The indie actor you never thought would pivot to blockbusters has caved: Ethan Hawke will join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’ll star as the lead villain in Moon Knight, a Disney+ Marvel Studios series, opposite Oscar Isaac. The Moon Knight character was introduced as an ex-Marine who becomes a mercenary with multiple alter egos. Hawke’s exact character is unclear, though a character named Bushman is the most frequent villain associated with the hero.
The news that Hawke will join the MCU comes as a bit of a surprise because he has been critical of Hollywood’s superhero movie industrial complex. Rather than supporting indie film, which Hawke himself has benefited from as an actor and director, executives increasingly show how thirsty they are to snap up intellectual property that will make for big blockbusters and franchises.
In 2018, Hawke’s comments interview with Film Comment touched on the marginalization of indie movies as they are often pushed to the side in theaters in favor of selling tickets for superhero movies in the DC Comics and Marvel Cinematic Universes. His perspective on Logan, the James Mangold-helmed movie that tells the backstory of X-Men hero Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), particularly ruffled some feathers amongst the Marvel fanboys. “Now we have the problem that they tell us Logan is a great movie,” he said. “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.”
He’s certainly not alone in his line of thinking. There is a clear tension between cinephiles who will dip their toe into the comic book movie waters, and those who continue to turn their noses up at it.
Martin Scorsese made a splash when he revealed he takes issue with the positioning of Marvel movies as cinema. Francis Ford Coppola supported his filmmaker friend, saying, “He’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again.” Parasite director Bong Joon Ho also revealed that he doesn’t love the concept of superhero movies, either, and would never direct one because of the fact that the characters wear tight clothes. “I’ll never wear something like that, and just seeing someone in tight clothes is mentally difficult,” he said.
Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2018 Oscars, and though it did not win, it still garnered acclaim from fans and critics alike. Many felt that Hawke’s comments on the film suggested that it was good but only if considered in its lane amongst other superhero movies, and voiced their distaste with the indie actor’s point of view.
He heard their criticism, however, and offered up another interview clarifying his point. “For a long time, comic books and people who cared about comic books were ghetto-ized, and it was made to feel small,” he said. “Now they run the table. And there’s been this giant switch in my lifetime, I mean, like I am a comic book geek, I’ve seen all those [movies]. The idea that I’m the one criticizing them is a joke, because I—there’s very few things I enjoy more—this is something I teach my son, that something about being a geek is being real. That’s what it means. I’m gonna be real.”
In case you want to take Hawke’s indie cred away from him for joining a Marvel project, you might have to hold off for a bit. The actor will still star in Robert Eggers’s viking drama called The Northman alongside Nicole Kidman, Björk, and Anya Taylor-Joy later this year.