Actors who have criticized the MCU

These days, everyone from Oscar winners to action stars to people who aren't used to being in films that show outside art houses is popping up in Marvel movies, and it feels like just about everyone is in love with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

That isn't really the case. Plenty of actors have complaints with superhero movies in general — and Marvel in particular. Some have pledged never to get within a mile of a Marvel movie casting, some take issue with Marvel's representation of the under-represented, some actually blame Marvel and the makers of other superhero flicks for political and social problems, a few worked for Marvel and were less than pleased with the experience, and some seem to have a personal axe to grind whether they feel like admitting it or not. 

Regardless of their reasons, a number of actors have publicly criticized the MCU, and with Marvel Studios not appearing to slow down any time soon, they're likely to give these actors — and more — plenty of future reasons to complain.

Simon Says

In 2015, Simon Pegg incensed geeks everywhere by trashing science fiction and comic book movies, saying society was being "infantilized" by superhero movies and that it was "taking our focus away from real-world issues."

Pegg called out Avengers: Age of Ultron specifically, saying that films used to give us "challenging, emotional journeys" but "Now we're walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk had a fight with a robot."

Dude. That wasn't a robot. That was a guy in a suit. Try to keep up.

A little bit less than a year earlier, Pegg had another bone to pick with Marvel: the departure of Edgar Wright from Marvel's Ant-Man. Pegg and Wright are friends and were instrumental in building each others' careers — working together on the TV show Spaced and the films Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz, and The World's End. After Pegg's departure from Ant-Man, Pegg took to Twitter and called Wright and Joe Cornish's original script "Daring, fun, and hugely exciting. Shame we won't see it."

It may not be fair to imply that Pegg's criticisms of Marvel were part of a personal grudge, but considering Pegg's comments about comic book movies "dumbing us down" came a little over a month before the release of Peyton Reed's Ant-Man, it's tough to not see a connection. 

Pegg's work on "challenging, emotional journeys" after his comments about spectacle and science fiction films "infantilizing" society include Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the video game Lego Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Trek: BeyondThe Cloverfield ParadoxReady Player OneMission: Impossible — Fallout, and the upcoming comedy-horror Slaughterhouse Rulez.

Marvel is fracking horrible

The Avengers and their ilk may save the world on the screen, but according to Jodie Foster, when it comes to the hearts and minds of audiences, they do the exact opposite. Foster told Radio Times she had no interest in directing superhero movies, and she compared Marvel and DC's films to plundering the planet.

"Studios making bad content in order to appeal to the masses and shareholders is like fracking," Foster said. "You get the best return right now but you wreck the earth." She went on to say that such movies were "ruining the viewing habits of the American population and ultimately the rest of the world."

James Gunn — writer/director of both of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy films as well as of the upcoming third installment — responded to Foster's comments on Twitter. He admitted her point of view had merits, since "most studio franchise films are somewhat soulless." But he rejected the notion that spectacle and depth couldn't be found in the same film. 

"Creating spectacle films that are innovative, humane, and thoughtful," Gunn said, "is what excites me about this job."

Spider-Man elected Trump

In May 2017, comedian and Real Time host Bill Maher used his "New Rule" segment to put the responsibility for Donald Trump's presidential election win at the doorstep of Hollywood's superheroes. 

He started off poking fun at Hollywood for saturating theaters and television screens with superheroes, saying "You can go ahead and make every TV show and movie about the exact same thing but if you do, you can't call the newspaper that covers that industry Variety."

"[S]uperhero movies imprint this mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny," Maher explained, "and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a…raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses."

Maher went on to give President Trump the superhero name "Orange Sphincter," while joking about Trump's allies Boy Wonder (a.k.a. Paul Ryan), Stingy Mutant Turtle (a.k.a. Mitch McConnell), and Captain Buzzkill (a.k.a. Vice President Mike Pence). Orange Sphincter's arch-nemesis, said Maher, was "Crooked Hillary and her sidekick Private Server."

Whitewashing

In 2016, when it was announced Tilda Swinton was cast as Stephen Strange's mentor the Ancient One in the Marvel Studios adaptation of Doctor Strange, veteran actor and vocal progressive George Takei wasn't the first person to accuse the studio of "whitewashing," but his voice was one of the loudest. 

When Doctor Strange co-writer C. Robert Cargill responded to the criticism, he said the choice to cast a Celtic woman was made to avoid the risk of angering Chinese audiences. He called the original comic book conception of the Ancient One "a racist stereotype" and went on to say that China's rule over Tibet further complicated things. "He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he's Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people." 

Takei didn't buy any of it. 

In a Facebook post, he wrote, "You cast a white actress so you wouldn't hurt sales…in Asia?" and called Cargill's comments "backpedaling" and "cringeworthy." Takei went on to respond to fan comments, and to explain exactly why he didn't believe Cargill's explanation. He said Marvel already diffused any possible backlash over the "Tibetan question" by putting the Ancient One's home not in Tibet, but Nepal. 

"It wouldn't have mattered to the Chinese government by that point whether the character was white or Asian," argued Takei. "It was already in another country."

Where's Black Widow?

There's been plenty of talk for some years now about the possibility of a Black Widow film. Particularly since Scarlett Johansson got much more time to on screen in 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If and when Johansson finally gets to star in her own solo Black Widow, for Jessica Chastain — who will be starring in 2019's X-Men: Dark Phoenix – it won't be soon enough.

In August 2014, while speaking to TheWrap about women having difficulty finding good roles in Hollywood, Chastain singled out Johansson's Black Widow as an example of a powerful female character and said the fact that there was no solo film in the works made no sense.

"I don't understand it, why is it taking so long for this?" Chastain wondrered, pointing out that Lucy — in which Johansson starred as a woman whose abrupt brain expansion grants her incredible powers — beat out Dwayne Johnson's Hercules on its opening weekend by a wide margin. "To me, it's a no-brainer," Chastain said. "You want to make money, put Scarlett Johansson in a superhero movie!"

While there's still no firm word on a Black Widow flick, we now know Marvel will be releasing its first female-led solo superhero movie with Captain Marvel in 2019 starring Brie Larson.

Darlene Vader

Shortly after the release of Captain America: Civil War, Shane Black — director and co-writer of Iron Man 3told Uproxx his film's villain was originally meant to be a woman, but Marvel told him that couldn't happen because toy sales would suffer.

In response Stephen Colbert called out Marvel on The Late Show, saying the absence of female characters in Marvel's films made the MCU "kind of a sausage fest."

Colbert's criticism of Marvel and Hollywood was more lighthearted than stinging. He joked about owning action figures for Hannah and Her Sisters and Sophie's Choice when he was younger, along with claiming Darth Vader of Star Wars was originally meant to be "Darlene Vader."

He finished by asking why Fantastic Four's villain had to be a man. "They had better fix this in the next Fantastic Four movie," he said. "And, there had better not be another Fantastic Four movie."

Where's S.H.I.E.L.D.?

While there are a number of stories about actors who ultimately regretted working for Marvel after their films had been released, you don't often hear about someone still working for Marvel taking shots at the MCU. In May 2016 Chloe Bennet, better known as Daisy from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. broke the mold.

During a Q&A at Wizard World Des Moines, Bennet expressed frustration towards the Powers That Be at Marvel Studios. "People who make movies for Marvel, why don't you acknowledge what happens on our show?" Bennet said in response to fan questions. "Why don't you guys go ask them that? 'Cause they don't seem to care!"

She spoke with disappointment over the cancellation of Agent Carter and the lack of any of the MCU's movie stars in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s episodes. "I am kind of, like, ready for Steve Rogers to make an appearance on our show," Bennet said. "I'd be ok with that. And like, where's Romanoff? Where's the Avengers?"

When asked which MCU film star she would most want on an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Bennet expressed interest in Chris Hemsworth as Thor, as well as a potential Daisy/Thor romance, before assuring Austin Nichols — Bennet's boyfriend at the time — she was "just kidding."

Wait. How Long?

There will always be grumblings from some comic book fans that what's on the screen is too different from the comics. For example, take Thor: The Dark World. In Marvel's comics, the face of Thor villain Malekith is neatly split down the middle — one half black, one half blue. This was paid tribute to somewhat in the film when lightning from Thor's hammer blackened half of Malekith's face, but he still didn't look much like the villain from the source material. While you might not often hear from actors in comic book movies siding with comic book purists, Christopher Eccleston's probably would've preferred a more faithful version — but not for the same reasons as hardcore Thor fans.

On a 2017 episode of The Graham Norton Show, Eccleston said Marvel was dishonest with him about the grueling makeup routine he'd endure for each day of filming. According to Eccleston, each day's makeup process was a whole day's worth of work before he even got on camera. "The first couple of days it was about seven hours, eight hours," Eccleston told Norton. "I think we got it down to six and a half … They never, ever let me know that there'd be that amount of makeup."

When asked why agreed to keep doing the film, Eccleston gave the obvious answer: "Money." He went on to admit Thor: The Dark World was not his proudest moment.

Violence without conscience

While promoting Hacksaw Ridge in 2016, Mel Gibson deflected questions about what The New Yorker called the "pornographic violence" of his film by taking potshots at Marvel. Gibson — the actor/director who once said of New York Times critic Frank Rich, "I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. I want to kill his dog" — referred to the superhero action of the MCU as "violence without conscience."

"They're more violent than anything that I've done," said Gibson, who once played a police officer who grabbed a suicidal man and jumped from the roof of an office building. "But [in my movies,] you give a s*** about the characters, which makes it matter more. That's all I'll say."

Earlier that year at the Cannes Film Festival, Gibson told The Guardian that Marvel had approached him to play "Thor's dad," but he declined. And so the Thor franchise had to muddle through with Academy Award-winning actor Anthony Hopkins as Odin. Somehow.

Aquaman, talking smack

When the world had yet to see Jason Momoa as Aquaman even in his brief cameo in Batman v. Superman, the star — at a fan's request – personalized an autographed photo with  "F— Marvel" at the Indiana Comic-Con.

The photo, and particularly the offending phrase, traveled quickly across the web feeding fuel to the decades-old Marvel/DC rivalry.

A couple of months later at the Puerto Rico Comic-Con, when asked if he regretted what he wrote, Momoa responded, "Here's the thing I regret — I regret that I can't personalize anything to my fans." Momoa said he meant nothing by what he wrote. "I love the X-Men," Momoa said. "I grew up with them. I love Wolverine. My kid loves Spider-Man." Momoa said he wrote it only because a fan requested it, and gave the example that he had written "Will you marry me" for fans just because they'd asked.

He ended his answer with, "I'll leave my sense of humor at the bottom of the ocean next time."