Okay…so you may recall that in 2019 acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese wrote a NY Times op-ed famously titled “I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.” In the piece, he compared the films within the MCU to “theme park rides”. It caused a bit of a stir where fans of the films, as well as some established MCU directors like James Gunn, disagreed with him. At the time, there were also some notable directors like like Francis Ford Coppola who came forward, agreed with Scorsese, and even called the films “despicable.”
Since then, several other directors like Denis Villeneuve and Roland Emmerich have made similar comments saying that franchises like Marvel and Star Wars are ruining the film industry. This is one of those situations where I can understand both perspectives. Directors like Scorsese and Coppola belong to the “New Hollywood” group of directors who wanted to move away from big studio projects and make films that allowed them to have complete creative control. So, to them, a major studio like Marvel that focuses on big blockbusters represents the kind of films they never wanted to make, films that would appeal to the masses.
At the same time, I don’t agree with making a blanket statement saying that all of Marvel’s films aren’t “real cinema” or “real art”. And I don’t agree with saying that about any type of art form. A movie that I love could be hated by someone else. Similarly a film I think is terrible could be someone else’s favorite. All of that boils down to someone personal tastes. Also, as some directors like James Gunn have pointed out, while you may not enjoy a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, a lot of time and effort went into it. For someone to dismiss that so quickly or disqualify it from being considered cinematic is unfair in my opinion. However, that’s not really the main point I want to make in this article.
The real issue I wanted to talk about is how at this point we’re sort of passed having an actual discussion about these opinions. What I mean by that now there’s a headline about a famous director criticizing Marvel movies almost every few weeks. Most recently, both James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino came forward to dunk on the genre, with the latter saying he wouldn’t make a Marvel movie because he believes “they’re for hired guns.” Now, considering Tarantino has actually spoken positive of comic book movies in the past and was so close to adapting Luke Cage with Laurence Fishburne in the 90’s, his comment isn’t really even that negative. But he’s also made it clear in the past that he’s only interested in directing films based on his own original ideas now.
The point is that these are all things that most entertainment journalists doing these interviews should do know. But I believe there’s a reason they keep asking though, and it’s not to start any kind of real discussion about the subject. I think it’s all for clicks. It’s a question that, no matter the answer, the publication can take that one quote out of a large (probably decent) interview and place it completely out of context as a headline. By doing that, they know people will talk about it and it will only continue to bring traffic to their sites. Whether or not it leads to people talking or arguing, they enjoy the surge until the next director who says they don’t like superhero movies comes along.
I love superheroes, especially those created by Marvel. By extension, I’ve come to love most of their films too. I also love and respect the works of all the filmmakers mentioned in this article (with the exception of maybe Emmerich), but as I said before this is a debate where I can see both where both sides are coming from. The bottom line is that I think there could be a really interesting conversation about this, but we have to do more than just click on the articles and judge.
Not that long ago James Gunn posted on Instagram about how he actually spent 4.5 hours talking with Francis Ford Coppola about cinema. I would absolutely LOVED to present for that conversation. I think many cinephiles would to hear what they had to say conversation too. But you’re not going to hear about that story anywhere. I wouldn’t know about it if I didn’t follow Gunn on Instagram. Because those guys having a cool and relaxing conversation about their mutual love of film won’t get as many clicks as a headline like “Francis Ford Coppola calls Marvel movies ‘despicable.'”
I realize this is a plea that might fall on deaf ears, but I also understand businesses do what they feel they have to in order to make profit. But it’s something that I really just wanted to speak on because, if it isn’t inherently obvious, I think voicing your opinion is important. Now, I just hope that by the time this article comes out another director hasn’t said something about superhero films that I’ll have to add in.