Gordon-Levitt and Johansson on the difference between superhero franchises and indie films

There are certain faces that seemed to be ubiquitous at film festivals this year, and when one of those belongs to Scarlett Johansson, you will not catch me complaining about the situation.

I saw “Don Jon” at SXSW this year, and it is an uncommonly perceptive directorial debut by Joseph Gordon Levitt. He stars in the film which he also wrote, but it is the way he nails certain observations about the way everyone has their own fantasy they depend on to get them through that impressed me most. It is a very observant point that I would expect from an older writer.

In addition to making a number of smaller films this year that feed certain artistic needs for each of them, JGL and ScarJo both have experience now being part of these giant megafranchise superhero films that are the bread and butter of the Hollywood system at the moment. While Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film was more divisive than the first two, I think one of the things that seemed to really speak to people was the work that Joseph Gordon Levitt did as a Gotham City police officer who didn’t need a mask and a cave and a limitless arsenal to stand up and do what he believed was right. He was a moral compass in the film in a way I found really surprising, and I think he helped ground that last film.

Johansson has now made three films as the Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanov, and she seems to be settling into the role nicely as she is given different things to do. The opening scene of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” sees her on a mission with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), and the easy chemistry between the two of them stands in hilarious contrast to the superheroic mayhem they are raining down on their enemies in the sequence. Johansson seems to have found a very nice place for herself in what is otherwise Marvel’s boy’s club, and she did it without toning down all the things that make her Scarlett Johansson in the first place.

Talking to them about what differences, if any, there are between the smaller indie movies and the giant superhero movies was just one part of the short time we shared discussing their film “Don Jon,” and worth publishing as a stand-alone piece.

I’ll have the other half of this one in the next few days.

“Don Jon” arrives in theaters September 27.