Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige called out comic book movie detractors in a recent interview.
Feige and his MCU have collected plenty of critics over the past decade or so, as the comic book movie genre became the biggest money maker in movie theaters around the world.
Among these are some of the greatest living filmmakers around, with the likes of Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and Denis Villeneuve making their dismay known, even going as far as calling the entire genre "not cinema."
Feige and Marvel Studios brass have not remained silent on the subject, especially when it comes to the genre's severe lack of awards recognition, taking the opportunity to clap back and potentially legitimize the narrative milieu in the eyes of its doubters.
Kevin Fiege Claps Back at Haters
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige called out people who don't enjoy the comic book genre.
In an interview on the official Black Panther: Wakanda Forever podcast, Feige responded to people "who can’t get past a genre story" and simply write off anything within the superhero genre saying "No, not for me" simply because it is a comic book story:
"There were some people, who couldn’t get past a four-color, printed, two-dimensional story. You know, they just couldn’t do that. Just like today, dare I say it. The people who can’t get past a genre story or something that’s in space, or people who can breathe underwater. ’No, not for me.’”
Marvel Studio producer Nate Moore, who joined Feige on the podcast, chimed in as well, nothing that these detractors see these films as "a theme park" and not a movie.
This comment from Moore was in direct response to Martin Scorsese's thoughts on the genre from back in 2019. At the time, he told Empire Magazine (via ComicBook.com) that Marvel films were not cinema, instead comparing them to "well made...theme parks:"
“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. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
In the same episode, Feige went into what it has been like building a career on the back of heroes he grew up reading, lamenting that "every day is surreal," and that he is thankful that after 22 years of working in Hollywood, "audiences responded the way they have:"
“I think about that everyday in every aspect of what I’m lucky enough to do. Everyday is surreal and bringing these comic stories to life, again, which has now been a 22-year journey, just from when– longer, working in the early days of the first X-Men film. And so much of that time now, it was almost half my life ago, was spent looking at comics and dreaming, dare I say, ‘What if? What if we could make more X-Men movies? What if we could bring Spider-Man to the screen? What if we could eventually do the Avengers?’ And it’s fun that audiences responded the way they have, so that we can keep– and finally bringing Namor to the screen.”
According to Nate Moore, "the cuts are deeper than ever" in comic book movies:
“Yeah, it certainly seems like the cuts are deeper than ever. I mean, when I was a kid and it was Superman and it was Batman, and Spider-Man was coming in, and it was like, ‘Well, I guess we’ve made it guys, I guess that’s it.’ But, you know now that there’s a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and an Ant-Man movie, and people are like, ‘What is going on?’ And for me, it’s like, ‘Oh, these are all characters I lived with in my imagination for 40 years plus.’"
He said that it's now a genre with the ability to explore "great, fantastical ideas, big adventure, big characters, and themes:"
"But it just goes to show that, I think, comic storytelling, which was marginalized for a long time for a lot of reasons, is as valid as any form of storytelling if you take it seriously and see it for what it can be, which is a genre you can explore things with. Great, fantastical ideas, big adventure, big characters, and themes that are resonant. And the great news is, Marvel Comics, even back in the day thematically were talking about stuff–"
Marvel's Fight for Legitimacy
Of course, Kevin Feige and the MCU do not need to prove anything to anyone at this point.
Marvel Studios' story has become the biggest movie franchise of all time, raking over $28 billion at the box office across 30 films. And that number doesn't include the Disney+ subscriptions directly tied to people wanting to watch the latest Marvel Studios streaming series.
Despite this though, Feige, Moore, and other members of the Marvel Studios brain trust will continue their fight for perceived legitimacy.
Right now the biggest criticism lobbied at the genre is the whole "theme park" argument.
That these are not films, telling sprawling and important stories, but are more akin to theme park rides one might find at any one of Disney's parks.
But that could not be further from the truth. While the narrative structure of the MCU in particular is a little different than the contained stories found in a Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino film, that does not mean they do not have merit.
Just look at what Marvel Studios' latest big-screen blockbuster, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever did. Sure, it was a superhero story at heart, but it also served as a touching story about channeling one's grief and what one does with that energy.
Sounds a little more nuanced than a simple theme park ride.