According to Martin Scorcese, “Marvel is not cinema.” Let’s examine this statement objectively to see if it holds up to scrutiny.
Introduction to “Marvel is Not Cinema”
For those not up on pop culture or movies, Marvel Studios has become a very big movie making studio with a huge comic book franchise behind it (although not all Marvel films are Marvel Studios – but that is an entirely different discussion) and the might of Walt Disney Studios.
For the most part they make okay movies in my opinion. The writing is never great, the acting is never great and sometimes the characters grate on me in ways that other Marvel films don’t.
Weirdly, although Marvel is owned by Disney, the X-Men and other some other Marvel titles were until recently still owned by Marvel which means Disney can’t get their greedy mitts on them… (which was actually a great thing!) But I digress again into the convoluted web of who actually owns and makes Marvel films.
Disney – Marvel is Not Cinema?
In my opinion a lot of the Disney owned stuff is okay and passable whereas a lot of the Marvel retained stuff was not only geared toward a more grown-up audience but also sought to make serious contributions to the film industry.
Now enter the legendary film-maker Martin Scorsese who has everyone triggered by saying that Marvel is not cinema. And in one swift quote, the whole internet has gone nuts.
Who Is Martin Scorsese?
For a start, a few of the keyboard warriors coming out in defence of the Disney Marvel franchise aren’t old enough to have seen most of Martin Scorsese’s movies.
There are also others that have used this quote to aim and take fire at Martin Scorsese’s body of work.
This for me highlights a fundamental issue with people’s understanding of what “cinema” is. Or my personal interpretation of what Scorsese meant by the word ‘cinema.’
Martin Scorsese has written, directed and produced some of the finest pieces of cinema ever created including:
- Taxi Driver,
- Raging Bull,
- Gangs of New York,
- The Departed,
- Shutter Island,
- The Wolf of Wall Street.
Without question for me he’s one of the most influential filmmakers that has ever lived and his catalogue of work reads like a year in year out Oscar winner’s list.
He is an AFI lifetime achievement award recipient and he has directed a few of the films that make up my top 20 films of all time.
The man has a hell of a lot of credibility which is perhaps why people are up in arms.
Are Comic Book Movies Cinema?
The wider narrative developing is whether comic book movies are cinema?
The onus being on Disney owned comic book movies.
Scorsese never said all comic book movies were bad. In fact, I am sure the latest Joker movie was heavily influenced by an early Scorsese film Taxi Driver.
For me, there are some truly awesome movies made under the comic book banner.
Both Sin City movies are stand outs for me and were originally graphic novels. The X-Men movies are great (but I hold bias as I have always been an X-Men fan) and The Dark Knight films are all good cinematic films. The films focused on the darker DC villains are also excellent and I am hoping the Batman villain Scarecrow makes a full film appearance.
As you can see from that one short paragraph, being a comic book movie doesn’t need to mean a passable Disney creation. But because Avengers fans are so pumped up on its populist nonsense for them everything comic book is embodied in the those Disney movies.
Are the Marvel Studio Movies Cinema?
Well yes, they are. In as much as they play at cinemas and regardless of how mundanely formulaic they are, as films they should be considered cinema.
As Tarantino says in the clip above, for a whole generation the Marvel movies are the only movies they go to the cinema to see. As a result of little to no competition, the younger generation haven’t been exposed to other types of movies.
In the Scorsese sense of the word, which I think he meant to mean artistic works on film – then hell no they are not. Not even close.
I would have a much easier time arguing that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a standalone cinematic piece of art than any Marvel Studios movie.
Marvel is Not Cinema
Marvel Studios is as much cinema as McDonalds is a restaurant. Both are loved the world over. But anyone with a modicum of sense will know exactly where to draw the line. You wouldn’t say McDonalds is the best restaurant in the world. The phrase ‘it is what it is’ comes to mind.
I don’t think there is any self-respecting Marvel fan that doesn’t wish that Marvel once again owned the rights to all their creations and told Disney where to *expletive Deadpool moment… but that is for another article on another rainy day.
On the flipside, perspective is everything. I grew up watching a very different type of movie and for the younger generation, Marvel is absolutely cinema – in every sense of the word, because there is so little else on at the cinema beside big franchise productions.