Marvel isn't marmite, Scorsese

Harriet Metcalfe comments on the controversial statements made by legendary director Martin Scorsese about comic book movies.

Harriet Metcalfe
16th October 2019

Film Twitter descended into chaos when it was revealed, through an interview with Empire magazine, that Martin Scorsese doesn’t consider Marvel films to be “cinema”. A quick google for the definition of the word “film” brings up: a story or event recorded by a camera as a set of moving images and shown in a cinema or on television. Whether Scorsese is working by that definition or not, remains to be seen.

Scorsese isn’t the first to make this claim and, although his comments might be valid, it doesn’t make them any less disappointing. Coming from such a prestigious filmmaker who knows the business inside and out, he should be aware of the toxic atmosphere around it, and that comments like these don’t help to diffuse the situation. As James Gunn, the creator behind Guardians of the Galaxy, pointed out, directors look up to other directors, and it can be pretty upsetting when their work is compared to “theme parks”: “Martin Scorsese is one of my five favourite living filmmakers. I was outraged when people picked The Last Temptation of Christ without having seen the film. I’m saddened that he’s now judging my films in the same way.”

The Avengers (2012)

So why does Scorsese, as much as it pains me to write it, actually have a point? While the focus is often on superhero movies that redefined the genre (e.g. The Avengers), many have stock characters and formulaic plot. Thor: The Dark World was, essentially, a worse version of 2011’s Thor. Scorsese’s claim that “it isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being” can be applied to a lot of these films. It’s often guys flying around in capes (“doth mother know you weareth her drapes?”) trying to defeat a monster or villain and save the Earth. However, this is not representative of all superhero films. What about Spiderman’s heart-breaking final moments in Avengers: Infinity War? Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Iron Man? These are all aspects that were significant in the context of the plot. Therefore, if these films are “theme parks”, then there’s an emotional roller-coaster along the way. But here’s the thing: formulaic films are okay. Because in a world where everything seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, sometimes we all need a bit of the formulaic. We need our heroes to win and the bad guys left defeated. If we’re going to the cinema for escapism – very rarely do we want the real world to seep in through the cracks.

"Love the films you love, unashamedly. Respect the films you don’t like – because it’s not just the director and the actors that bring these films to existence."

Jennifer Aniston has also jumped on the bandwagon, claiming that she would “love to have the era of Meg Ryan come back”, since the movie industry is, according to her, “diminishing” because of the MCU. I love Thor, but my screensaver is When Harry Met Sally! Marvel isn’t marmite. You can love it, you can hate it, but you can also be on the fence about it. There’s twenty-three films – chances are that they won’t all be your cup of tea. We don’t have to pick a side, and frankly, the suggestion that we ‘should’, or that we ‘have to’ as filmgoers, is a bit ridiculous. Love the films you love, unashamedly. Respect the films you don’t like – because it’s not just the director and the actors that bring these films to existence. It’s hundreds of people working pre, during and post-production. Time, effort, and a lot of money goes into these projects.

Whether it’s “high culture” or just Spiderman – they’re all part of cinema at the end of the day. In the words of Robert Downey Jr.: “it’s like anything where we need all of the different perspectives so we can come to centre and move on.”

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AUTHOR: Harriet Metcalfe
English Literature BA student. Loves film, TV, books and coffee. Thinks "Thor: The Dark World" gets too much hate. Twitter: @hattiemetcalfe

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