Zoe Saldana’s MCU Gripe Makes Zero Sense

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The biggest perk an actor can get these days is snagging a role in the MCU.

That’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the biggest film franchise around. It typically means hitting the gym very, very hard to look superhero buff, but the rewards are off the charts.

Steady work. Massive paychecks. Populist adulation. Comic-Con invitations in perpetuity (with the corresponding autograph booth sales to go with it).

Did we mention steady work and massive paychecks?  Even actors with a shelf filled with honors know an MCU role is the Holy Grail for today’s talent.

Just ask Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr., Kurt Russell and Chris Pratt, all established actors who happily joined the MCU galaxy.

Not Everyone Loves This Gig

Yet some MCU veterans are starting to snipe about the gig. Benedict Cumberbatch, who has played Doctor Strange in six MCU movies to date, suggested the role is beneath his considerable talents.

“It’s not some sort of acting gym where you’re stripping off layers of self to reveal a layer of truth all the time … You are working to do some of that but in the heartbeat of making a massive film like ‘The Avengers,’ for example, it can be tough getting that one moment of emotion absolutely nailed in five minutes because that’s all the time they have because of the other, bigger things around it.”

Benedict Cumberbatch
Scarlett Johansson at an Avengers release event. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)

Scarlett Johansson has played Black Widow in nine MCU films, helping make her one of the industry’s best paid, and most recognizable, superstars. She still complained last year that her first appearance as the popular character “hyper-sexualized” her.

“You look back at Iron Man 2 and while it was really fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualised, you know? Really talked about like she’s a piece of something, like a possession or a thing or whatever.”

Scarlett Johansson

Zoe Saldana Not A Fan Of MCU Work

Now, it’s Zoe Saldana’s turn to grouse about the sweetest gig in town, and her comments may cut the deepest.

Zoe Saldana won the Tinsel Town lottery when she was cast as Gamora, the green-skinned warrior and Star-Lord romantic foil in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Not only did that give her work in three “Guardians” films (the third coming in 2023) and two “Avengers” romps, she’s also a key player in “Avatar” and its sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Her “Guardians” duties left her both “grateful” and creatively stalled, to hear her tell it.

“I feel that for the last 10 years of my life, I’ve been just stuck. I felt stuck doing these franchises. It also meant that I felt artistically stuck in my craft of not being able to expand or grow or challenge myself by playing different sorts of genres and different roles.”

Zoe Saldana

How many actors would kill to be “stuck” in such a career divot? Here’s betting just about everyone who ever dreamed of performing on a stage.

Saldana understandably groused about the grueling makeup sessions to complete that Gamora look for “Guardians,” but even there she threw her own franchise under the bus.

“Every time that, you know, that 8-year-old or that dad and mom or those generational fans that remind me that what I did was special to them, it makes me not be cynical about Marvel. It makes me understand that younger audiences should stop being overlooked. They have feelings too and if something impacts them, just because we consider it stupid or immature or cheeky, doesn’t mean it’s not special.”

Zoe Saldana

Marvel Roles Pay Dividends

What Saldana and her fellow MCU players forget is how fickle Hollywood can be. Steady work in popular film franchises keeps stars front of mind in Hollywood. And that matters. Even the most talented actors can be forgotten by industry suits, tossed aside for newer, cheaper talent.

The best stars understand the “one for me, one for them” mentality. You slip into a lycra suit every other year between indie fare that nourishes your creative soul.

Would Daniel Craig have snagged his “Knives Out” role if he hasn’t played James Bond for five blockbuster features?

It’s doubtful.

Saldana and co. can grouse about MCU grudge work to friends and neighbors alike. Doing so in public, though, reeks of ingratitude.

Written by Christian Toto

Christian Toto is an award-winning film critic, journalist and founder of HollywoodInToto.com, the Right Take on Entertainment. He’s the author of “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul” and a lifelong Yankees fan. Toto lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, two sons and too many chickens.

Follow Christian on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HollywoodInToto

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