A month after acclaimed director Martin Scorsese’s comments about the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Empire went viral, invariably setting off an unending parade of seemingly pro- and anti-MCU responses from other directors and industry professionals, the “Marvel movies aren’t cinema” argument has entered the annals of the New York Times opinion columns. Late Monday, the “Gray Lady” published an article written by Scorsese in which he further explains his position vis-à-vis Marvel’s massive catalog of films, the state of the industry, and more.
“Some people seem to have seized on [my comments] as insulting, or as evidence of hatred for Marvel on my part,” he begins the column after recounting the basics of his Empire quote. “If anyone is intent on characterizing my words in that light, there’s nothing I can do to stand in the way.”
For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.
It was about confronting the unexpected on the screen and in the life it dramatized and interpreted, and enlarging the sense of what was possible in the art form.
And this, he continues, is why he doesn’t consider the Marvel canon films to be “cinema” in the sense that it is an “art form.” Because “the sameness of today’s franchise pictures is something else again. Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk.” What’s more, he continues, “franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever.”
After noting that “streaming has become the primary delivery system” and admitting he “just completed a picture for Netflix,” Scorsese writes “no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.” And this, aside from the Marvel movies’ lack of the more artistic qualities he praises, is one of the director’s biggest takeaways from this whole affair. Big tentpole movies about superheroes fighting purple aliens are crowding out “anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out.”
As serious as Scorsese’s New York Times op-ed is, however, everyone really knows where this whole debate is actually going to end up.
we'll know Scorsese is really trolling us when he writes this op-ed instead pic.twitter.com/R6TGHHoahZ
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) November 5, 2019
(Via New York Times)