Paul Thomas Anderson Is Happy Spider-Man Movies Exist To Drag People Back To Theaters

If you've been on the internet for more than a minute this past year, you probably know that everyone and their mother has been asked to share some thoughts on superhero movies. Specifically, there's a trend among interviewers asking directors who haven't dabbled in the blockbuster genre what they think of the ubiquity of superhero films. "Licorice Pizza" director Paul Thomas Anderson isn't immune to this line of questioning, and he has a measured, thoughtful, "Spider-Man"-related answer ready.

Anderson Is Happy In The MGM 'Sandbox'

Writer-director Anderson has been responsible for critically beloved films like "There Will Be Blood" and "Phantom Thread," but in a recent sit-down with The New Yorker (via IndieWire), the conversation turned, inevitably, to the type of movies that are making the most money in Hollywood. Anderson himself is currently working within the studio system, as his latest film, "Licorice Pizza," is an MGM production. "I've got my own little corner of the sandbox and am working with people that I really admire," he shares. "I'm incredibly happy right now. But that's me."

Anderson acknowledges industry anxieties around the current, franchise-heavy model of filmmaking, saying that "there's no end to the kind of sky-is-falling questions that always surround films." The line of interviewing we see in "The New Yorker" and elsewhere tends to reveal a spectrum of directors, from those who would do a Marvel movie if asked to those who think superhero movies are a sign of imminent industry apocalypse. Anderson seems to fall on the less worried side, saying that he doesn't take the "overabundance of superhero movies" too seriously.

Spidey Could Help Save Theaters

Anderson ultimately takes a meta approach to the conversation, pointing out that our collective preoccupation with superhero films' place in the culture is itself a noteworthy trend.

"It seems to be something that's popular these days to sort of wonder if they've ruined movies and all this kind of stuff. I just don't feel that way."

In the end, Paul Thomas Anderson even credits superhero movies with keeping the theater industry going during a difficult time. He acknowledges that people are nervous to return to theaters, but notes that there's one fool-proof way to get butts back in seats. "You know what's going to get them back in movie theatres?" Anderson asks, before answering, "Spider-Man. So let's be happy about that." He's not wrong: "Spider-Man: No Way Home" has already set the record for 2021 ticket pre-sales.

"Licorice Pizza" is now showing in select theaters, and will be available in wide release beginning December 25, 2021.