Martin Scorsese made waves when he said Marvel movies are “not cinema.” The famed Oscar-winning director has now clarified his remarks as part of an opinion piece for The New York Times–and he isn’t backing down.
Scorsese started off by stating that he does not detest Marvel, he just doesn’t see those types of superhero movies as “cinema” as he defines it. He said many franchise films are “made by people of considerable talent and artistry.” He doesn’t watch or enjoy Marvel movies because they do not personally appeal to his “taste and temperament.”
“I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself,” he said. “But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies–of what they were and what they could be–that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri.”
Scorsese–who won an Oscar for The Departed–said Marvel movies do in fact contain “many of the elements that define cinema as I know it.” However, he says he can’t call Marvel movies true cinema by his definition because they lack “revelation, mystery, or genuine emotional danger.”
“Nothing is at risk” in Marvel movies, Scorsese added. “The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.”
The director went on to say Marvel movies are effectively remakes in spirit in part because they have gone through a process that removes a semblance of personality.
“Everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted, and remodified until they’re ready for consumption,” he said.
Scorsese singled out directors like Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker), Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar), and Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Punch-Drunk Love) as movie-makers who create experiences that deliver “something absolutely new.” Their movies take Scorsese to places of “unnameable areas of experience.”
The director said he’s sharing his opinions about Marvel movies, superhero movies, and franchise films because he sees them as a threat to the traditional movie-going experience. Movie theatres only have so many screens, so they choose to run sequels and franchise films, while independent theatres are losing ground.
“In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen,” he said. “It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever.”
“If you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree,” he added. “It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.”
You can–and should–read Scorsese’s full piece at NYT to better understand the context of his comments, and gain a full understanding of what he’s saying and why.
Scorsese’s original comments inspired other directors to speak out as well. The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola took things further, saying Marvel movies are “despicable.”
“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema,” Coppola said. “He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”
Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld said Scorsese and Coppola are entitled to their opinions, while pointing out that Marvel, DC, and others will not stop making superhero movies just because Scorsese and Coppola don’t like them. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, meanwhile, said in a post on Instagram that no one should be surprised by the comments made by Scorsese and Coppola.
Scorsese’s next movie is The Irishman, starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. It is playing in select theatres now and debuts on Netflix on November 27.