Legendary director Martin Scorsese has doubled down on his criticism of Marvel movies, just when the debate over his initial comments appeared to be fading. The controversy all began when the filmmaker compared Marvel movies, and presumably the superhero genre more broadly, to theme parks. Although the comparison is not very flattering on its own, Scorsese was also complimentary. He conceded the movies were well-made, and the actors were trying to do good work. His latest remarks, it seems, are not as evenhanded.
The reaction to Scorsese’s remarks has varied. Some such as James Gunn and Joss Whedon, both of whom have directed some of the most successful comic book adaptations, were vigorous and heartfelt in their defending their work. Others like Samuel L. Jackson were amused and a little indifferent. Robert Downey Jr. responded similarly, offering a nonchalant and succinct rebuttal. The entertainment industry, fans and analysts, and those in-between, were divided. Some thanked Scorsese for coming up with what they felt was such an apt comparison, believing he said nothing out of turn. Those who opposed the Oscar winner argued that he was being snobbish and dismissive, regardless of his enviable body of work and grasp on the history of cinema. The internet’s reaction, and the fervor it sparked, hasn’t appeared to phase the director. He spoke out again while promoting The Irishman.
Speaking at a press conference, while appearing alongside Irishman stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, Scorsese returned to the theme park comparison and went further still. According to THR, Scorsese compared Marvel’s output to an invasion which should be resisted. “It’s not cinema, it’s something else,” he said. “We shouldn’t be invaded by it. We need cinemas to step up and show films that are narrative films.” At a previous event, on Saturday, he gave a similar response. The quote can be read, in full, below.
It’s notable that each time Scorsese comments on the subject, he loses more nuance. Fundamentally, whether or not he’s entirely accurate in his assessment of Marvel movies or entirely off the mark, as Kevin Smith argues, it would be more surprising if the famed auteur was an Avengers fan. He’s more than knowledgeable enough to know what he’d like, and, to his credit, he tried to get on board with the genre. He shouldn’t be criticized for having differing tastes.
It’s another matter, entirely, to describe a popular form of entertainment as an invasion that should be met with resistance. There’s a point to be made that Marvel’s films are too dominant at the box office, to the detriment of other films. Then, there’s the counterpoint that moviegoing is changing and all types of films continue to thrive on streaming services. This is genuinely a situation where both sides, Marvel fans and detractors, have good arguments. It does no one any good to use hyperbolic language, even an icon like Martin Scorsese.