Actor Lupita Nyong’o weighs in on the raging debate regarding Marvel movies and their effect on the quality of the movie industry. The star originally began her career behind the camera working on several productions to include The Constant Gardner. Shortly after graduating from Yale, Nyong’o landed her breakthrough role as the slave Patsey in Steve McQueen’s epic 12 Years A Slave, earning her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She went on to star in such popular films as Queen of Katwe, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, and Black Panther. Nyong’o is set to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe next month in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Since the MCU significantly rose in popularity following The Avengers, members of the film community have debated the art of these massive tent pole films and how they affect the quality of cinema. Following the release of the MCU’s highest-grossing entry, Avengers: Endgame, legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese stated that superhero movies were not real cinema and likened them to theme park rides. The director later clarified his comments, but the damage was already done with the debate quickly spreading throughout the media.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Nyong’o shares her thoughts on how Marvel’s superhero films affect the industry. She finds that if certain media resonates with an audience to generous degrees, then that media should be recognized as something significant. Read what Nyong’o says below:
“It becomes a philosophical question about what is art and what is its purpose. I believe that art plays a role in moving the people that experience it, and a lot of people are moved by Marvel. Is you being moved by this thing less important than me being moved by Picasso?
“I think to be culturally prosperous, to be artistically prosperous as a people, is to have options. In Kenya, sugar was sugar, it was brown or it was white. You come to the [United States], and a whole section in the supermarket is dedicated to sugars. So many different sugars. That is a symbol of prosperity, when you have options. So I personally love a good Marvel movie, but it doesn’t take me away from really wanting the little character-driven film. I believe in the fight for those things to be kept alive because the one thing we always want, the ultimate privilege, is choice.”
Is The MCU Hurting The Movie Industry?
Nyong’o recognizes the subjectivity of art and asserts that there are positives to be found in having options for moviegoers at the cinema. In the same year that Avengers: Endgame grossed over $2 billion worldwide, Bong Joon-Ho released Parasite, a character-driven thriller about a family of grifters that wowed both critics and audiences. It proved to be a relative success at the box office and also made history by taking home the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the world of the formulaic superhero movie, it is possible for smaller, original movies to succeed as well. However, the debate appears to have shifted from a focus on the quality of the films to how massive box office returns have affected the type of films that are given a theatrical release as studios grow more wary of taking risks.
Scorsese recently made headlines with his comments again, this time criticizing the industry’s obsession with box office numbers. Claiming that the issue began in the ’80s, the director asserts that today’s focus on money alone is a detriment to Hollywood. With the advent of streaming, films that perhaps wouldn’t return large box office figures are dumped on streaming services, regardless of their quality. With the way audiences view movies being ever-changing, perhaps people should take a cue from Nyong’o and embrace the diversity of choice and seek what resonates, whether they be Marvel spectacle or independent character-driven Korean thrillers.
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