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We're in the middle of a relative dead zone when it comes to the release of superhero movies, but that doesn't mean anybody has stopped talking about them. If anything, the subject of superhero films as a genre has never been more in the headlines. Luminary directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have spoken out against the films in their entirety, and Disney CEO Bob Iger has now responded to those critics. And he's got some words.
Martin Scorsese had previously refereed to Marvel's movies as the cinematic equivalent of a theme park, which feels like it's taking a shot at Disney twice, but when Bob Iger was asked about the comments of Scorsese and Coppola by the Wall Street Journal, Iger said he holds the two directors in the highest regard, though he does take issue with the comments. He also felt Coppola's words especially were a little harsh. According to iger...
Well, it doesn’t bother me. Except I’m bothered on behalf of the people who worked on those movies. I don’t take it personally. Well, they don’t see how the audience is reacting to them, first of all. They have the right to their opinions. Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese are two people I hold in the highest regard. In terms of the films they’ve made, the films I like. The films we’ve all watched. But when Francis uses the words ‘those films are despicable?’
Martin Scorsese started the conversation by claiming that Marvel movies were not cinema, that they lacked "the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being." Scorsese was at least vaguely diplomatic in that he gave the films credit for being well made and believing the actors were doing the best they could "under the circumstances."
Francis Ford Coppola was far less forgiving. He said that the purpose of cinema is to learn something, and that there's nothing to be learned from Marvel's movies. He then used the word "despicable."
Bob Iger clearly understands the reputation that Disney has. He knows there's a feeling that the company focuses more on the commercial aspects of film that the creative. However, Iger would ultimately argue that there are some very creative people involved in the MCU. A number of clearly skilled filmmakers have become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the years, and Iger doesn't think it's appropriate to call any of their work despicable.
To whom is he talking? Is he talking to Kevin Feige who runs Marvel? Or Taika Waititi, who directs, or Ryan Coogler who directs for us? Or Scarlett Johansson or Chad Boseman? I could name a number of people, Robert Downey Jr.?
If the major criticism here is that Marvel movies are something that's meant purely for the sake of entertaining the largest number of people, it seems Bon Iger is more than happy to accept that criticism. He believes that the audience's perspective is one that should be listened to and when they cast their vote by attending a Marvel movie, that clearly means something. The CEO also points out that, from a business perspective, the MCU is valuable to the entire industry, including to people like Scorsese and Coppola.
I don’t quite get what they’re trying to criticize us for, when we’re making films that people obviously are enjoying going to. Because they’re doing so by the millions. And frankly, the motion picture distribution business or the theatrical exhibition business as it’s known world wide, has relatively thin margins. And when those theaters run movies, not just like ours because there are others out there too, that do exceedingly well for them and they make a lot of money on them. That actually gives them the ability to run other films that might not be as successful, but there are people in different places that want to see them.
At the end of the day, the movie business is a business. While movies make millions or billions of dollars, theaters only see a small portion of that, which means they're usually not swimming in cash. A theater needs to put movies on the screens that people will pay to see. While the works of a director like Martin Scorsese might be critically lauded, those films rarely become box office smashes. Bob Iger thinks theaters can afford to show smaller movies more because of the profit they make from those big blockbuster movies.
Overall, Bob Iger's comments are fairly tame. He defends his studio but is fairly referential when it comes to the accomplished and respected directors who made these initial comments. However, at the end of his statement, Bob Iger lets fly a little bit. He thinks the comments made were quite disrespectful to the people who put their hard work into these movies and he decides to just go ahead and say that.
If they want to bitch about movies it's certainly their right. I don't know. I don't understand. It seems so disrespectful to all the people that work on those films who are working just as hard as the people that work on their films and are putting their creative souls on the line, just like they are.You telling me Ryan Coogler making Black Panther is doing something some how or another less than what Marty Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola have ever done on any one of their movies? Come on. Yeah, I said it.
At the end of the day, making a movie is hard work and it's just as difficult, time consuming, and creatively exhausting, to make Black Panther as it is to make The Irishman, at least that's how Bob Iger feels about it.
Clearly, this argument doesn't look to be dying down anytime soon. We'll have to wait and see if anybody else decides to respond to Bob Iger's defense of Marvel. The popularity of Marvel's films is certainly part of a generational shift in film. What's popular with a new generation is frequently criticized by the older one. There are going to be people with strong feelings on either side. As Bob Iger said, the audience goes to see Marvel movies in the millions, which means there are probably a lot of people willing to defend the cinematic quality of those films. And Marvel doesn't look to be slowing down. There will be plenty more opportunity for people to criticize the franchise as the box office dollars keep rolling in.