Elizabeth Olsen: Marvel films are good because the film crews are talented

Elizabeth Olsen is arguably the most lowkey actor attached to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her soul is indie, but she’s part of this huge franchise in films and streaming and she wears it lightly. She doesn’t have social media anymore, she’s not showing up to the opening of an envelope and even in her interviews, I get the feeling that she doesn’t really “get” why people are so obsessed with the MCU. Olsen is currently promoting Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and she recently chatted with the Independent about the power of saying no and what she really thinks of icons like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola criticizing comic-book movies.

She’s surprised she’s been asked to do so many Marvel projects: “I only signed on to do a couple movies, so it continues to be a surprise when they want to use me for more projects. I’ve been confused by how lucky I got with them wanting to make WandaVision.”

She was in lockdown in England when WandaVision debuted: Olsen says she “totally dissociated” from the frenzy it whipped up, and is “not really attached to it emotionally”.

She’s not an awards-presenter: “I don’t like presenting at awards shows. I tried and I don’t like it. It is not worth the feeling of passing out that I get, like, every time. It’s just not worth it.”

She used to say “no” to tons of stuff: “I’ve always kind of been tough like that – maybe to a fault at times.” What does she mean by that? “I just think maybe I could have massaged things a bit differently, or maybe I could have had some nuance. But I do think it’s an important thing for a young woman to know, or hear, or empower themselves with.”

On Martin Scorsese & Francis Ford Coppola’s criticisms of Marvel films: Olsen says it’s when people “make them seem like a lesser type of art” that she gets frustrated. “I’m not saying we’re making indie art films, but I just think it takes away from our crew, which bugs me. These are some of the most amazing set designers, costume designers, camera operators – I feel diminishing them with that kind of criticism takes away from all the people who do award-winning films, that also work on these projects. From an actor’s point of view, whatever, I get it; I totally understand that there’s a different kind of performance that’s happening. But I do think throwing Marvel under the bus takes away from the hundreds of very talented crew people. That’s where I get a little feisty about that.”

[From The Independent]

The only Marvel film which I would consider “pretty” would be The Eternals? The rest of the films… I mean, are Marvel films really known for their set designs or costumes? I get that she’s defending the work of the crew and I do feel like that’s legitimate – like, Marvel employs tons of people and those people are very good at their jobs. But her argument is “Marvel films are good because they employ talented people behind-the-scenes.” And that’s not actually the criticism being lodged against Marvel? The criticism is that they’re not good for the business of film, that they’re theme parks and bad for the “art” form of film. Anyway…

Photos courtesy of Instar.

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14 Responses to “Elizabeth Olsen: Marvel films are good because the film crews are talented”

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  1. teecee says:

    This is so fake of her. Scorsese and Coppola were in no way criticizing the crew on Marvel films. (In fact, those two directors are known to do more for and to treat their crews far better than the Marvel machine treats theirs, so she can shove it.)

    Olsen knows that the criticism was actually aimed at the studios, the star actors (not the jobbing ones), and the rest of the above-the-line talent, specifically the directors. The people with power.

    And Marvel films aren’t good. They’re sometimes entertaining, and occasionally people involved do good work on them, but as a whole they are not good. Why can’t fans just enjoy their “junk food” without requiring the whole world pretend they’re consuming a gourmet meal?? I get it, sometimes you want a cheap hamburger. But don’t get mad that people won’t participate in the lie that it’s steak.

    (Just b/c you enjoy it, doesn’t mean it’s quality. AND — interesting how this only happens with the junk food aimed mostly at straight men – like comic book movies – but rarely for that aimed at women or gay men – like the Real Housewives.)

    • Drea says:

      I agree with you on the treatment of crew, etc. However, this is a bit of a pompous take, IMO, and is essentially gatekeeping.

      Just because something is easily digestible, as most “pop” media is, be it music, art, movies, or books, doesn’t mean there isn’t an artistry or skill involved in creating it. Just because it’s enjoyed by the masses does not mean it’s lesser than. Just because it’s easily digestible, does not make it “junk”. To be sure, there’s mediocrity abound in all genres, but to paint them all with such a broad brush seems shallow to me.

      • g says:

        Thank you @Drea! I’m so sick of people needing to feel superior by trashing these movies. If you don’t like them don’t watch them. It doesn’t make you any better, smarter or more sophisticated. Personally, I’d rather watch these movies on repeat than have to sit through pretentious swill like Only Lovers Left Alive and the like.

    • SueM says:

      Marvel films are good. There is not a single really bad one. Some are epically good, End Game, Guardians, Black Panther, one or two just so-so (Thor, The Dark World). WandaVision is one of the best television shows ever produced. It is about trauma and sadness. What is amazing is the creation of this world over 28 movies and a number of television series (the Disney ones especially). The MCU is immersive and compelling. I pity people who dismiss the MCU simply because it is about superheroes and villains and has comic book origins. You are missing truly wonderful performances and world building and denying yourself a lot of fun and pleasure. The type of genre does not define if a movie is good or not. All genres have the best, the ok, and the bad. Overall, the MCU is a monumental film achievement. I am a woman in my 60s and I look forward to each and every Marvel film. I also love Scorsese et al. You can love both.

      • Call Me Mabel says:

        Suem that was beautifully put, thank you.

      • The Recluse says:

        Thanks for this. I look forward to every movie.
        These purists forget that films like The Wizard of Oz or Casablanca were meant to be popular films at the time. It is only in retrospect that they have become considered ‘art’ and classics as well. The earliest cinema, like Melies’ work, was meant to have popular appeal as well, most cinema was in those first few decades. It was only starting with cinema students – and that includes Coppola and Scorsese – that there began to be this re-classification of ‘what true cinema was supposed to be’. It’s annoying.
        As Benedict Cumberbatch has pointed out and that was pointed out in a roundtable of actors that I read in the Hollywood Reporter, these big crowd pleasers enable actors/directors/producers to also make those precious indie films that dominate award seasons. (I still haven’t seen The Power of the Dog by the way.)

  2. Lizzbert says:

    “I mean, are Marvel films really known for their set designs or costumes?” Is this a serious question?? Check out Black Panther, Thor Ragnarok or WandaVision (they brought back actual set designers from the ‘60s and more to get an authentic feel for each decade).

    • HeatherC says:

      I’d add in Captain America: The First Avenger. Once you brush aside the comic book part of it…it’s a period film, WWII. Especially the styling of Peggy Carter.

      • Lizzbert says:

        Really, I’d add a LOT of the Marvel movies/TV shows. I mean, they’re superheroes and somehow they are NOT known for their costumes!?! Please. 😀

    • fineskylark says:

      It’s television and not film, but all of the costuming and set design in Agent Carter is exquisite.

  3. nocturne says:

    It’s really great that she could be choosy with roles she took, but not everyone gets that privilege. And I completely agree with her view on how the crew and behind the crew people don’t get their due.

    So much of what makes a film ‘good’ is what the crew and behind the scene people contribute. The cinematographers. The editors. The set designers. The costumers. The screenwriters. The actors themselves. Yes, a director has to have the skill (or luck) to choose people who are good at all this, but do you really think that an ‘auteur’ is the sole reason a set looks good, or has it more to do with the set designer who’s been working in the industry for twenty years? That shot is beautiful and all, but who did the colour grading to make it beautiful? Who contributes to the final product?

    When you see the huge lists of behind the scenes people, both in commercial marvel films and those films ‘auteurs’ consider to be ‘real cinema,’ it kind of gives you a different perspective. Yes, these directors and ‘auteurs’ certainly contribute to the success of a film, but do you really think they are the sole reason such film are considered amazing?

    What really drove home how much skill you need to produce a good Marvel movie, was watching The Eternals. To be brutally honest, there was so much wrong with that film. From storytelling, to characterisation, to plotting, to storylines that were actually problematic. (Aliens were responsible for Hiroshima, so let’s completely absolve the people who were actually responsible for that act, because, aliens? Hey, lets have a white man mind control indigenous people, because the autonomy of indigenous people has never been taken away by white people before, right?. Hey, lets put on a Bollywood dance that is so bad and disrespectful to the art form that I actually thought it was a parody).

    The cinematography was beautiful, the sets were beautiful, the clothing was beautiful, the actors were all talented and yet it was a failure in so many ways. And to drive the point home, the film was made by someone who recent won an Oscar. An Oscar winner made this film. It’s just her skillset was in a completely different genre.

    So yeah. Just because a film is considered to be mainstream or commercial, doesn’t mean it takes no effort or skill to make. And you’re more than welcome to disagree with me on The Eternals, for many it was their favourite Marvel film, but for me it just wasn’t it, and a lot of people had similar opinions when it first came out.

    • The Recluse says:

      The Eternals was a disappointment for me too, so I hear ya.

    • Call Me Mabel says:

      Eternals was not my favorite film either. It felt very incomplete, like the middle part of a story without a firm foundation or satisfying conclusion. But, to your points, Nocturne, the Bollywood number *was* supposed to be a bit of a parody to show how over the top and full of himself Kingo was. His character had actively distanced himself from anything serious / grounded and was playing at being Bollywood Tom Cruise. It was also meant to be amusing because he was playing one of the other Eternals in the film. Druig mentally controlling a community of people was also not seen as a *good* thing in the film, it wasn’t supposed to be. He was set up as a bit of a red herring because he wasn’t really a good guy at all, so you expected him to be a villain instead of who eventually turned out to be. Now, they could have picked an isolated town in the middle of nowhere desert in the American west, granted, and the film could have dealt better with his consequences of his actions, but see above about storytelling issues overall.

  4. Justjj says:

    I feel like there is still a nostalgia in superhero movies that is exactly what film has always been about-creating awe, taking you somewhere else for a few minutes, taking you completely out of this dimension for just a second, creating a sense of fun and pure entertainment… there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not bad for the art form. It’s a distinctly different but equally worthy iteration of the art form, imo. I haven’t seen all the Marvel stuff but I enjoyed Loki and the few Marvel films I have seen, I also think it looks hard to act in these movies. You have to carry a movie for two hours with a plot line that is sometimes vapid and lines that are often cheesy and make them believable and watchable. You have to bring a 2d cartoon caricature of a person to life. I mean, the actors who successfully do this in the Marvel franchise (and there are a lot of them) … that’s hard lol. I couldn’t turn a spandex clad comic book character into a real and watchable person and keep a straight face for five minutes, let alone hours …