It’s no secret that it’s the Golden Age of the comic book movie, especially as Marvel Cinematic Universe films dominate the moviegoing conversation year after year. But in 2019, revered Taxi Driver and Goodfellas filmmaker Martin Scorsese took a major dig at the genre when he declared that Marvel-type movies are “not cinema” and likened them to “theme park” movies. Ahead of The Suicide Squad, director/writer James Gunn fired back at the director's criticisms, though he later pointed out a deep respect for Scorsese's body of work.
When Martin Scorsese’s initial comments went viral ahead of the release of The Irishman, James Gunn shared his disappointment in his comments. The Guardians of the Galaxy director said that Scorsese is one of his top five favorite living directors, but didn’t necessarily appreciate the judgement toward a topic that includes his work. More recently, Gunn has forwarded the conversation with these remarks:
I just think it seems awful cynical that he would keep coming out against Marvel and then that is the only thing that would get him press for his movie. So he just kept coming out against Marvel so that he could get press for his movie. He’s creating his movie in the shadow of the Marvel films, and so he uses that to get attention for something he wasn’t getting as much attention as he wanted for it.
James Gunn shared his point of view while speaking with Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. During the conversation, Horowitz asked the director how he felt to be a filmmaker that has to come to the defense of superhero films time and time again when comments such as Martin Scorsese's have surfaced. Gunn continued with this:
He’s one of the greatest filmmakers who’s ever existed. I love his movies. I can watch his movies with no problem. And he said a lot of things I agree with. There are a lot of things that are true about what he said. There are a lot of heartless, soulless, spectacle films out there that don’t reflect what should be happening. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve talked to film directors before they went and made a big movie, and said, ‘Hey, we’re in this together, let’s do something different with these big movies. Let’s make them something different than everything that has come before them.’ And then see them cater to every single studio whim and be grossed out, frankly.
James Gunn said he could understand and make sense of some of Martin Scorsese’s comments about the genre, even pointing to his own experiences watching directors flush down inspired visions for commercial products. But in the case of his movies, he felt it was unfair for The Departed filmmaker to throw them under the bus when every one of them is not like the other.
He called the comments “irritating” overall because Martin Scorsese hasn’t seen his movie specifically, and James Gunn knows full well he is trying his best to make something out of the ordinary from the other films of the genre. Scorsese isn’t the only one. Francis Ford Coppola, Ridley Scott, David Fincher and even Tim Burton have been critical of superhero films as they reign in Hollywood today, whilst actors like Aquaman’s Jason Momoa have jabbed back. James Gunn later clarified his comments after his quote starting circulating to be more positive on the Scorsese front and to note there was no "feud" between the two directors.
James Gunn’s latest movie is The Suicide Squad, a reimagining of the DC property that sees a group of villainous outcasts coming together for a shady mission. It comes to theaters and HBO Max on August 5. Gunn will next return to Marvel to make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 as Martin Scorsese films his next movie Killers of the Flower Moon.