Roger Ebert Defended ‘Star Wars’ From Being Called Not Cinema Decades Before The Marvel Debate

You’re not a big-time director until you’ve weighed in on the quality of Marvel movies.

The current round of discourse kicked off with Martin Scorsese comparing the MCU to “theme parks,” adding that they’re “not the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being,” but he’s not the only one with [Danzig voice] something to say. Pedro Almodóvar thinks they’re not sexy enough (sorry, America’s Ass), and David Cronenberg, well, I’ll let him explain it: “I think people who are saying, you know, Dark Knight Rises is, you know, supreme cinema art,’ I don’t think they know what the f*ck they’re talking about.” But this debate/people yelling about so-called popcorn movies being lowbrow entertainment has been waging for decades.

The Hollywood Reporter unearthed a video from 1983, the year Return of the Jedi was released, of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert defending Star Wars on ABC News Nightline. In response to fellow critic John Simon decrying George Lucas’ films as “completely dehumanizing” and that they’re “making children dumber than they need to be,” Ebert fired back, “I totally disagree with Mr. Simon. I don’t know what he did as a child, but I spent a lot of my Saturday matinees watching science fiction movies and serials and having a great time and being stimulated and having my imagination stimulated and having all sorts of visions take place in my mind that would help me to become an adult and to still stay young at hear.” Then, the kill shot: “I wouldn’t say that I am childlike, but that [Simon] is old at heart.” (It’s no, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny,” but it’s close.) He also proved prophetic:

“These are the sorts of movies the Disney people should be making and the kind of movies that Disney made 20, 30 years ago,” Ebert said. “I think all movies are special effects. Movies are not real. They are two-dimensional. It’s a dream. It’s an imagination. So, as to whether this film is good or not; it excited me. It made me laugh. It made me thrilled. And that’s what a movie like this is for.”

It’s almost as if people can enjoy Marvel movies and indies!

For what it’s worth, Ebert gave four out of four stars to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of Jedi; three and a half stars for The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith; and a middling two stars for Attack of the Clones, the weirdest Star Wars movie. Anyway, you can (and should) watch the entire Nightline interaction here.

(Via Hollywood Reporter)