Black Panther 2’s Danai Gurira Defends The Franchise Against Martin Scorsese’s Marvel Criticism

Danai Gurira's Okoye crying in Black Panther 2
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

It’s no secret Marvel movies have ruled the film industry over the past two decades. But ever since prestigious Taxi Driver and Goodfellas filmmaker Martin Scorsese shared a few years ago that he doesn't think the big-budget blockbusters are considered cinema, it’s been an ongoing conversation for the industry to discuss. The latest to comment is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever actress Danai Gurira, who memorably plays Okoye in the MCU. 

Danai Gurira is not only the leader of the Dora Milaje in Wakanda, she also had a major and long-running role in The Walking Dead and is a playwright who’s seen her work go to Broadway. With that unique perspective in mind, the actress had to say about whether Marvel movies are cinema:   

Well, I’ve worked very closely with Ryan Coogler. My experience working under his helm, it’s definitely deeply cinematic in every way I can imagine. We’re not leaving anything at home. We’re bringing it all. We’re bringing our understanding of our culture, understanding of our humanity, of our gender, of the complexities therein of this world that we’re in, and all the specificities of this world. We have to come in and pour all we’ve got into this franchise. And that’s what we definitely, definitely do. We didn’t get through either movie and be like, ‘Oh, that was nothing.’ No. It was all we had. It was all we had, and then some. So I hope that’s cinema to somebody.

While speaking with GQ, Gurira shared that her experience under Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has been “deeply cinematic in every way” to her. She and the cast put everything they can into making their Marvel movies, and from her perspective they're certainly not phoning it in when it comes to trying to bring a memorable experience for audiences at the movies. 

Martin Scorsese’s comments about Marvel movies to Empire Magazine initially went viral over three years ago. Following a lot of commentary on his thoughts, the director wrote an opinion for The New York Times where he explained his controversial thoughts further

There, he shared that modern film franchises are “market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption,” whereas movies by directors like Spike Lee, Wes Anderson or Paul Thomas Anderson always make something “absolutely new” and “unexpected.” For example, Scorsese recently praised Ti West’s Pearl for making a horror movie that “enthralled” him to the point of having trouble getting to sleep. 

Other major filmmakers like James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino have gone on to make their own criticisms of the movie industry these days, as Marvel are often the most seen films on big screens from year to year. Cameron shared that he thinks Marvel characters in movies “all act like they’re in college.” Tarantino said that these days there are no longer movie stars, just popular characters like those in the MCU.  

No matter what these filmmakers say, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is certainly going strong. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever just had its third weekend at No. 1 after receiving positive praise from both reviewers and audiences. There’s also obviously so many upcoming Marvel movies on the way following the latest MCU installment. So no matter what, this train is still very much rolling. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.