Not everyone is a fan of the superhero genre, which is in the middle of a boom the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Western’s heyday or the various scary movie crazes, that dominates the box office – and by “not everyone,” I mean the likes of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola – veteran and storied directors whose films are considered by many to be shining examples of high art.
This past march, the former director shared his thoughts on the super hero genre, revealing, “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema.”
“Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks,” Scorsese continued. “It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
But for every filmmaker obsessed with the 1970s and the French New Wave, there is someone who conversely enjoys the action and spectacle brought to us by names like Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg – a category of fan that Aquaman star Jason Momoa himself fits into.
In response to the criticism lodged by Scorsese that comic book movies are nothing but low-class fluff more in line with theme parks than art, the Aquaman star recently shared a variety of reasons for why he favors the genre which has become such a large part of his calling card in recent years.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Momoa first compared genre preferences to music tastes, asserting, “It’s like how people say that music is poppy and this music cool, but you know how hard it is just to get your music out there for people to hear? It’s all subjective. I try not to pick on anything.”
Momoa doesn’t judge, but he does believes comic books are like Greek mythology, as he further explained, “So, yeah, superhero movies are bubble gum, but they’re like Greek mythology: They have good and evil and heartbreaking moments.”
However, off-screen, there’s a more heartbreaking consideration: people losing their jobs if they stop making these blockbusters, as Momoa also shared his realization that said superhero films employ a lot of people plying a trade suited to fantasy epics.
“And, gosh, you’re taking away other art forms if you stop making them,” he added. “You’re taking away visual effects, you’re taking away what you can do with makeup.”
For the effects artists, the craft can be as personal as the most neorealist character study, and, likewise, Momoa thinks of Aquaman as an opportunity to make something personal and vision-fulfilling.
“I’m not someone who gets hired to play in a lot of cinema, but by being able to do a superhero movie, I can make a movie about something I really care about,” he said.
Momoa continued, “I have a vision for the whole totality of Aquaman. There are environmental issues that I get to put into it. So while you’re going, ‘Oh yeah, it’s just this popcorn movie,’ I’m like, ‘Well, I get to open people’s eyes to things that are important to me.”
Whether or not that’s a sign Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will be woke remains to be seen, but the sentiment that Marvel and DC’s brand of escapism has meaning to their respective fanbases is undeniable.
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