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Quentin Tarantino's simple reason for staying away from superhero films: 'I'm not a hired hand'

The Oscar-winning writer and director explains why the superhero machine hasn't caught up to him yet.

By Matthew Jackson
Quentin Tarantino

The superhero filmmaking machine has picked up some of the biggest names in directing in the 15 years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe ushered in a new age of comic book tentpoles, but there are still some filmmakers who don't want to go near the genre. Oscar winner Quentin Tarantino counts himself among them, for a very simple reason. 

"You have to be a hired hand to do those things,” Tarantino told The Los Angeles Times in a new interview to promote his film appreciation book Cinema Speculation. “I’m not a hired hand. I’m not looking for a job.”

It's a simple, straightforward answer in a time when many filmmakers have made headlines and ignited controversy for simply daring to acknowledge that they don't care for superhero films, but Tarantino's response certainly fits with the overall approach to directing he's had since breaking through with Reservoir Dogs 30 years ago. Though his work covers a wide range of influences, subgenre, and pop culture pastiche, Tarantino has largely stuck to writing original stories and then directing those stories. He's made just one adaptation (Jackie Brown, based on Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch) in his career thus far, and while he has done "hired hand" work over the years in television (He's directed episodes of both ER and CSI, for example.), he has yet to join a major franchise as a director.

Of course, that doesn't mean he hasn't considered franchises at various points. The director famously flirted with the notion of making a Luke Cage movie based on the Marvel character in the 1990s (though to be fair, it definitely wouldn't have been part of a cinematic universe back in those days), and of course, just a couple of years ago he was seriously considering making a Star Trek film. That project, which Tarantino previously described as both R-rated and "Pulp Fiction in space," would have definitely brought a lot of Tarantino flavor to the galaxy, but he still would have been working within the confines of Trek as a larger pop culture entity. 

But of course, Star Trek has not dominated the box office for the past decade and a half, so it's a bit different than agreeing to take on a single cog in the massive machine that's either the MCU or the DCEU. In Cinema Speculation itself, Tarantino compared what he calls the "chokehold" of superhero movies right now to the saturation of the movie musicals that once dominated Hollywood moneymaking in the middle of the 20th century. Those musicals ultimately faded, and perhaps superhero films will go the same route. Just don't expect Tarantino to be a major part of their history. 

Cinema Speculation is in stores now.

Looking for more superhero action? Check out X-Men: First Class and Fantastic 4 streaming now on Peacock.