Martin Scorsese Argues in New Op-Ed That Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema
For about a month now, a select group of aggrieved Marvel fans have refused to let go of comments made by director Martin Scorsese about their beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe. In an interview with Empire, Scorsese said Marvel films were not cinema as he understood it, and were closer to theme park rides in the ways they were made and the impact they had on their intended audience.
Some defensive fans refused to let the comments go, decried Scorsese as washed-up, a hack, and other assorted attacks. When other filmmakers came to Scorsese’s defense, they were attacked as well. When some younger artists attacked Scorsese, those comments made the rounds. This has been going on for a month now.
Now Scorsese himself has written a longer piece explaining his initial comments, and his larger thoughts about the world of film, for The New York Times. The entire op-ed is worth a read, but this is probably the most important part, where Scorsese lays out what he sees as the biggest issue with Marvel movies — which is really a problem with the broader studio system of 2019:
Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes. They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and 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.
I really enjoy a lot of Marvel’s movies. They’re not all perfect, but many are extremely entertaining. A few — the first Iron Man, maybe the first Avengers — might rise to the level of “great” in my opinion. I grew up reading comics; I recently wrote a book about the history of Spider-Man. I am skeptical of any attack on comics or comic book movies that dismisses them as somehow not artistic or inherently inferior to any other kind of movie.
But very few people on this planet know more about movies — their history, their practices, their business, and their artistry — than Martin Scorsese. His words have merit, and his opinion is informed in a way very few are. What he says should be considered, and taken to heart. If he says cinema as it has been understood for more than a century is in jeopardy, we should take his concerns very seriously.
One persistent knock on Scorsese I’ve seen lately — besides the ignorant claim that he only makes movies about gangsters, which can only be made by someone who doesn’t know very much about his work — is that if he cared so much about “cinema” or theatrical movies, then he shouldn’t have taken all this money from Netflix to make The Irishman. I look at that fact very differently, particularly after reading this op-ed. Scorsese is straight up telling you: Netflix is the only studio that would give him the money to make the movie. In another era, the studios would have fought over the rights to The Irishman. Now, “it, and it alone” would fund Scorsese’s latest passion project.
The other studios have become so risk averse, in other words, they wouldn’t back a movie from the guy who made Goodfellas and Raging Bull, *starring the guys from Goodfellas and Raging Bull — and also Al Pacino. If The Irishman can barely get made in 2019, what chance does any movie outside the franchise system have?
Gallery — Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked From Worst to Best: