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A $160 million budget, a star-studded ensemble cast and advanced de-aging technology might sound like the recipe for a Marvel movie, but it actually describes Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Irishman. The legendary director probably wouldn’t want his film confused with a comic book movie though. Martin Scorsese has some blunt thoughts on Marvel movies that have made MCU director James Gunn quite sad. Addressing Marvel movies, Martin Scorsese said:
I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. 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.
Oh boy. Anyone hoping to one day see Martin Scorsese direct a gritty Marvel movie about a street-level character like The Punisher or Daredevil can give up on that dream. The auteur responsible for films like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas doesn’t view Marvel movies, and presumably you can extrapolate that to superhero movies in general, as real cinema.
Martin Scorsese admits that Marvel movies are well made and credits the actors for working with what he considers to be sub-par material, but he ultimately views them as lesser quality. In his mind, Marvel movies don’t dive deep into the emotional and psychological aspects of the human experience. In his conversation with Empire Magazine, he equates them to theme parks, meaning that they are frivolous fun and don’t serve any higher function.
Hearing this opinion from some elitist film critic would be annoying, but hearing it from someone like Martin Scorsese, a pillar of the craft, is definitely a bummer, not just for fans of Marvel movies, but for his peers as well. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, whose has made Marvel movies, original superhero flicks and is now making a DC film, is particularly sad about Martin Scorsese’s comments. He took to Twitter to express his disappointment.
James Gunn hits on a great point about Martin Scorsese’s Marvel movie comments. As Martin Scorsese said to Empire, he doesn’t see Marvel movies. He’s apparently tried, but what did that look like? How many did he try and which ones, before he formed this opinion dismissing the genre as a whole as ‘not real cinema?’ Did he watch X-Men: The Last Stand and Fantastic Four, or has he seen Black Panther and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or even non-Marvel movies like The Dark Knight?
It seems that Martin Scorsese is judging Marvel movies without having really seen them, which is ironic because as James Gunn astutely notes, Martin Scorsese had his own film, The Last Temptation of Christ, protested and prematurely dismissed by people who hadn’t actually seen it. This understandably saddens James Gunn, who made sure to note what a fan he is of Martin Scorsese and how much he’s looking forward to The Irishman.
As James Gunn exhibits here, you can be a fan of someone and respect that person but still sternly disagree with him or her on a given topic. James Gunn won’t be boycotting The Irishman over this and nor should anyone else.
Unfortunately, Martin Scorsese doesn’t seem to be alone in his views about superhero movies. We’ve heard variations of the same thing from people like Jodie Foster and Ridley Scott over the years. In some ways it’s a natural reaction to the genre’s dominance over the industry, but it’s also a myopic and dismissive view that comes off as incredibly elitist.
First of all, it can be dangerous territory when someone starts saying what is or isn’t cinema, or what does and doesn’t constitute real art. It seems that Martin Scorsese and those who take this view of Marvel movies are only looking at the superficial elements of a story, and in superhero movies, all they see are costumes and explosions.
But any story, be it fantasy, science fiction or whatever, can be about “real things” and the human condition, and give the audience something to connect with. Those superficial elements simply represent another way to go about exploring those ideas and they often act as a gateway, exposing audiences to thought-provoking stories under the guise of meaningless fun (not that meaningless fun is in any way a bad thing).
Think about what Avengers: Endgame has to say about grief, or what Black Panther has to say about isolationism. There's also the allegory to civil rights present in the X-Men stories. Those films have merit, regardless of whether they fit someone’s narrow definition of cinema.
Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman arrives in select theaters on November 1 and drops on Netflix on November 27. James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad comes out on August 6, 2021. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to keep track of all this year’s biggest movies.