On the press tour for his new book “Cinema Speculation,” Quentin Tarantino has been vocal about his thoughts on the current state of Hollywood. Okay, to be fair: QT is always vocal about his thoughts on movies, Hollywood, and anything in between. But the director recently had choice words about Marvel movies and their impact on the industry. Now, it looks like a Marvel star has had enough of Tarantino’s comments.
Deadline reports that “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings” star Simu Liu fired back at Tarantino for his comments on the “Marvel-ization of Hollywood” with some words of his own on Twitter yesterday. So, what did Liu take umbrage with? Mainly, Tarantino’s criticism that actors who play Marvel heroes are not movie stars but instead mere stand-ins for popular franchise characters. And along the way, Liu fired a few shots at Martin Scorsese for his public criticism of Marvel movies, too.
“If the only gate to movie stardom came from Tarantino and Scorsese, I would never have had the opportunity to lead a $400 million plus movie,” said Liu in his first of two Tweets on the matter. “I am in awe of their filmmaking genius. They are transcendent auteurs. But they don’t get to point their nose at me or anyone.” It sounds like Liu takes Scorsese and Tarantino’s comments as a personal affront. But it’s troubling that Liu calls both directors “gatekeepers,” especially since Scorsese is anything but a gatekeeper when it comes to cinema. Look at Scorsese’s work through his World Cinema Project, his restoration archive, etc., and it’s easy to see how misguided Liu’s comments are here.
But Liu wasn’t finished. “No movie studio is over or ever will be perfect. But I’m proud to work with one that has made sustained efforts to improve diversity onscreen by creating heroes that empower and inspire people of all communities everywhere,” Liu continued in his second Tweet. “I loved the “Golden Age” too …but it was white as hell.” Interestingly, in his comments, Liu leans into issues of racial inclusion when neither Tarantino nor Scorsese touches upon that topic in their remarks about Marvel. Both directors vaunt Hollywood’s “Golden Age” not because of the race of the leading stars but because that era understood how to make films that consistently made their stories and their stars feel artistic and larger than life. Theirs is a critique of how Marvel films affect the art form of cinema (and celebrity), not a matter of the skin color of the stars on screen.
One wonders if Scorsese and Tarantino have a response to Liu’s comments, if any. For his part, Liu’s reaction to Tarantino’s recent criticism of Marvel sound off-base. But QT has been unsparing in his commentary on Marvel on his “Cinema Speculation” book tour. For example, he called directors of work on Marvel projects “hired hands” to the LA Times earlier this month. On top of that, in the same interview, Tarantino said that filmmakers today “can’t wait for the day” when superhero movies decline in popularity.
Then, more recently, on the 2 Bears, 1 Cave Podcast with Tom Segura, QT made the comments that irked Liu to publish his Tweets. “Part of the Marvel-ization of Hollywood is…you have all these actors who have become famous playing these characters,” Tarantino said on the podcast. “But they’re not movie stars. Right? Captain America is the star. Or Thor is the star. I mean, I’m not the first person to say that. I think that’s been said a zillion times…but it’s like, you know, it’s these franchise characters that become a star.” Again, Tarantino’s comments are about how Marvel movies diminish the power of movie stardom, not about the actors who portray superheroes in the MCU. Liu’s comments don’t match what QT (or Scorsese) says about Marvel’s adverse effects on the industry.
Later on the 2 Bears, 1 Cave Podcast, Tarantino said that while he was a Marvel fan growing up, he thinks the popularity of Marvel films today leaves little room for other types of movies to leave their mark. “They’re the only things that seem to generate any kind of excitement amongst a fan base or even like for the studio making them,” QT said. That sounds about right. Marvel movies may be inclusionary and cater to every demographic, but why do most recent MCU movies resemble one another in their CGI-saturated narrative blandness? It’s Marvel’s creative homogenization of the film industry that Tarantino and Scorsese have issues with. That’s what the two directors get at in their comments; and something that’s flown right over Simu Liu’s head.