During an interview with the Film Stage, actor Ethan Hawke discussed the quality of superhero movies and went on to disagree with the notion that Logan is a great film. In this Special Features-article, I want to discuss his quotes and give my own opinion about the Hawke quote and quotes like them.
To start with, let’s talk about the full quote in question. When the Film Stage reporter asked about other stories like Blaze (Hawke’s directorial effort from 2018, a country musician biopic), Hawke started to talk about many different things at once.
For one, he talked about how easy it is to make a movie nowadays, he went on to discuss opportunities for distribution, before he talked about how there are so many hidden gems that are slipping through the cracks, which led him back to a comment or two about the importance of film festivals. And that is when Hawke took a shot at superhero films:
“That’s why film festivals have become so important because you guys at film festivals are like curators of, like, what does the world need to be paying attention to. What should be seen? If we didn’t have these festivals, big business would crush all these smaller movies. Now we have the problem that they tell us Logan is a great movie. Well, it’s a great superhero movie. It still involves people in tights with metal coming out of their hands. It’s not Bresson. It’s not Bergman. But they talk about it like it is. I went to see Logan cause everyone was like, “This is a great movie” and I was like, “Really? No, this is a fine superhero movie.” There’s a difference but big business doesn’t think there’s a difference. Big business wants you to think that this is a great film because they wanna make money off of it.” – Ethan Hawke to the Film Stage.
So, let’s get two things out of the way before I talk about my own opinion. First, I really think you should follow the link to the full article quoted above. Many times people miss the full interview which may in many cases be very interesting.
Secondly, I want to say that Ethan Hawke is now and has always been one of my favorite actors. I think he is an artist and I think that he knows the acting craft impressively well. I love many of his films, some of which I think are masterpieces, and I look forward to seeing pretty much every film he is a part of.
Hawke’s involvement in The Purge and Sinister is what made me interested in those movies. Movies like the Before Trilogy and Dead Poets Society are some of my favorite films, and I’m one of the people who championed Boyhood as a truly extraordinary achievement back when it came out. I love Ethan Hawke’s work. Again, he is one of my favorite actors. His opinion of genre films won’t change my love of his work in film. Please understand that.
But the fact of the matter is that I disagree with him in the above quote. The problem is not that I am particularly protective of Logan specifically. You are, of course, allowed to like movies that I dislike, just like I can love a movie you hate. That’s not a problem for me.
My problem with the quote is that it reeks of film elitism and gatekeeping. Some might also call his comments about superhero films snobbish. I do believe that he just wants to point out that film festivals are important because they highlight what films, as he puts it, we ‘should be paying attention to,’ when major motion picture studios force blockbusters down our throats. I get that. I really do.
But the problem with his quote is that he dismisses Logan because it is a superhero movie. He seems to be able to acknowledge that it is a good ‘superhero movie’ by saying it is a ‘fine’ and ‘great’ example of the genre, but he also seems to conclude that Logan can’t be both a great superhero movie and a great film. He seems to say that Logan can’t be as good as Robert Bresson or Ingmar Bergman films simply because of its superhero elements. This is film gatekeeping. That is what bothers me about all of this.
I think this is the kind of thinking that inspires the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to create an award for ‘Best Popular Film.’ The notion that a film can’t be of a certain artistic quality because it is based on comic books does not make sense to me. Zack Snyder’s 300 is based on a Dark Horse comic book series. American Splendor is based on comic books. My Friend Dahmer is based on a graphic novel. James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta is based on a Vertigo graphic novel.
It isn’t all about men in superhero tights, and even if it were, does Hawke then also think that The Dark Knight is just a ‘good superhero movie,’ but not a great film? To me, a great film is a great film regardless of the machinations of the plot or the genre it comes from.
Furthermore, ‘big business’ didn’t say that Logan was a great movie, the vast majority of film critics did. Big business didn’t nominate Logan for an Oscar, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences did. Ultimately, I don’t think this is really a discussion of whether or not Logan is a great movie. Some great actors and filmmakers — like Ethan Hawke or Jodie Foster — are just defensive of the medium, and, in an effort to praise pictures of artistic quality, some great artists are dismissing some major motion pictures because they don’t fit the mold of classical filmmaking.
But, here’s the thing, this is just Hawke stating an opinion about how he feels big businesses are overselling their products as being ‘great films’. It is him arguing that there is a tendency to overpraise a certain genre. Even though I have expressed how I disagree with his comments, Hawke shouldn’t be criticized too much for having made them. It is just one man’s opinion. Hawke certainly didn’t ‘attack’ the genre and his comments, therefore, shouldn’t be read as one. That said, the defense rests.
SOURCES: The Film Stage.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.