Ethan Hawke has been everywhere. Frankly he hasn’t been this ubiquitous since the slacker ’90s, and up till now the attention has all been generally positive. Whether that’s due to acclaimed films — like First Reformed, the new Juliet, Naked and his most recent directorial effort Blaze — or for his enjoyably frank (but not, like, controversial) interviews where he talks about not owning many shoes, the fortysomething Hawke is having a well-deserved moment.
But after spending much of the last decade-plus quietly cranking out excellent work in everything from the original Purge to Boyhood, his upbeat streak has now ended thanks to him questioning the quality of comic book movies.
In a typically rich (and long) interview with The Film Stage, Hawke — who in real life really does seem like Jesse, the chatty aging Gen-X-er of Richard Linklater’s Before movies — stumbled onto the topic of superhero films. Specifically he got to talking about last year’s Logan, the gritty, hard-R X-Men spin-off in which Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is a cussing, ultraviolent sadsack.
A lot of comic book fans cited that as proof that their favorite genre wasn’t just frivolous but deep, even Academy Award-worthy. And indeed, Logan was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. But Hawke isn’t having it.
“Now we have the problem that they tell us Logan is a great movie,” Hawke explained. “Well, it’s a great superhero movie. It still involves people in tights with metal coming out of their hands. It’s not Bresson. It’s not Bergman. But they talk about it like it is.”
“I went to see Logan ’cause everyone was like, ‘This is a great movie’ and I was like, ‘Really? No, this is a fine superhero movie,’” Hawk said. “There’s a difference, but big business doesn’t think there’s a difference. Big business wants you to think that this is a great film because they wanna make money off of it.”
Predictably, this hasn’t sat well on social media, and if you dive into a Hawke search on Twitter, you’ll find scores of angry fans calling him a snob, an elitist, what have you, for suggesting that we may be grading superhero films on a curve.
Still, Hawke doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s into merely dishing hot takes or upsetting fans. It seems like he loves a good argument, or at least a civil discussion where you start by clashing over a disagreement, realize you were both overblowing things and end up best friends. So go easy on him, Internet people. Then again, Hawke smartly isn’t on Twitter.