Martin Scorsese defends remark that Marvel films 'are not cinema'

Since last month, director Martin Scorsese has been shrouded in a mist of online controversy after openly critiquing the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) during an interview with Empire magazine.

The interview in question revealed the 76-year-old director’s thoughts on Marvel films. He claimed they “are not cinema”; sparking a mass wave of online outrage.

However, in yet another attempt to rectify his remarks about the MCU and expand upon his thoughts on cinema as a whole, Scorsese has written an opinion piece for the New York Times in the midst of the backlash.

After claiming that he doesn’t hold a “hatred” for Marvel films, Scorsese reiterated that the franchise is simply “not for ” in the Monday-published article.

'Thor: Ragnarok' (2017): (L-R) Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

'Thor: Ragnarok' (2017): (L-R) Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

Marvel / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

He wrote: “Some people seem to have seized my answer as insulting, or as evidence of hatred for Marvel on my part. If anyone is intent on characterizing my words in that light, there’s nothing I can do to stand in the way.”

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Without naming names, the iconic filmmaker — who just released his latest fearure, The Irishman, last Friday — even praised many of the individuals who have directed some of the much-beloved Marvel/Disney films.

“Many franchise films are made by people of considerable talent and artistry,” he said. “You can see it on the screen.”

Scorsese continued: “The fact that the films themselves don’t interest me is a matter of personal taste and temperament. I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself.”

U.S. director Martin Scorsese attends the premiere of the movie 'The Irishman' during the 14th Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21, 2019 in Rome, Italy.

U.S. director Martin Scorsese attends the premiere of the movie 'The Irishman' during the 14th Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21, 2019 in Rome, Italy.

Eric Vandeville/ABACAPRESS.COM

In contrast, he wrote: “But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies — of what they were and what they could be — that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri.”

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Furthermore, Scorsese suggested that Marvel films differ to original films in the sense that they tend to be formulated and predictable.

“Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures,” said the director. “What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk,” he added.

“The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.”

“They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way.”

“That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.”

Scorsese later used Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow and Wes Anderson (among many others) as examples of directors who he believes constantly create unique and original content that is worth watching.

“When I watch a movie by any of those filmmakers,” he said, “I know I’m going to see something absolutely new and be taken to unexpected and maybe even unnameable areas of experience.”

READ MORE: Francis Ford Coppola: Marvel movies are ‘despicable’

Scorsese’s initial critique of the MCU was echoed by Francis Ford Coppola at the Prix Lumière du Festival de Lyon, in France last month.

There, the 80-year-old filmmaker accepted the Prix Lumière, where he was awarded for his contribution to cinema over the last five decades. After making his acceptance speech, Coppola called the MCU films “despicable.”

He said: “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right, because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.”

Francis Ford Coppola attending the Lumiere Award Ceremony during 11th Lyon Lumiere Festival at Salle 3000 in Lyon, France on Oct. 18, 2019.

Francis Ford Coppola attending the Lumiere Award Ceremony during 11th Lyon Lumiere Festival at Salle 3000 in Lyon, France on Oct. 18, 2019.

Julien Reynaud/APS-Medias/ABACAPRESS.COM

Though some showed him support, The Goodfellas director, for the most part, received a ton of backlash from fans and other filmmakers, including Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy series).

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“Martin Scorsese is one of my 5 favorite living filmmakers,” wrote Gunn, 53, on Twitter, in response. “I was outraged when people picketed The Last Temptation of Christ without having seen the film.

“I’m saddened that now judging my films in the same way.”

Gunn also responded to Coppola’s comments on Marvel in a lengthy Instagram post shared on Sunday.

View this post on Instagram

Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful. Like westerns and gangster movies (and before that, just MOVIES), not everyone will be able to appreciate them, even some geniuses. And that’s okay. ❤️

A post shared by James Gunn (@jamesgunn) on

He wrote: “Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful. Like westerns and gangster movies (and before that, just movies), not everyone will be able to appreciate them, even some geniuses. And that’s okay.”

READ MORE: ‘The Irishman’ trailer: Netflix movie transforms Robert De Niro

The Irishman is now playing in select cinemas across the globe.

It will be released through Netflix worldwide on Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Watch the official trailer for ‘The Irishman’ above.

— Scorsese’s New York Times piece can be read in full here.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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