Wherever you stand on the relentless Marvel vs. Cinema debate, there are supportive voices in the film industry on either side. Dune director Denis Villeneuve just recently referred to a lot of Marvel Cinematic Universe entries as “nothing more than a cut and paste of others” while Joker fan Martin Scorsese famously declared them “not cinema” back in 2019, leading to many an exhausting online squabble and much trolling from his daughter, Francesca.
But then there’s Paul Thomas Anderson. The celebrated director of Boogie Nights and Phantom Thread, whose 1999 ensemble film Magnolia was once heralded by the iconic Ingmar Bergman as an example of “the strength of American cinema” and who was later referred to as “a true auteur” by American Beauty director Sam Mendes, leans in the opposite direction.
It’s not a new revelation, but the internet at large was once again surprised to hear that PTA is a Marvel geek this week, thanks to a fresh interview with Variety where he discussed his highly anticipated upcoming film Licorice Pizza, and the general state of cinema as it slowly recovers from the pandemic.
Asked about movies he’s taken a shine to recently, PTA enthusiastically chatted about Titane and a couple of recent Marvel efforts, including the Tom Hardy-led Venom 2 from the recently-rebranded SPUMC, saying he lives in a “Marvel-obsessed” household.
“Shang-Chi was good fun,” he said. “There’s a terrific energy about it, but I also live in a Marvel-obsessed household, so continuing the journey of these Marvel stories is exciting to us. I liked Venom 2.”
PTA has never really seemed to have time for either the superhero movie backlash, or the hand-wringing comments about the comic book blockbuster conveyor belt.
“Ah, that’s such a fucking crock of shit,” he told Rolling Stone all the way back in 2015 (via IndieWire). “I can’t remember a year in recent memory where there were less complaints about the quality of movies. And what’s wrong with superhero movies, you know? I don’t know. You’re talking to someone that enjoys watching those films. People need to get a life if they’re having that discussion [laughs]. Those movies get a bad rap.”
No, PTA is more likely to be found feasting on cinematic treats with very little pretention, and lest you think his heart only belongs to Marvel, he told fans during a 2018 Twitter Q&A that if he had to adapt a cartoon to make a kids movie, he’d opt for DC’s Teen Titans, though it was never clear if he meant Teen Titans or Teen Titans Go! and let there be no doubt in your mind that I would ask him point blank should I ever get the chance.
Anderson’s coming-of-age comedy-drama Licorice Pizza will be released on November 26. The film stars Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, and Benny Safdie, and charts the politically and culturally tumultuous era of 1970s Hollywood through the eyes of two friends, Gary and Alana.
Meanwhile, Marvel Studios and Sony are preparing to release their biggest 2021 comic book movie, Spider-Man: No Way Home, on December 17. The threequel will mark the emergence of the MCU multiverse on the big screen, with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) approaching Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange about a potential spell that could undo Peter’s doxxing during the closing moments of Spider-Man: Far From Home.