James Cameron Says Marvel and DC Characters “Act Like They’re in College”

"The things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose? Those characters don’t experience it, and I think that’s not the way to make movies"

james cameron marvel dc films characters act like they're in college
James Cameron (photo by Gage Skidmore) and Hawkeye (Disney+)

    James Cameron has joined the ranks of esteemed directors who have criticized comic book movies. In a New York Times interview, he said Marvel and DC characters don’t weigh the risks like the heroes in his new movie, Avatar: The Way of Water, who are now parents. According to Cameron, they instead “act like they’re in college” regardless of their personal lives.

    “When I look at these big, spectacular films — I’m looking at you, Marvel and DC — it doesn’t matter how old the characters are, they all act like they’re in college,” Cameron said. “They have relationships, but they really don’t. They never hang up their spurs because of their kids. The things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose? Those characters don’t experience it, and I think that’s not the way to make movies.”

    Avatar: The Way of Water is based on Cameron’s experiences as the father of five children. Whereas Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully and Zoe Saldaña’s Neytiri took literal leaps of faith in the first movie, their decisions are now affected by having three children.


    “For me, as a parent of five kids, I’m saying, ‘What happens when those characters mature and realize that they have a responsibility outside their own survival?'” explained Cameron. Worthington added, “Jim wrote this family in a great way where not only are the stakes life and death, but the conflicts are quite domestic. You’re still having these arguments with kids that you have every day, like, ‘Pick up your clothes, eat your food,’ even though the world is at war.”

    To be fair, the decisions made by Jeremy Renner’s Clinton Barton, aka Hawkeye, in the Marvel films Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame are directly impacted by his experiences as a husband and father. In the former movie, Barton even hangs up his bow for the sake of his family, and it takes the urging of his wife to head back into battle. Meanwhile, his actions in the latter movie are all about getting his family back.

    And with the Disney+ series Hawkeye and Wandavision, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has delved further into how having a secret life impacts having a family.

    Cameron is far from alone in criticizing Marvel movies. Back in 2019, Martin Scorsese said the films were more like theme parks than cinema, while Francis Ford Coppola described the Marvel Cinematic Universe as “one prototype movie that is made over and over and over and over and over again to look different” in February of this year. Dune director Denis Villeneuve has also taken part in the discourse, saying the films are “nothing more than a ‘cut and paste’ of others,” while adding that they have “turned us into zombies.”


    Avatar: The Way of Water also features Stephen Lang, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Giovanni Ribisi, Dileep Rao, and Matt Gerald reprising their roles from the original film, with Sigourney Weaver returning as a different character. New cast members include Kate Winslet, Michelle Yeoh, Edie Falco, Cliff Curtis, and Vin Diesel.

    The long-awaited sequel hits theaters in the US on December 16th. Avatar 3 is currently slated for December 20th, 2024, followed by Avatar 4 on December 18th, 2026, and Avatar 5 on December 22nd, 2028.

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