Pop Culture

Scorsese Takes On Marvel—and Nobody Wins

Ever had a treasured friend who hated and trash-talked someone else you cared about?

That’s what it feels like for many movie lovers seeing Martin Scorsese slam Marvel Studios in a new interview with Empire magazine. Admiration for The Irishman filmmaker runs so deep, he is so beloved among generations of cinephiles, that his words carry enormous weight.

Scorsese means something massively important to the culture, but for many, the series of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe have meaning too. Certainly there’s worthy criticism that can be made of them, and no one would begrudge Scorsese saying they’re not his tempo, or even that he despised them. But the Oscar-winning filmmaker went a little further. He said they’re “not cinema.” In other words, they’re not just bad in his mind, but invalid. That’s right up there with Truman Capote saying of Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

The ensuing backlash erupted Friday not because Scorsese derided those movies and the people who made them. He was actually fairly gentle there. It’s the “not cinema” phrase that got to people, seeming to nullify the films that are the objects of deep affection by those who do appreciate them. What’s worse, he did this while admitting he doesn’t watch them.

“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese told the British outlet. “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.”

His comments led to alternating waves of hurt and fury on social media Friday morning. MCU stalwarts accused him of being “jealous,” MCU haters rubbed it in. A few more measured critics tried to point out that Scorsese’s dislike doesn’t mean people have to give up their fandom.

Or as Slashfilm critic Chris Evangelista put it:

Scorsese may not be fully considering what these pop blockbusters bring to the culture that mitigate the superhero-branded Doritos, legions of plastic toys, and other crass commercial spin-offs. Superheroes resonate because they stand for strength and decency, which are in short supply these days.

The best of the characters carry very real human damage, but they deal with it in ways that transcend blockbuster thrill. They ask important questions: Can my strengths balance out my weaknesses? If I stand only for myself, what good am I? How can we put aside differences for a common good?

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