You’re Wrong, Scorsese. Marvel Movies ARE Cinema

*Alternative title: Go Home, Scorsese. You’re Drunk*

Martin Scorsese is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in history, and one of Hollywood’s ‘sacred cows.’ But recently, he made a statement which  – in its blanketed ignorance – paints him as part of the problem with the world of cinema.

The basis of Scorsese’s claims is that Marvel movies “aren’t cinema,” and that they are more akin to “theme parks.” This, of course, just comes off as the latest in the never-ending examples of the overblown egos and self-importance of Hollywood and its “serious” filmmakers and critics. It’s a display of the utter contempt they have for the average moviegoer, and the films that don’t directly pander to themselves, that makes so many in the industry so very hard to like.

Here is Mr. Scorsese’s exact statement in regards to Marvel movies.

“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

The statement is profusely arrogant and condescending on Scorsese’s part.  Granted, not every type of movie is for everyone. But Scorsese’s comments aren’t a display of a personal disinterest. Rather, the things Scorsese is saying are entirely dismissive to everyone who works in front of and behind the cameras on Marvel movies, and insulting to the audiences that continue to see them (which, by the way, are in far greater numbers than the audience for any Scorsese film).

Scorsese briefly tries to save face by throwing in the words “as well made as they are” in regards to Marvel movies. But it means very little to say that they’re “well made” while simultaneously stating that they don’t qualify as cinema, and that the actors could only ever possibly “do the best they can under the circumstances” if they’re cast in a superhero film. Way to dismiss any and all acting performances that go into these movies just because they’re in a genre you have a blatant bias against. Hey, at least when these Marvel movies re-use actors, they’re playing the same characters and furthering their stories, as opposed to casting Robert De Niro as different sociopath archetypes who may as well be the same character in the same story. But I digress.

When I first read Scorsese’s statements on Marvel movies, it reminded me of something else the famed director said way back in 2004. After The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King achieved the biggest clean sweep in Oscar history, complete with a Best Picture win (a rare instance when the Academy actually knew what they were doing), Scorsese was asked if he’d ever be interested in making fantasy movies. Scorsese’s response…

Real movies with real people.” 

It’s a predictably ego-centric answer from a director who has long-since been made out to be a Hollywood deity, though one I’m sure he himself though sounded profound. If he’s not interested in making fantasy movies, that’s fine. But again, his response was both dismissive and condescending.

“I don’t know, I find the likes of Captain America and Gandalf to be closer to “real people” than violent psychopaths like Travis Bickle.”

Fantasy movies, whether they be sword and sorcery or super heroes or what have you, are fully capable of delivering deep stories that connect with human emotion and psychology. They’re merely different methods of doing so.

Believe it or not, Mr. Scorsese, but films don’t have to follow your rulebook in order to qualify as films. There are these wonderful things called “styles,” “genres” and “mediums.” There are different kinds of artists with all kinds of different voices and tastes. They may not all be good, but just because their path doesn’t directly follow yours doesn’t mean their works should be disqualified, or that they “don’t count.” Maybe you don’t care for a specific genre of movie. Okay, that’s fine. But saying that it’s “not cinema” and just waving off their very existence is profoundly arrogant.

By now, I’m sure the film buffs who would rally to Scorsese’s defense and jump at any opportunity to lambast super hero films and the like would assume I’m just a rambling Marvel fanboy, or that I’m trying to be cool and edgy by talking bad about one of cinema’s most acclaimed directors. But I’d like to point out that I can’t remember the last time I read a Marvel comic book, nor have I enjoyed every MCU film (Iron Man 2, Incredible Hulk and Captain Marvel were pretty mediocre, and the less said of Iron Man 3, the better). Nor do I hate Scorsese’s body of work, some of it (like Goodfellas) I’ve quite enjoyed, though I admit I find Raging Bull to be an overrated bore.

I’m merely writing this because Scorsese’s comments relished in their own ignorance. And it’s mindsets like those represented in Scorsese’s comments that are holding the world of cinema back in many ways. Both those in Hollywood and film buffs put themselves on a pedestal, and treat themselves like they’re part of an elite club. And the common moviegoer, or those “lesser” filmmakers who make films audiences actually want to see aren’t allowed to join. It’s a level of pretentiousness that seems to constantly ooze out of Hollywood types, who in turn act completely dumbfounded as to why they get such a bad reputation. Scorsese may be a great filmmaker in many respects, but with statements like these, he proves he’s part of Hollywood’s problem.

For all the open-mindedness Hollywood likes to give itself a pat on the back for, they sure do have a pretty closed mind when it comes to their own  mediums. It’s like they want to punish movies for making money, or being crowd-pleasers, or if they’re rooted in fantasy or created with animation, etc. If Hollywood were half as open-minded as they bragged themselves up to be, they’d have no qualms with putting such films on equal levels with their preferred style. They should judge every film by how good they are individually, as opposed to considering certain types of films to be innately superior or inferior to others.

Though the world of video games has issues of its own, this “country club” mentality of those within its industry certainly isn’t one of them. In these regards, the video game industry has been completely open-minded as to what constitutes a great work in their medium. There’s never been a differentiating between where or how a game was made in terms of the quality of the end product. There’s never been a stigma against genres or franchises or commercially successful works. Sure, the self-righteous hipster types like Ben Croshaw tried their damndest to replicate the ignorances of the movie world and integrate it into the world of video games during the early 2010s. But thankfully, those clowns ultimately lost their battle, and no one in their right mind has adopted their self-indulgent contempt against popular works.

So while “serious” filmmakers may ridicule popular movies as “not being cinema,” the video game world happily embraces such popular works. I think it’s safe to say the Super Mario franchise has produced many of the most acclaimed video games ever made, while also being extremely cartoonish in nature and having mass commercial appeal, not to mention numerous sequels and countless spinoffs. Not every game with the name ‘Super Mario’ in the title may be an all-time great, but there’s no built in stigma against it for its tone, success, or commercial standing that prevents the Mario games that deserve such praise from earning it.

The world of movies, and the likes of Martin Scorsese, could certainly learn a thing or two about broadening their outlook on their own medium. Perhaps the best retort to Scorsese’s indulgently ignorant claims comes from Samuel L. Jackson, who of course has portrayed Agent Nick Fury in more than a few of the MCU films.

Mr. Jackson’s response went as follows…

“I mean that’s like saying Bugs Bunny ain’t funny. Films are films. Everybody doesn’t like his stuff either. Everybody’s got an opinion, so I mean it’s okay. Ain’t going to stop nobody from making movies.”

Essentially, Jackson found a polite way to say “everyone has their own taste, but don’t be a pompous ass and disregard the hard work that goes into things that don’t fit your niche, as well as their audience.” Well said, Mr. Jackson.

So Mr. Scorsese, the point is it’s okay if real people enjoy watching Marvel movies. While no category of movie will ever be absolutely good, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has provided mostly good movies so far. They may not be your kind of movies, but they are still very much cinema.

As for Mr. Scorsese using “theme parks” as a derogatory terminology, well, if I had the choice to ride Space Mountain or sit through an overly-long character study about a wife-beating, sociopathic boxer, the theme park wins. Hands down.


Author: themancalledscott

Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining, the man called Scott is an ancient sorcerer from a long-forgotten realm. He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil. Or, you know, he could just be some guy who loves video games, animations and cinema who just wanted to write about such things.

9 thoughts on “You’re Wrong, Scorsese. Marvel Movies ARE Cinema”

  1. You said it. I couldn’t care less about Marvel or superhero movies in general; they just don’t have the aesthetic I like. But to say they’re objectively less legitimate than whatever Scorsese considers a “real movie” doesn’t make sense. There are plenty of movies in realistic settings that try to be real and profound and fail miserably. Anyway, Scorsese can’t talk. I saw The Departed, and the violence and some of the characters in that movie were way over the top. How is that any different from what he’s talking about here?

    And don’t get me started on Ben Croshaw. These people who dismiss entire genres as worthless out of hand shouldn’t be listened to.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the passion and thoughtfulness. I think that the Academy is starting to change a little, starting to become more accepting of blockbusters. But I do think your point is excellent, what should it matter if a movie makes $1 billion or $1 million at the box office? A good movie is a good movie.

      Really well done!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Thank you very much, and very well said.

      There’s a difference between not being a fan of a particular style or genre (or what have you) and outright dismissing it. Scorsese, it seems, could benefit from learning that difference. It’s fine if he doesn’t care for superhero movies or doesn’t want to make fantasy films, but the utter disregard for what goes into their creation just comes across as alienating arrogance.

      Thankfully, it seems the days of anyone giving any credence to Ben Croshaw and his ilk are behind us. I think he’s still at it, but no one cares. To believe he once said he would like to be viewed as the Roger Ebert of the video game world. Well, last I checked, Roger Ebert never dismissed movies for their genre or success, and Roger Ebert’s biases (we all have them) were at least positive ones. Ben Croshaw always came across as a spoiled man-child who actually believed his contrarianism and insults brought him legitimacy, and who celebrated his biases against popular works. He has the impossibly simplistic mindset of “it’s a franchise/sequel so it is automatically a soulless cash-grab. but anything indie is by default more artistic.” It’s the most cliched mindset of any self-important individual who thinks they’re being unique with their positions on artworks. Their utter ignorance to how generic and predictable their contrarianism would be humorous, if the individuals who boast such positions didn’t have the tendency to be utterly unlikable. While normally I wouldn’t want to feel like I’m insulting someone, seeing as Ben Croshaw is an entirely repugnant individual who’s idea of criticism risked sending video game critiquing into the Stone Age, I have no qualms with summing him up as “a dumbass.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like Martin Scorsese, but I am compelled to call out a stupid statement when I see it, and this is indeed one of those cases. The whole movies not being real because they don’t have real people thing is idiotic because technically speaking, there are no real people in movies (barring documentaries). They may have varying degrees of realism to their characters, but they are always fictional. Even a depiction of a real-life person is still a fictional character – they just have an obvious mold.

    And I’ve noticed that a lot of New Hollywood directors have said stuff like this. Rather than using the new climate to step up their game, they have to be like “the success of this thing I don’t understand is completely unearned!” Paul Schrader and Steven Spielberg are also guilty of this, claiming that the ‘70s had better audiences while current audiences are letting filmmakers down by not being serious and Netflix is killing cinema respectively. While I’m sure their personality cults think these statements are endless fonts of wisdom, it’s really just petulant whining.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, I do like Scorsese, but statements such as this really do sour me to Hollywood types. It just comes across as someone who has the misfortune of not being particularly imaginative, so they feel alienated by fantasy (or sci-fi or whatever) and so they belittle it to validate their confusion by it.

      As usual, your points are very well said. It’s a shame to hear even Steven Spielberg make blanket statements of his own, seeing as he’s one of the few Hollywood golden boys who also seems to have no problem with the idea of making movies people want to see.

      On a side note, it appears writing this has already upset someone. After I wrote this, I turned off my computer for the night. But before I went to bed I had an email saying I received some comments that were awaiting approval. The first of which read “lol, u mad bro?” which I thought may have been a joke or spam, seeing the usage of such outdated and uncreative internet ‘humor.’ But there had been a follow-up comment mere minutes thereafter by the same commenter, who apparently wasn’t aware that first-time commenters need approval as a spam prevention, and believed I had deleted their comment. They then proceeded to call me something that rhymes with “insecure DUCKface” for it. Huh… That’s a new one. Though I admit I got a mild chuckle out of their totally mature response, so I suppose their little tantrum wasn’t a total waste.

      Sorry for getting off-topic a bit. I was tempted to write another blog about such a silly commenter, but decided it didn’t warrant it since the “insults(?)” were directed at me specifically, whereas the other times I did so the comments were more blanket statements. But again, I got a little bit of a kick out of it so I still wanted to write about it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I don’t really care for the MCU, but this is just a dangerous mentality to have. It’s why stuff like animation is dismissed because it doesn’t use real actors, why action is ignored because it’s just “adrenaline inducing”, fantasy because it just aint real or comedies because they aren’t serious enough (to give examples), it feels like the Hollywood elite can’t accept anything that isn’t some ridiculous melodrama on how humanity/society sucks, and like, I can already go out to the streets to experience our worlds very own flaws, maybe it’s just a disconnect for them for living such different lifes from the average person? I know local actors here despise blockbusters because no one goes to see their dull social commentary films.

    Liked by 2 people

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