Veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese, in an interview with Empire Magazine on October 2019, said that he did not think Marvel films were cinema. The filmmaker's explosive comment led to months and months of back and forth between him and members of the Marvel franchise including Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau, James Gunn and even Robert Downey Jr.
"I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese told Empire magazine.
“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."
He then went on to write a New York Times opinion piece explaining his stance and even questioned the emotional quotient of the franchise.
Like many events of such calibre, this too divided the world, a section defended Scorsese, another consisted of staunch Marvel followers who later were seen hating on Scorsese's magnum-opus, The Irishman. The third section, however, were the people who adored both Scorsese's work and were also Marvel fans. The latter went into a frenzy recently when Scorsese's The Irishman and Avengers:Endgame were nominated for an Academy Award in the Visual Effects Category.
Seen as a exciting turn of events for many, both the Marvel film and the gangster period piece has broken many barriers in terms of visual effects. The breathtaking final scene in the super-hero film and the de-aging technology used to make 74-year-old Robert De Niro look 30 and 80 in the same film.
While there are other very strong contenders, Jon Favreau's Live Action remake of Lion King was done commendably, Princess Leia was created by technology using old footage of Carrie Fischer in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. And needless to say, Sam Mendes' 1917 has also been award-season favourite. But the romantic in most of us want to see The Irishman and Avengers: Endgame to battle it out and one of these two to take the award home. That will, in some minuscule way, settle the scores for a bit.
Also there is the whole fact that The Irishman has been nominated for 10 Oscars, while it's "theme park" counter-part has only gotten one. However, is that a proper standard of judging whether a Marvel film is really "cinema"?
Movies, like most of art is subjective. A Martin Scorsese film and a film made by the Russo Brothers cannot be compared--not story, not screenplay and not even the performances in the films. The two films are catering to target audiences who are poles apart.
It is common knowledge that worldwide, a Martin Scorsese will be regarded as a better filmmaker than many directors of the Marvel franchise put together. In fact many of them have publicly stated that Scorsese has been a hero and inspiration for them.
The point is how one cannot fully justify calling a film a theme park just because it does not align with their aesthetics. Because truth be told, Avengers: Endgame is the highest grossing film of all time and there will be hundreds of films that the franchise will churn money in billions. And what Martin Scorsese and even Francis Ford Coppola think about them, will not change this fact.
Coming back to the point made earlier, a Marvel film can not be "not cinema" just because it does not cater to certain aesthetics. Hundreds of people's hardwork and time has gone for the making of it and millions have enjoyed watching it. The world is a diverse place with diverse tastes and the debate of whether awards or money is better litmus test for a film will be a topic of debate for centuries to come. For now, shall we all shed a tear for the tragic deaths of Tony Stark and Jimmy Hoffa in solidarity?
Or if peace was never an option, probably the Oscars will settle the score, right?
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