Martin Scorsese Argues Marvel Films Are “Not Cinema,” James Gunn Disagrees

When acclaimed filmmakers debate superhero movies

Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese.
Siebbi /Creative Commons

The very nature of cinematic storytelling is bound to lead smart people to disagree on a number of subjects. People have been fighting about movies ever since the first silent movies were projected on a screen. The arguments endure; the specifics of them are what changes. The fact that superhero adaptations are ruling multiplex screens across the nation makes it all the more likely that superhero films are going to spark lively and heated debates — much like the heated dialogue in, say, a Martin Scorsese picture.

Conveniently enough, the acclaimed filmmaker — whose new film The Irishman has been getting fantastic reviews — has infuriated some cineastes and enlivened others with his recent comments about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In an interview with Empire, Scorsese’s comments suggest that he’s not a huge fan of said supersized superhero franchise:

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.

Scorsese’s comments sparked a predictable amount of invective on social media. Among the higher-profile figures to weigh in was director James Gunn, no stranger to either superhero work or quirkier independent filmmaking. Gunn was, understandably, unhappy that Scorsese was criticizing films he hadn’t seen. “I was outraged when people picketed ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ without having seen the film,” he wrote on Twitter.” I’m saddened that he’s now judging my films in the same way. That said, I will always love Scorsese, be grateful for his contribution to cinema, and can’t wait to see ‘The Irishman.’”

To be honest, this whole debate feels a bit like asking Ferran Adrià about what he thinks of the burger at your local gastropub. He very likely has an opinion on it, but — really? That’s the question you’re going to ask him? Even taking into account the fact that Scorsese’s filmography has his pulpier moments — the man did get his start working for Roger Corman, and his remake of Cape Fear is gloriously over-the-top — I’m not sure how many people were desperate to know what he thought of, say, Thor: The Dark World. But now, evidently, we know exactly that.

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