George Miller Has A Really Thoughtful Take On Superhero Movies As Cinema

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame

This year, fans and filmmakers alike have argued over what defines a cinematic experience -- and as to whether or not superhero movies can be considered cinema. The latter question, in particular, has inspired a contentious debate, with prominent directors weighing in. Now George Miller has offered his opinion on the matter -- and his thoughtful perspective is worth considering.

In an interview with Deadline, the Mad Max director defended blockbuster franchises, like Star Wars and comic book films. Seemingly in response to the ongoing conversation about these movies’ validity, he said:

I watch all of them. To be honest, in terms of this debate, cinema is cinema and it’s a very broad church. The test, ultimately, is what it means to the audience. There’s a great quote I saw that applies to all we do. It was from the Swahili storytellers. Each time they finished a story they would say, ‘The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault because I am the storyteller. And if it was good, it belongs to everybody.’

This introspective approach to the debate feels refreshing, and seems to acknowledge that even within these genres, there are many factors to consider when deciding whether a movie is "good" or "bad." He went on to argue that this debate is far more complicated than many people seem to think:

It’s a mistake and a kind of hubris if a film does well at the box office to dismiss it as clever marketing or something else. There’s more happening there, and it’s our obligation as storytellers to really try and understand it. To me, it’s all cinema. I don’t think you can ghettoize it and say, oh this is cinema or that is cinema. It applies to all the arts, to literature, the performing arts, painting and music, in all its form. It’s such a broad spectrum, a wide range and to say that anyone is more significant or more important than the other, is missing the point. It’s one big mosaic and each bit of work fits into it.

Earlier this year, Martin Scorsese said Marvel movies are more like amusement parks than movies, and shouldn’t be considered cinema. The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola later echoed his sentiments. Many voices from the MCU, including James Gunn and Kevin Feige, have since defended the genre. But George Miller is one of the first filmmakers outside of the genre to lend his voice in support of comic book movies. His nuanced opinion is a much-needed reminder that this conversation, like the films themselves, has the potential to be deeper than many may have originally thought. It’s likely he won’t have the last word - but we’re glad he weighed in.

Katherine Webb