His take isn’t new but Avatar director and veteran auteur James Cameron remarked again that he doesn’t think Marvel films are as epic as they try to be, no matter how popular they are.
In a new edition of Variety’s Directors on Directors series, Cameron had a long discussion with Dune director Denis Villeneuve, talking about everything from their respective oeuvre’s to what actually makes a film epic.
Unsurprisingly, Cameron believes Villeneuve’s adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel achieves an epic scale comparable to a David Lean picture like Lawrence of Arabia and the work of Peter Jackson, particularly Lord of the Rings.
“The thing that strikes me about ‘Dune’ is that it’s truly epic,” Cameron explained. He would then clarify what he means by “epic.”
“When I use the word ‘epic,’ I’m using it in a very specific way, meaning like a David Lean film, or to a very large extent like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films,” he said, before commenting on why Marvel movies don’t count under his definition.
“But when I think of films that have epic events in them, like let’s say a Marvel Universe film where whole cities get destroyed and so on, they don’t feel epic to me,” Cameron added.
He also detailed that Villeneuve has a way with “the vocabulary, of actual epic filmmaking” through patience with time and music cues.
Villeneuve responds his pace and framing arise from a desire ”to bring back humanity to its right position in the ecosystem, like in the book where the humans are not in control of nature.”
To do this, he said he tapped into lessons he learned about desolate landscapes when filming documentaries near the North Pole in Canada.
“It was a very important lesson for me, how to listen to nature and the power of nature in order to create cinema,” Villeneuve stated. “That’s part of my, let’s say, film school.”
Reality is what inspires Villeneuve and he made it clear to Cameron he can’t work totally against green screens or in a virtual world through CGI, like his counterpart can when making Avatar.
Villeneuve says he needs his films to be grounded in realism if they are going to work. “When I look at ‘Avatar,’ it is so exotic. I was going in a different direction, which is something more familiar,” he began.
“It’s not better or worse, it’s just a different feeling that I was looking for,” he continued. “I wanted to bring Arrakis closer to us, because it meant that the audience will have a sensation of realism to therefore be more touched by Paul’s journey.”
Previous comments by Villeneuve demonstrate he is of the opinion Marvel movies don’t have the same power because their formula has become predictable and dulled the sensibilities of the audience.
“Perhaps the problem is that we are in front of too many Marvel movies that are nothing more than a ‘cut and paste’ of others,” Villeneuve said to El Mundo in September, adding they may “have turned us into zombies a bit.”
He doubled down when spoke to French publication Premier in another recent interview. “If we’re talking about Marvel, the thing is, all these films are made from the same mold,” said Villeneuve. “Some filmmakers can add a little color to it, but they’re all cast in the same factory. It doesn’t take anything away from the movies, but they are formatted.”
Villeneuve and Cameron are joined by Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola among the voices who view Marvel films as mediocre, processed product akin to theme park attractions.
Undeterred by this, audiences are flocking to Marvel’s newest record-breaking release, Spider-Man: No Way Home, so the craze isn’t over yet.