell a story.”
3. WILLIAM FRIEDKIN LAMENTS
William Friedkin, the creative mind behind The Exorcist, has hated blockbuster Movies since the beginning. He once famously compared the success of Star Wars to the explosion of McDonald’s, “The taste for good food just disappeared… Everything has gone back towards a big sucking hole.”
So it should come as no surprise that he has a less than favorable opinion about superhero movies. In perhaps the most “grumpy old man” entry on this list, when speaking at the 2015 Champs Elysees Film Festival in Paris, Friedkin lamented that today, movies are, “all about Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Avengers… all kinds of stuff that I have no interest in seeing at all. Films used to be rooted in gravity. They used to be about things.” Or at least they used to be about things Friedkin wanted to see.
2. JODIE FOSTER AND SUPERHERO FRACKING
Jodie Foster is best-known for her roles in films like Taxi Driver and The Silence of the Lambs, but in recent years the legendary actress has made a name for herself as a director. During a recent interview with Radio Times about her work, Foster became the latest celebrity on this list to go after the superhero genre. Foster accused superhero movies of “ruining the viewing habits of the American population and then ultimately the rest of the world.”
Foster called the films “bad content,” and went as far as comparing them to fracking. “Going to the movies has become like a theme park,” she said. “Studios making bad content in order to appeal to the masses and shareholders is like fracking – you get the best return right now but you wreck the earth.”
1. ALEJANDRO INARRITU AND THE CULTURAL GENOCIDE
Anyone who saw Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2014 film Birdman could guess that the Director doesn’t think highly of superhero movies. Though he did say that he “sometimes enjoy[ed] them because they are basic and simple and go well with popcorn,” Iñárritu had some extremely harsh words to lob at the genre. During an interview with Deadline, Iñárritu called the films “poison” and “cultural genocide.”
“The problem is that sometimes they purport to be profound, based on some Greek mythological kind of thing,” he said. “And they are honestly very right-wing. I always see them as killing people because they do not believe in what you believe…If you observe the mentality of most of those films, it’s really about people who are rich, who have power, who will do the good, who will kill the bad.”
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