Fans were surprised when they found out that Ethan Hawke joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe earlier this year with the Dinsey+ series Moon Knight. Hawke, who played the villainous cult leader Arthur Harrow, has been critical of the superhero genre for the past few years, but it is not for the same old-man-yells-at-the-sky reason we're used to hearing.

Hawke loves every kind of movie and doesn’t think there is a difference between "high art" and "low art." In the era of filmmaking when studios keep making big-budget movies that are safe bets, Hawke finds it challenging for filmmakers and actors to explore complex characters in a unique and experimental way. 

In an interview with IndieWire, Hawke said that it is not “stuck up” that critics think of comic book films as if they are art films.

“It needs to be somebody in the community saying, ‘Hey, everybody, this is not Fanny and Alexander,’” Hawke said, noting that he doesn’t mind directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola being critical of superhero movies.

“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?” Hawke said. 

Superhero movies have become an odd commodity in cinema. The comics they are based on are essentially made for children to find entertainment in costumed heroes fighting costumed bad guys, but the films have to lean into a dark and gritty style to appeal to those who are buying the tickets to see the films and review them. When the MCU found the formula that worked for their films, they stuck with it and created carbon copies that promised to always do well in the theaters. 

Why create something new and experimental when safe promises to make back the money spent? 

“I appreciate the elder statesmen of the community reminding people not to set the bar too low,” Hawke adds, explaining why some established directors are critical of the genre. “I know it makes some people think they’re stuck up, but they’re not stuck up.” 

Ethan_hawke_in_moon_knight'Moon Knight'Credit: Disney Platform Distribution

As for his own experience working in the MCU, Hawke said the studio gave him and his co-star Oscar Isaac the freedom needed to shape their performances. The actor remains unsure if directors in the MCU get as much freedom as the actors. 

“That group of people [at Marvel] is extremely actor-friendly. They might not be director-friendly, and that could be what Scorsese and Coppola are talking about,” Hawke said. “Feige understood the algorithm there, so they’re extremely respectful towards the process. The best thing about Moon Knight for me was Oscar’s performance. It’s a gonzo thing that happens to have a giant budget—a pretty out-there performance.”

Hawke is a master filmmaker who can understand and adapt to the ever-changing industry without losing what he values. It’s important to look at the landscape of filmmaking and understand why it is the way it is, rather than dismissing what’s popular. 

We can still enjoy Marvel’s movies and shows—I know I particularly loved Sam Raimi's campy-horror direction for Doctor Stranger and the Multiverse of Madness—but we have to show up and support the films that we do value to show the industry that we do want something with a little more risk. 

Could the MCU become more director-friendly as it finds its footing in its next phase? Let us know what you think in the comments below! 

Source: IndieWire