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Spider-Man and Aquaman star Willem Dafoe doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him. He knew when he was asked about Martin Scorsese's comments on Marvel movies -- and the like -- that he was treading on troubled ground. But he's a candid guy with opinions of his own, and he sounds conflicted about the current state of the industry.
Some of what Willem Dafoe said will bug comic book movie fans, but he also said some things that I think most fans will agree with. There's plenty of common ground in this discussion. And as much as I love most superhero films, I think it's good for people in the industry like Dafoe to give it this kind of public tough love.
Willem Dafoe opened up on comic book movies during a talk at 92Y in NYC after a screening of his new film The Lighthouse. A fan helpfully taped part of his panel talk, where he commented on the kinds of superhero movies Martin Scorsese has been talking about. Here, Dafoe references director Sam Raimi's 2002 Spider-Man movie, with Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin:
Spider-Man came out in 2002, which isn't exactly the Dark Ages, but it was certainly before the current explosion of MCU and DCEU movies. Willem Dafoe returned for cameos in Spider-Man 2 in 2004 and Spider-Man 3 in 2007. He's spoken warmly about his Spider-Man role before, and even seemed kinda sorta open to playing the role again in the MCU.
Willem Dafoe was asked how he approaches superhero/villain characters, like Green Goblin in Spider-Man or his very different experience of making Aquaman:
It's clear he's one of those superhero movie actors who would rather be watching a movie like The Lighthouse. You may wonder why he would sign on for a 2018 movie like Warner Bros.' Aquaman if he felt the industry outgrew itself. He talked more about Aquaman, seeming to sign on for James Wan but also not quite playing the role he expected in the beginning:
Yes, that does seem to be the case with a lot of these big-budget movies. For example, the Avengers: Endgame writers have been talking about how many things were changed from the script phase to filming, reshoots, and then in editing. I can definitely see how someone might sign on for a certain role based on the script, or the pitch, and then they end up playing something completely different.
So Willem Dafoe has conflicted thoughts about superhero movies, but he does seem to think that with our current glut of choices -- including so much on TV and the new streaming wars -- that we'll all end up coming back to the cinema:
Finally, here's Willem Dafoe's take on superhero movies needing people to push the boundaries to move forward:
I think he did have some intelligent things to say about it, and this is a good debate for people to be having There is no one way to make a movie. Just look at Willem Dafoe's own eclectic filmography, from a black-and-white art house film like The Lighthouse and Edward Norton's Motherless Brooklyn to Spider-Man, Aquaman, John Wick, and even XXX: State of the Union although let's not talk about that.
Speaking of The Lighthouse, that movie co-stars the next Batman -- but Robert Pattinson's noir-driven movie sounds like it might be less of a big-budget spectacle like Willem Dafoe is talking/complaining about. Plus, Dafoe thinks Pattinson has the right asset for the job. Meanwhile, Aquaman 2 is set for release in 2022.