Denis Villeneuve Criticizes Marvel Movies: 'Turned Us Into Zombies'

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Updated:
Denis Villeneuve Marvel Studios Avengers

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is beloved by many fans, but there are still those who have criticized the superhero franchise over the years. 

A prime candidate is Taxi Driver and The Wolf of Wall Street director Martin Scorsese. The veteran filmmaker's troubled history with Marvel began in 2019 when he stated that superhero movies are not cinema. Scorsese's comments served as a launchpad for a plethora of discussions on social media, with fans and industry insiders taking sides on the matter. 

The criticisms didn't stop there as Scorsese continued his derogatory comments against superhero movies, comparing these films to "theme parks." 

In surprising fashion, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn opened up about Scorsese's remarks, saying that he thinks “that it seems awful cynical that he would keep coming out against Marvel.”

Despite Gunn's comments, The Suicide Squad director then admitted in a separate interview that superhero movies are “mostly boring” to him now, noting that a lot of them fall under that category, but there are still people “trying to do different things [with them]."

Now, another veteran filmmaker has given his two cents toward the rise of Marvel movies. 

Dune Director Speaks Out Against Marvel 

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Dune director Denis Villeneuve sat down with El Mundo to give his honest take on Marvel movies. 

For context, these are translated questions and responses from Spanish to English. 

During the interview, the outlet pointed out that it is contradictory that blockbuster movies are the ones who want to become the conscience against the drift of capitalism. On the contrary, Villeneuve admitted that he thinks that big-budget movies are still artistically relevant, citing notable filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and Alfonso Cuaron: 

"Just think of the golden age of Hollywood to see that commercial films can make a different artistic proposal and, therefore, political. I have never felt like a loss or an impediment to have a generous budget to do what I wanted to do. Upside down. Who said that a movie on a big budget can't be artistically relevant at the same time? I am currently thinking of people like Christopher Nolan or Alfonso Cuarón."

When the interviewer cited Martin Scorsese's comments about the idea that superhero films are not cinema, Villeneuve agreed to the former's sentiment, saying that "these types of movies have turned [the audience] into zombies a bit" due to its "cut and paste" formula: 

"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. Perhaps these types of movies have turned us into zombies a bit ... But big and expensive movies of great value there are many today. I don't feel capable of being pessimistic at all."

What's Up With Marvel Movies and Veteran Directors?

Denis Villeneuve's comments about the "cut and paste" formula of Marvel movies could allude to the idea that heroes always end up defeating the villains before the credits roll. However, it's worth pointing out that Marvel Studios has been expanding the superhero genre by blending it with other elements that would make it unique. 

During the Infinity Saga, there was a wide array of MCU movies infused with other themes. For example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a political thriller, Ant-Man is a heist film with family elements, and Avengers: Infinity War pushed the limits of the genre by letting the villain win for a change. 

The trend continued in Phase 4 while also expanding its reach on the small screen. Black Widow is a spy espionage film with a dark family story, WandaVision took a risk by showcasing a sitcom-inspired plot, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings did a deep dive into mystical creatures while featuring a kaiju-sized showdown in its final battle. 

This goes to show that Marvel is making an effort to continue taking risks and not rely on the usual superhero tropes. 

It remains to be seen if Villeneuve will clarify his remark against Marvel movies in the future, but it should be noted that this is the director's opinion of the current superhero film landscape. Still, the Dune director's comments will definitely spark another round of debate online, with fans and critics each taking sides once again. 

- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.