Movies & TV / Columns

A Look at Martin Scorsese’s Claim That Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema

October 5, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Avengers: Endgame Nebula, Coronavirus

Don’t hold your breathe if you’re waiting for a Martin Scorsese directed Silver Surfer movie. 

The famed director caused a bit of a stir when he spoke about trying to watch superhero movies and his thoughts on where they rank.

“I tried, you know?” Scorsese said when asked if he had seen Marvel’s movies. “But that’s not cinema.”

He continued: “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

Marvel President Kevin Feige defended his movies against criticism aimed at their quality, saying that the series’s lack of major awards was no indication of a lack of artistic merit. 

“Maybe it’s easy to dismiss VFX or flying people or spaceships or billion dollar grosses,” Feige said. “I think it is easy to say that you have already been awarded in a certain way. [Alfred] Hitchcock never won best director, so it’s very nice, but it doesn’t mean everything. I would much rather be in a room full of engaged fans.”

Soon after Scorsese’s comments came out, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn responded on Twitter. “Martin Scorsese is one of my 5 favorite living filmmakers. I was outraged when people picketed ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ without having seen the film. I’m saddened that he’s now judging mine in the same way,” he said.

Scorsese joins the like of fellow director James Cameron, who has disparaged superhero movies in a number of interviews. 

“I think its great fun,” Cameron told Yahoo when asked about superhero movies, specifically Aquaman. “I think its a movie I could have never made. Truthfully. I could have never made that film because it requires this total dreamlike disconnect from any sense of physics or reality. It exists somewhere between a Greek mythic landscape and a fairy tale landscape. And people just kind of zoom around underwater because … they propel themselves mentally? I guess? I don’t know. But it’s cool. You buy it on its own terms. But I’ve spent thousands of hours underwater. I’m very literal about my underwater. It needs to look like it’s real. And while I can enjoy that film I don’t resonate with it because it doesn’t look real.”

He continued, “And by the way, (Aquaman) doesn’t help us with our issues of actually understanding the ocean and exploring the ocean and preserving the ocean — though they did throw in a couple things like whales and things like that to remind us we are using the ocean as a garbage dump, so I applaud the film for that. Yeah, I couldn’t have made that movie. We’re doing a lot of underwater in the Avatar sequels and it’s going to have such a different feel.”

Before that, Cameron had made comments that he hopes fans would get tired of the Marvel movies. “I’m hoping we’re going to start getting Avenger fatigue. Not that I don’t love the movies. It’s just, come on, guys, there are other stories to tell besides, you know, hypogonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process.” 

Scorsese obviously believes his opinion and come from a unique perspective. He’s an iconic director who brings his vision to life. As Cameron is as well. 

In their view, the “ability to convey emotion” is done through movies that have their scope and style. It might be unthinkable that different ways exist to bring about human connection. 

You could talk to any number of superhero movie fans and they could describe watching Black Panther and feeling the same emotions as someone who watched Raging Bull. You may not agree but each person’s cinema experience is unique unto themselves.   

Who are we to judge? 

I would be interested in seeing Scorsese and Cameron’s take on Todd Phillip’s Joker film, which holds echoes of Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver

What are your thoughts on Scorsese’s comments?