In the wake of Spider-Man: No Way Home, classic characters are back in vogue. Already other comic book films are moving to team up multiple versions of their own favorites, whether it’s Michael Keaton’s Batman or the heroes from Blues Clues. But how much is too much?
At a wide-ranging talk at DICE 2022, Avengers Endgame director Joe Russo said that it’s a question that the industry has consistently struggled over, leading to decisions like killing off half the MCU in Infinity War (and then bringing them back). He also said that the corporate agenda lacks innovation, arguing that creatives need to rein in corporations that want to run popular trends into the ground.
“The corporate agenda is: Do you like chocolate ice cream? Well here chocolate ice cream with sprinkles, here’s chocolate ice cream with fudge…It’s their job to turn the money printer on,” Russo said. “It’s the creative’s job to say, ‘Well shit, I don’t know if I want to watch that.'”
Russo said that it’s the task of creatives to “push back against the money printer” and attempt to do something radical that defies expectations.
“So yeah, too much of one thing is a bad thing, but I think there are enough creators and innovators in the space where you can expect to be surprised,” Russo said. “Just don’t expect corporations to surprise you.”
Russo’s comments come amid a flood of interest in movies like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which have successfully leveraged classic properties to create wildly popular movies. Both The Flash and Batgirl are expected to bring back classic characters of their own, and there are rumors that Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier will make his way into Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness.
Star Wars, which is also owned by Disney, has relied more and more nostalgia. Book of Boba was loaded with references to older movies and other media, including villains who have mainly appeared in comic books. The self-referential nature of the Star Wars universe has spurred discussion about Disney’s reliance on familiarity to placate fans.
Asked how he might tackle the Star Wars universe, Russo demurred, saying that “there’s always a creative engine behind [franchises like Star Wars] that’s passionate about the material, that lives for the material, that bleeds for the material,” and that it’s up to them to partner with other creatives.
Russo himself is working on other projects beyond the MCU right now, including a television adaptation of The Warriors. He’s also developed a health interest in the games industry, saying that he expects games to surpass movies and that the “future isn’t 2D.”
For now, classic characters are as popular as ever, and plenty more movies are likely to use the multiverse conceit to bring back old favorites. Expect it to continue with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which launches in May.
2022 Movies: The 58 Biggest Movies We Can’t Wait to See
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN