Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe feature film, has responded to recent criticism of blockbuster superhero movies voiced by auteur directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola.

Speaking to CNBC, Favreau was asked about the pair’s comments, and said in reply: “These two guys are my heroes, and they have earned the right to express their opinions. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if they didn’t carve the way. They served as a source of inspiration, you can go all the way back to [Favreau’s breakthrough film] Swingers.”

As well as Iron Man, Favreau has directed its follow-up, Iron Man 2, the recent Disney remakes of The Jungle Book and The Lion King, and is the creator of the Star Wars spin-off TV show The Mandalorian coming out in the US next month.

Favreau added: “They can express whatever opinion they like.”

Scorsese and Coppola have both aimed barbs in recent days at blockbuster superhero films. Scorsese likened them to “theme parks”, while Coppola described Marvel as “despicable”. Their views were echoed by British director Ken Loach, who called superhero films “boring” and “a cynical exercise [that] has nothing to do with the art of cinema”.

But directors including James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Joss Whedon (The Avengers) have defended the genre, with Gunn writing on social media: “Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers.”

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