James Cameron Offers Marvel Criticism Aimed At Its Characters

Over the years as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the dominant force in pop culture, and at the theatrical box office, it’s become standard practice to ask any director or producer not involved in comic book movies what they think of comic book movies. We all know that Martin Scorsese doesn’t think Marvel movies are cinema but now James Cameron has joined the fray to say that the big problem is that the characters don’t have real relationships.

Speaking with the New York Times James Cameron says that having kids changed him a great deal, and that’s something that he wants to portray in his films. We know that Avatar: The Way of Water will see Jake and Neytiri, the main characters from the first film, as parents, and that’s apparently because Cameron wants to tell stories that other blockbuster franchises, like Marvel and DC, are not. Cameron explains…

When I look at these big, spectacular films — I’m looking at you, Marvel and DC — it doesn’t matter how old the characters are, they all act like they’re in college. They have relationships, but they really don’t. They never hang up their spurs because of their kids. The things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose? Those characters don’t experience it, and I think that’s not the way to make movies.

James Cameron is at least even in his criticism of comic book movies. He mentions Marvel by name but also DC when he says that the characters don’t really have serious relationships. Interestingly, Zoe Saldana, whose upcoming movies include the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise as well as Avatar, is part of the interview, but does not speak on this topic.  

At face value there is certainly some truth to what Cameron says here. If growing up and moving on from your life before because now you have kids, is part of what defines a character with relationships, then most Marvel and DC characters don’t have that. Some of them have children or interpersonal relationships that are core to their characterization, but most do not. That's not to say they are entirely without relationships, but that's not what the movies are about.

Of course, while there’s no argument that audiences might be able empathize better with a character who has relationships like this, that’s not to say that’s the only way to do it. Giving a character, as Cameron says, power, love, and purpose, is important, but that doesn’t mean giving them a family is the only way to achieve that. 

However, the fact that Avatar: The Way of Water will be a story of family does give James Cameron’s film a way to stand out compared to other major tentpole blockbusters that's not just about Avatar 2's impressive technology. This movie will be based in a family dynamic, superhero stories largely will not be, and fans can simply choose which story they’d rather see, or more than likely, see both, and decide which one is truly more meaningful for them. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.