The latest debate in Hollywood isn’t over who should get the lead role in the newest comic book film, but whether Marvel movies even count as pieces of cinema. On one side of the debate are famed directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. On the other side is just about everyone else.
The debate began earlier this month when Scorsese was interviewed by Empire Magazine and said that he couldn’t sit through a Marvel movie. Admittedly, they are super-long, but that wasn’t his complaint (it’s also worth noting that Scorsese’s upcoming film The Irishman is 3 hours and 30 minutes – take that, Avengers). “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” said Scorsese when asked about Marvel movies. “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.”
Scorsese doubled down on his comments at the BFI London Film Festival one week later, saying “It’s not cinema, it’s something else,” he argued. “We shouldn’t be invaded by it. We need cinemas to step up and show films that are narrative films.”
Scorsese isn’t alone in his opinion, with fellow director Francis Ford Coppola weighing in this weekend while receiving the Prix Lumiere in France for his contribution to cinema. “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” said Coppola, adding “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.” So yeah, we know where Francis Ford Coppola stands on Marvel movies.
Members of the Marvel universe aren’t taking the criticism sitting down, quickly flying into action. Yeah, that was a superhero pun because we have seen A LOT of Marvel movies and they’re great. On Saturday, Natalie Portman a.k.a. first female Thor told The Hollywood Reporter that she thinks there’s room for all types of cinema. “I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life,” said Portman, who didn’t say that no one watches Gangs of New York or Apocalypse Now to relax, but we know she was thinking it.
James Gunn, who has directing credits that include Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2, posted about Scorsese and Coppola’s remarks on his Instagram, arguing that older generations often don’t understand new movie styles.
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Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful. Like westerns and gangster movies (and before that, just MOVIES), not everyone will be able to appreciate them, even some geniuses. And that’s okay. ❤️
Actor Colin Hanks tweeted his thoughts about the debate, pointing out that making movies is really freaking hard, so let’s all be cool, okay?
I’ll never understand why established and beloved Filmmakers, who’ve made countless films, publicly bad-mouth other films. Especially films not made for their, shall we say “demo”. They, of all people, know how HARD making films are. Just say it’s not for you and move on.
— Colin Hanks (@ColinHanks) October 20, 2019
Following Scorsese’s initial theme park comments, Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. shared his opinion on the matter while appearing on The Howard Stern show and though he did say he sincerely appreciated Scorsese’s option, he also kept things simple. If it plays in a theatre, it’s cinema.