‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Director George Miller Admits His Take on Superhero Movies

2019 felt like a turning point for comic book movies. With several of the year’s biggest hits deriving from Marvel and DC comics, superhero fatigue definitely hasn’t set in just yet. Then again, more and more creative voices from within the industry are coming forward to share their thoughts on how superheroes are hurting the business.

Of course, Martin Scorsese’s criticism about the Marvel Cinematic Universe really kicked this off. But now it feels like a requirement for every major filmmaker to weigh in with his or her two cents on the superhero movie debate. So naturally, George Miller shared his thoughts on the topic.

George Miller at the AACTA Awards
George Miller at the AACTA Awards | Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for AFI

George Miller’s brush with superhero movies

Miller is, of course, best known for his Mad Max franchise. Critics heralded 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road as a new benchmark for action cinema when it hit theaters. But Miller actually has a more direct link to the world of comic book movies.

Back in the mid-2000s, the director nearly brought DC Comics’ Justice League to the big screen. Titled Justice League: Mortal, the film would have starred D.J. Cotrona as Superman and Armie Hammer as Batman. But it ultimately fell apart in favor of the 2017 misfire.

So, while Miller has yet to actually step behind the camera for a superhero film, this bit of context still feels necessary. His name often pops up in relation to the genre, which certainly says something about how he may approach such a project.

George Miller on superhero movies as cinema

As his past interest in helming a Justice League film shows, Miller considers himself a fan of superhero movies. In a recent chat with Deadline, the director offers a counter to Scorsese’s claim that comic book movies aren’t really “cinema.”

To be honest, in terms of this debate, cinema is cinema, and it’s a very broad church. The test, ultimately, is what it means to the audience. There’s a great quote I saw that applies to all we do. It was from the Swahili storytellers. Each time they finished a story they would say, “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault because I am the storyteller. And if it was good, it belongs to everybody.”

It’s a mistake and a kind of hubris if a film does well at the box office to dismiss it as clever marketing or something else. There’s more happening there, and it’s our obligation as storytellers to really try and understand it. To me, it’s all cinema. I don’t think you can ghettoize it and say, “Oh, this is cinema or that is cinema.” It applies to all the arts, to literature, the performing arts, painting and music, in all its forms. It’s such a broad spectrum, a wide range, and to say that anyone is more significant or more important than the other, is missing the point. It’s one big mosaic and each bit of work fits into it.

Miller’s more inclusive take directly addresses a key hole in critics’ takedown of comic book films. So many of the accusations levied toward Marvel, DC, and their ilk fail to separate the art from the commerce.

Few moviegoers are claiming that superhero movies should be the only releases out there. And as Miller points out, their financial success should be considered separately from their artistic merits.

More ‘Mad Max’ is on the way

Although Miller may never make a superhero movie, his read on this debate can easily be applied to other blockbusters. After all, few of the critics who adored Mad Max: Fury Road would dismiss it because it’s an action film. Fury Road even won six Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture.

With Miller’s open-minded take on cinematic art, he is already returning to his own signature franchise in the near future. At this point, details are scarce, but another Mad Max is certainly in the cards. The next installment will follow his 2020 fantasy drama Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton.

Incidentally, both Elba and Swinton are alumni of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So there’s that.