Are Marvel movies really “cinema?” This became a massive question in 2019 when Martin Scorsese, Hollywood icon and a brilliant director by every metric known to man, dismissed the crop of MCU blockbusters as nothing more than theme park rides that are chewing up valuable space at the multiplex. Mr. Scorsese, of course, is entitled to his opinion, but it caused a hell of a stir (because in 2019, we also need a lot of things to complain about online, naturally).
I’m trying to interpret this sly move by Scorsese’s daughter, Francesca. On her Instagram story (captured by Deadline), the merry prankster revealed that she wrapped her father’s Christmas presents in Marvel-themed paper.
Hilarious. I love everything about it… unless, she’s saying that these movies are LESS than film. That they’re the equivalent of holiday wrapping paper. That would be a savage indictment of the state of superhero filmmaking, delivered by the daughter of one of our generation’s greatest storytellers. It’s also very possible that I’m reading too much into this, and that the Scorsese’s just have a terrific sense of humor, and Francesca Scorsese knows exactly how to break her father’s balls. To quote Joe Pesci in the masterful The Irishman, “It is what it is.”
No matter what side of this debate you fall on, both Marvel and Marty had terrific years this year. Marvel Studios dominated the box office frame (and received near-universal critical praise) with its output of Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and the Sony collaboration of Spider-Man: Far From Home. All three soared past the $1 billion mark at the international box office, and Endgame is now the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Martin Scorsese, meanwhile, made a triumphant picture in The Irishman, reteaming with some of his most powerful collaborators (Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro, to name drop a few) to deliver a gut-punching coda to the type of Mafia-gangster picture Scorsese all-but perfected in Goodfellas and Casino. Though released by Netflix, the movie enjoyed a limited theatrical run, maintained its 3+ hour run time, and is expected to compete for numerous Oscars when the Academy announces its nominees in January.
So, can this blood feud end? I’m kidding. This is the most harmless debate in all of cinema. Scorsese makes some excellent points about studios and distributors being beholden to the tentpoles that prop up the annual release schedule. And he laments the fact that in 2019, he can’t get a movie like The Irishman made in the traditional studio system.
But audiences are finding his movies – and movies like Roma or 6 Underground – on streaming platforms. We have evolved. There’s room at numerous tables for all types of stories. And the joke by Francesca Scorsese was spot on. We hope Marty got a good laugh out of it.