Martin Scorsese probably didn’t realize he was going to stir up an entire ongoing debate about the state of cinema and the value of superhero movies when he criticized the popular genre of films while out on the publicity tour for The Irishman. But here we are, over three weeks later, and Scorsese is still talking about his comments that put the internet into a tizzy. However, this time Scorsese seems to be making an attempt to put out the fire that he inadvertently started.
In a recent interview, Martin Scorsese explained his classification of Marvel movies as being akin to “theme parks,” but he also called them “a new art form,” and he further clarified his concerns when it comes to sharing the theatrical experience with other movies.
Before we get to Martin Scorsese’s new comments, let’s recap where this started and how it evolved.
This all begin in the print edition of Empire Magazine (covered here), where Scorsese said this about 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.”
That obviously rubbed people the wrong way because of how dismissive it sounded, even if that’s his personal opinion on what constitutes cinema. His perspective got a little more incendiary while promoting The Irishman in London where he added further remarks when asked about the previous comments. Scorsese said:
“It’s not cinema, it’s something else. We shouldn’t be invaded by it. We need cinemas to step up and show films that are narrative films.”
This only threw more fuel on the fire of the debate, because it continued to disregard Marvel movies and other superhero fare as somehow not being narrative cinema. It wasn’t nearly as much of an affront to fans as Francis Ford Coppola calling the movies “despicable,” but folks were understandably upset after movies they love were so easily dismissed by a legendary filmmaker.
Now, Scorsese has further clarified his comments. And while he still sticks to some of the criticisms he made, he’s a bit softer here, all while getting to the core of his worries as far as the state of cinema is concerned. Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, he said:
“Let’s say a family wants to go to an amusement park. That’s a good thing, you know. And at theme parks there’s these cinematic expressions. They’re a new art form. It’s something different from films that are shown normally in theaters, that’s all. My concern is losing the screens to massive theme park films. which I say again, they’re their own new art form. Cinema now is changing. We have so many venues, there are so many ways to make films. So enjoyable. Fine, go and it’s an event and it’s great to go to an event like an amusement park. But don’t crowd out Greta Gerwig and don’t crowd out Paul Thomas Anderson and Noah Baumbach and those people, in terms of theaters.”
So Martin Scorsese still doesn’t see Marvel movies as the kind of films he regards as traditional cinema. We can argue that perception all day, but what he follows it up with is a valid concern. Blockbusters, especially Marvel movies that get shown on multiple screens for weeks on end, are dominating multiplexes and don’t leave much room for studios to give a wide release for movies from indie and prestige filmmakers.
However, as I pointed out when this debate was just heating up, it sounds like Scorsese shouldn’t be targeting superhero movies in expressing this concern. Instead, he needs to focus on the old studio distribution system and how they spend all their money on tentpoles instead of giving lower key dramas a wider release and a bigger marketing budget. Granted, the success of those tentpoles is what gives studios money to spend on indies, dramas and other adult fare that won’t rake in as much box office success, but his frustration understandable, especially when his latest movie isn’t getting as wide of a release as it could have if it were released by a major studio instead of Netflix.
Hopefully, this puts this seemingly endless debate to rest and we can stop asking filmmakers about Martin Scorsese’s comments and asking people to pick a side in the war of cinema versus superheroes. There’s already enough insanity in the world without having to needlessly argue about the movies that are supposed to distract us from whatever fresh hell is happening around the world today.
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