Jennifer Aniston And 12 Other Celebs Who Shaded The MCU's "Artistic Value," And 13 More Who Fought Back

·18 min read

These days, it feels like every big movie coming out of Hollywood is a Marvel movie. While a lot of people — me included! — would rather spend our movie ticket money to watch comic book characters flying around in costumes than the latest "Oscar bait," plenty of others feel like the theater marquees are oversaturated with Avengers-adjacent titles.

NBC / Via media.giphy.com

Sure, when your tiny local theater really only gets the big movies, it would be nice to have options beyond Marvel or another Despicable Me sequel, but some people take it further and criticize the inherent "artistic value" of Marvel movies. Others, however, are quick to defend the value of cinema taken from comic book pages.

Marvel Studios / Via giphy.com

(Of course, there are plenty of people with valid criticisms of the MCU outside of its artistic value, such as its lack of diversity or how the studio seriously overworks VFX artists.)

Here are 13 actors and directors who criticized Marvel movies for not being "cinema:"

1.Jennifer Aniston said that "big Marvel movies" are "diminishing" the quality of movies.

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Leon Bennett / Getty Images

She told Variety, "It wasn’t until the last couple of years when these streaming services were just sort of exploding with this amount of quality that I actually started to think, 'Wow, that’s better than what I just did.' And then you’re seeing what’s available out there and it’s just diminishing and diminishing in terms of, its big Marvel movies."

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David Livingston / Getty Images

She continued, "I think we would so love to have the era of Meg Ryan come back. I just think it would be nice to go into a movie theater, sit cozy. I think we should have a resurgence. Let’s get the Terms of Endearment back out there. You know, Heaven Can Wait, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Goodbye Girl."

2.Martin Scorsese tried to watch Marvel movies, but he can't see them because "that’s not cinema."

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Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

He told Empire, "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."

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Michael Kovac / Getty Images for AARP

"It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being," he said.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, he doubled down on his stance that Marvel movies aren't "cinema," but he added, "The fact that the films themselves don’t interest me is a matter of personal taste and temperament. I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself."

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Mike Coppola / FilmMagic / Via Getty

He continued, "But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies — of what they were and what they could be — that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri."

3.However, while accepting his Prix Lumière, Francis Ford Coppola said, "Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is."

Francis
Daniele Venturelli / Daniele Venturelli / Getty Images

"When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration," he also said.

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Daniele Venturelli / Daniele Venturelli / Getty Images

He continued, "I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again."

He also told GQ, "There used to be studio films… now there are Marvel pictures. And what is a Marvel picture? A Marvel picture is one prototype movie that is made over and over and over and over and over again to look different."

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David Livingston / Getty Images

4.Ethan Hawke — who played Arthur Harrow in Marvel's Moon Knight — supported both directors' criticisms of the MCU and appreciates "the elder statesmen of the [film] community reminding people not to set the bar too low."

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Marvel Studios / Disney+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

He told Indiewire, "If people like Scorsese and Coppola don’t come out to tell their truth about how there are more important things than making money, who’s going to?"

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Cbs Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images

He continued, "It’s easy for them, but it needs to be somebody in the community saying, 'Hey, everybody, this is not Fanny and Alexander. If you keep reviewing these movies that are basically made for 14-year-olds like they’re Fanny and Alexander or Winter Light, then who the hell’s going to get to make Winter Light?"

He's also "not interested in long-term commitments" when it comes to Marvel.

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Nbc / Nathan Congleton / NBC via Getty Images

He said, "I protected myself because I didn’t know what it was going to be. I just wanted to know what that sandbox was like. And it’s what young people are watching, so why are we going to sit there and tell them it’s not good?"

5.Jodie Foster also shares the sentiment that "going to the movies has become like a theme park" because of franchises like Marvel.

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She told the Radio Times, "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."

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"It’s ruining the viewing habits of the American population and then ultimately the rest of the world," she said.

6.Emily Blunt — who was previously forced to turn down the role of Black Widow due to contractual obligations — called the superhero genre "exhausted."

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She told The Howard Stern Show, "We are inundated — it’s not only all the movies, it’s the endless TV shows as well."

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She added, "It’s not to say that I’d never want to play one — it would just have to be something so cool and like a really cool character, and then I’d be interested."

7.When it comes to starring in a Marvel movie, Jason Statham believes that "any guy can do it" — and he has "no ambition" of being that guy. He also thinks the franchise is too reliant on green screens, stunt doubles, and big budgets.

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David Crotty / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

He told I 400 Calci, "I could take my grandma and put her in a cape, and they’ll put her on a green screen, and they’ll have stunt doubles come in and do all the action."

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Vcg / Visual China Group via Getty Images

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed that the actor put his money where his mouth is by politely turning down a part Marvel offered him.

8.Sally Field, who played Aunt May, thought it was "really hard to find a three-dimensional character in [The Amazing Spider-Man ]."

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Jamie Trueblood/©Columbia Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

She told The Howard Stern Show, "You work it as much as you can, but you can't put ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag."

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Araya Doheny / FilmMagic / Via Getty

9.Simon Pegg said that comic book movies are "a kind of dumbing down" because they're "taking our focus away from real-world issues" and that the result of "consuming very childish things — comic books, superheroes" is an "infantilized" audience."

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Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images

He told the Radio Times, "Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about...whatever. Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot."

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Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

10.Rose McGowan said that superhero movies are "killing film," and she doesn't "give a fuck if there's a female superhero."

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John Phillips / Getty Images

In Facebook comments she shared on her Instagram, she wrote, "What's wrong with superhero movies is they lack complexity, story development, character development, freedom of thought — it's lazy and average male filmmaking."

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David M. Benett / Dave Benett / Getty Images for NETFLIX

In the caption, she wrote, "I want intelligence, daring, work that drives society forward. I want a mirror, not every cliché regurgitated ad nauseum. From Scarface, to Lebowski, to M, to Anchor Man, to the sublime Carol, to Chinatown, to Sullivan's Travels. Let's bring complexity back..."

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David M. Benett / Dave Benett / Getty Images for Veuve Clicquot

She added, "Open up the director's chair and it'll change...think of all the stories not on screen because women are blocked by the status quo."

11.Sean Penn disparaged MCU movies as "just razzle-dazzle, Cirque de Soleil movies."

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He also mourned "how much it’s taken up the space and claimed so much time in the careers of so many talented people."

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12.Expressing his distaste for Marvel roles, True Detective actor, Stephen Dorff, said he felt "embarrassed" for Scarlett Johansson because she starred in Black Widow.

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He told the Independent, "I still hunt out the good [shit] because I don’t want to be in Black Widow. It looks like garbage to me. It looks like a bad video game."

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Daniele Venturelli / Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival

He continued, "I’m sure [Scarlett] got paid five, seven million bucks, but I’m embarrassed for her. I don’t want to be in those movies. I really don’t. I’ll find that kid director that’s gonna be the next Kubrick and I’ll act for him instead."

13.And finally, I, Daniel Blake director, Ken Loach, views Marvel movies as a "market exercise" that have "nothing to do with the art of cinema."

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He told Sky News, "They're made as commodities like hamburgers, and it's not about communicating and it's not about sharing our imagination. It's about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation."

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Sopa Images / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Quoting poet William Blake, he added, "When money is discussed — art is impossible."

And now, here are 13 celebs who defended the artistic value of Marvel movies:

14.Elizabeth Olsen feels frustrated when other people make Marvel movies "seem like a lesser type of art."

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Disney+/Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

She told the Independent, "I’m not saying we’re making indie art films, but I just think it takes away from our crew, which bugs me."

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Nbc / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

She continued, "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."

She said, "From an actor’s point of view, whatever, I get it; I totally understand that there’s a different kind of performance that’s happening. But I do think throwing Marvel under the bus takes away from the hundreds of very talented crew people. That’s where I get a little feisty about that."

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Noam Galai / Getty Images for Disney

15.Tom Holland used his experience in movies both in the MCU and apart from it to describe why he thinks of them as "real art."

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Matt Kennedy / © Sony Pictures Releasing / © Marvel Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

He told the Hollywood Reporter, "I’ve made Marvel movies and I’ve also made movies that have been in the conversation in the world of the Oscars, and the only difference, really, is one is much more expensive than the other."

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Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images for SiriusXM

"But the way I break down the character, the way the director etches out the arc of the story and characters — it’s all the same, just done on a different scale," he continued.

He also said, "You can ask [Martin] Scorsese 'Would you want to make a Marvel movie?' But he doesn’t know what it’s like because he’s never made one."

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Marc Piasecki / WireImage / Via Getty

He added, "You can also ask Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr. or Scarlett Johansson — people who have made the kinds of movies that are 'Oscar-worthy' and also made superhero movies — and they will tell you that they’re the same, just on a different scale. And there’s less Spandex in 'Oscar movies.'"

16.Samuel L. Jackson reminded critics that "all movies are valid."

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel / courtesy Everett Collection

He told the Times, "Some go to the cinema to be moved dearly. Some like superheroes. If somebody has more butts on seats, it just means your audience is not as broad."

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He continued, "There are people who have had successful careers but nobody can recite one line of their parts. I’m the guy who says [shit] that’s on a T-shirt."

17.Likewise, Natalie Portman said that "there's room for all types of cinema" and "there’s not one way to make art."

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Jasin Boland / © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

She told the Hollywood Reporter, "I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life."

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18.Chris Evans believes that the "caliber of talent" the MCU attracts is "a testament to those movies."

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Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

He told the Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast, "Big-budget movies with big paychecks are always available, and some of these actors don’t touch them. To get the people they get at Marvel shows what goes into it, that it is more than just a theme park ride."

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He said, "We may be a little bit too accustomed to the structure now... But I really do think they stand apart."

19.Paul Rudd thinks Marvel counts as cinema, but he's "not insulted by anybody saying anything."

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Ben Rothstein /© Marvel /© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

He told The Howard Stern Show, "Ultimately, you really care about relationships with people. It isn't all just special effects-driven."

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Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney

"You wanna see people and human behavior and talking to each other," he said.

"In Ant-Man, I have a whole relationship with my daughter and the human struggles of being a superhero...I think we're trying to deal with human issues and things that are relatable that are not just rides," he said.

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Zade Rosenthal/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

20.Nicolas Cage has personal connections to both sides of the argument. He starred in Marvel's Ghost Rider (2007), and he's also the nephew of MCU critic, Francis Ford Coppola. However, he doesn't "understand the conflict" or "agree with [the critics] on that perception or opinion."

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Columbia / courtesy Everett Collection

He told GQ, "I think that the movies that I make, like Pig or Joe, are not in any kind of conflict with Marvel movies. I mean, I don't think the Marvel movie had anything to do with...the $30 to $50 million budget movie. I think movies are in good shape. If you look at Power of the Dog, or if you look at Spencer, or any of Megan Ellison's movies. I think that there's still Paul Thomas Anderson."

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Randy Holmes / ABC via Getty Images

He continued, "Marvel has done a really excellent job of entertaining the whole family. They put a lot of thought into it. I mean, it's definitely had a big progression from when I was doing the first two Ghost Rider movies. Kevin Feige, or whoever is behind that machine, has found a masterful way of weaving the stories together and interconnecting all the characters."

He said, "What could be wrong with wholesome entertainment that is appealing to the parents and the children, and gives people something to look forward to? I just, I don't see what the issue is."

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21.Citing the popular film genres of the past, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn said that "superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers."

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On Instagram, he said, "Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful. Like westerns and gangster movies (and before that, just MOVIES), not everyone will be able to appreciate them, even some geniuses. And that’s okay."

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Rodin Eckenroth / WireImage / Via Getty

22.Similarly, Kevin Feige told the Guardian, "The western had a good 40-year run and still pops up occasionally, so as long as they're done well, I think they'll be around for a long time."

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Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images

He continued, "As long as they're all fresh and unique I think they'll work."

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23.Karen Gillan thinks it's "a little unfair to strip [Marvel filmmakers] of the title of artist" because "the filmmakers [she's] worked with on these films are real artists, and they express themselves through the movies."

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Jay Maidment/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

She told Sky News, "I would say art is subjective, and so it is artistic to make a big project superhero film for sure — it's just a different type of art."

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Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney

24.At the Wall Street Journal's Tech Live, former Disney CEO and current chairperson Bob Iger asked, "When Francis [Ford Coppola] uses the words, 'those films are despicable,' to whom is he talking?" then listed several prominent Marvel executives, directors, and stars.

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Karwai Tang / WireImage / Via Getty

He said, "Frankly, the motion picture distribution business or the theatrical exhibition business worldwide has relatively thin margins. When those theaters run movies, not just like ours because there are other blockbusters out there too, they do exceedingly well for them and they make a lot of money on them. That actually gives them the ability to run other films that might not be as successful, but there are people in different places that want to see them."

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He also added that he finds the criticisms "disrespectful" to the people making the MCU movies.

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Taylor Hill / WireImage / Via Getty

25.Robert Downey Jr. said he appreciates the criticism because "we need all of the perspectives so we can come to center and move on," but saying Marvel isn't cinema makes "no sense" to him.

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / courtesy Everett Collection

He told The Howard Stern Show, "There’s a lot to be said about how these genre movies — and I was happy to be a part of the 'problem,' if there is one — denigrated the form of cinema."

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Tristar Media / WireImage / Via Getty

"When you come in like a stomping beast and you eliminate the competition in such a demonstrative way, it’s phenomenal," he said.

26.And finally, Clerks director Kevin Smith told Forbes, "You're asking a guy who made Goodfellas what he thinks about Spider-Man, what do you think you're going to get? He's a very serious filmmaker, and he's a man who's of a certain age and stuck in his ways. You should not be surprised that's his response...But it doesn't take away from your enjoyment of the thing."

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Jason Laveris / FilmMagic / Via Getty

He continued, "Guess what? For every old filmmaker who's like, 'I don't get it,' there's a bunch of young filmmakers who are like, 'I get it and I want to do it.' We don't have to ostracize the people that maybe don't get or aren’t into the same movies we are."

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Jim Bennett / Getty Images for Museum of Pop C

He also advised his fellow filmmakers to either redirect away from questions about comic book movies or only give positive responses. He said, "They have people on the internet tearing down Martin Scorsese’s body of work because of what he said about comic books. You want to avoid that sort of thing? Just give them a salute and move on. They're movies just like any other movies, for heaven's sake."

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Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images

Now it's your turn! Do you think Marvel movies are "cinema" or just a cash grab? Share your thoughts in the comments!