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The Russo Brothers Mount An Interesting Defense Of The MCU's Creative Vision

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to dominate pop culture with a steady stream of superhero cinema, not everyone is pleased. While MCU fans continue to enjoy recent offerings such as "Thor: Love and Thunder," or the recent "Ms. Marvel" series on Disney+, others have held the franchise up as an example of what they feel is wrong with the current entertainment landscape.

Famously, celebrated director Martin Scorsese kicked much of the ongoing discourse off back in 2019 when he claimed Marvel movies weren't "cinema." He later clarified in an op-ed for The New York Times that he feels theaters are "crowded with franchise pictures." Even actor Willem Dafoe, who starred as Green Goblin in "Spider-Man: No Way Home," the largest MCU movie of recent memory, has had his gripes with comic book movies. Around the time of Scorsese's op-ed, he told an audience at New York's 92nd Street Y that he finds them "too long and noisy." In an era when it's hard to deny the decline of dramas and other past staples of cinema (especially those movies that fit somewhere between tentpole blockbusters and small-scale indie flicks) amid the rise of streaming and franchise films, figureheads at Marvel Studios have found it increasingly necessary to defend their creations from these criticisms.

Enter Joe and Anthony Russo, the sibling directorial team known as the Russo Brothers who helped architect the MCU, culminating in the franchise's twin crown jewels, "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame," which capped off a decade of meticulously intertwined storytelling. In recent interviews promoting their new Netflix movie, "The Gray Man," the filmmaking pair put forward their own defense of Marvel's recent output and overall creative vision.

The Russo Brothers think the MCU is like the band U2

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Or at least that's what the Russo Brothers seem to think about the criticisms leveled against the MCU's rise to prominence. In recent interviews, they've defended the mega-franchise they helped sculpt in a number of ways. While Anthony Russo simply offered that "not every movie has to be liked globally," his younger brother Joe compared the MCU controversy to the way some music fans dislike a band that goes mainstream. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Joe Russo recalled loving the band U2 as a teenager before getting sick of them when they achieved worldwide success. "That was just my ego trying to define itself against the masses," he explained, saying he eventually realized he still loved the band's music. "I outgrew it."

Joe Russo went on to say that the controversy around Marvel movies "feels sad and cynical and pessimistic." In the director's opinion, MCU movies are aimed at children, not adult cinephiles. "You're talking about movies that 10-year-olds are weeping over and begging to go see," he said. "They'll remember for decades that they were there with their grandfather."

The brothers' gripes with MCU critics were brought up again in an interview with reporter Jake Hamilton (via Jake's Takes on YouTube). Joe Russo pushed back against the idea that Marvel movies are homogenous, saying the studio's recent films have taken risks, been more diverse, and pushed the universe in new directions such as horror and absurdist comedy. "People are going to appreciate those risks and other people are not going to like those risks," he said. "The good thing is they're not repeating themselves. They're not doing the same thing that they did for 10 years. They're going in a completely different direction."