Willem Dafoe: Today’s Comic Book Films Are ‘Too Long, Too Noisy,’ and ‘Overshot’

Dafoe has had success in the comic book genre with Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" and James Wan's "Aquaman."
Willem Dafoe4th Annual Patron of the Artists Awards, Arrivals, Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Nov 2019
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/Shutterstock

Willem Dafoe refused to open up during an interview with IndieWire in May about his experience working on “Aquaman” (IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote that Dafoe’s eyes “curled into slits and darkened” when asked about the superhero film), but he got a bit more honest on the topic at a recent 92Y interview while promoting “The Lighthouse.” Dafoe became an especially recognizable face in Hollywood after starring as Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man,” but the actor says making that film was more similar to indies than what has become the norm of giant comic book productions.

“‘Spider-Man’ was great fun because Sam Raimi made that like it was a little independent film,” Dafoe said. “And also that was before a lot of the technology was in place, and comic book movies were fairly new, so it was exciting. There was nothing by the numbers, they didn’t roll in the experts. Now it’s become, the industry outgrew itself.”

By the time Dafoe was starring in “Aquaman,” the business of filming comic book movies had changed largely for the worse. “You have fun with some of the things that you get to do, because there’s lots of hardware and there’s lots of crazy crane shots and those kind of things. That’s fun. But stuff is overshot,” the actor said. “They spend a lot of money on big set pieces, because that’s what delivers the action, and I find them too long and too noisy. But let’s not get into this. I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me. But, no, seriously, folks. Look, those aren’t the movies I run to.”

Dafoe continued by suggesting his larger issue with comic book movies is that they are content with staying the same. The financial success of superhero films makes it rare for one to shake things up creatively.

“What I worry about is, those big movies, they need something to feed them,” Dafoe said. “They need a surge, and they need people pushing the boundaries so they can go forward. Because they’re not in the business of going forward, really. They’re in the business of business, and you can make beautiful things because they have a lot of resources.”

The “Aquaman” sequel already has a December 16, 2022 theatrical release set from Warner Bros. Dafoe is likely to return as mentor figure Vulko.

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