For all the times he’s grouped in with cinema’s old guard these days—and with good reason, considering he’s now tied with Martin Scorsese for second-most Best Director nominations in Oscars history—Steven Spielberg is still the godfather of the modern blockbuster. Those megabudget superhero movies can trace their roots back to Indiana Jones; colossal franchise films like Jurassic World can trace their roots back to, well, Jurassic Park. Given that, Spielberg has less outright snobbery about today’s blockbuster than perhaps his peers do. He welcomes those films into the Oscars fold, and in fact, thinks it should have come along a lot sooner.
Speaking with Deadline, the director says he was “really encouraged” by the Best Picture noms for Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way Of Water, films that stood a much better chance now that the category has expanded up to ten nominees. That change “came late for the film that should have been nominated a number of years ago, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight,” he adds. “That movie would have definitely garnered a Best Picture nomination today, so having these two blockbusters solidly presented on the top 10 list is something we should all be celebrating.”
Spielberg has historically been softer on comic book films than some other directors we could mention. He’s expressed his admiration for The Dark Knight before, alongside Richard Donner’s Superman and the first Iron Man before saying (at Cannes Film Festival in 2016, as reported by Omelete) that the superhero movie that “impressed” him most “is one that does not take itself too seriously: Guardians Of The Galaxy. When his projection was over, I left with the feeling of having seen something new in movies, without any cynicism or fear of being dark when needed.”
Nevertheless, he also predicted that superhero movies would go “the way of the Western” and eventually die out. “I’m only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture,” he told The Associated Press (via THR) in 2015. “There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.”
But the genre might stick around long enough to cause the “implosion” of cinema, something The Fabelmans filmmaker also predicted back in 2013 (per The Hollywood Reporter): “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion—or a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”
Perhaps Spielberg has regained some optimism in the last ten years that he’s able to celebrate the critical success of the year’s megabudget movies. In his conversation with Deadline, he’s even hopeful about the future of the theatrical release: “I think it will come back, but it’s coming back slowly, especially for dramas.” Time will tell if any of his predictions come to pass.