Martin Scorsese Goes In Depth Explaining His Marvel Criticism

Yeah, I know. I'm as sick of this debate as the rest of you, and had been good on my word not to keep posting every reaction to Martin Scorsese's dismissive comments toward Marvel movies. But now that Scorsese has attempted to clarify his statements and put this whole thing to bed in a New York Times essay, the end finally appears to be in sight.

In his latest statements, Scorsese sticks to his guns in saying Marvel films are "not cinema", but explains why they aren't for him and why he feels their impact is ultimately detrimental to the business...

 “Many franchise films are made by people of considerable talent and artistry,” wrote Scorsese. “You can see it on the screen. The fact that the films themselves don’t interest me is a matter of personal taste and temperament. I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself. But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies — of what they were and what they could be — that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri.”

Scorsese continues...

Some say that Hitchcock’s pictures had a sameness to them, and perhaps that’s true — Hitchcock himself wondered about it. But the sameness of today’s franchise pictures is something else again. Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.

They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.

Another way of putting it would be that they are everything that the films of Paul Thomas Anderson or Claire Denis or Spike Lee or Ari Aster or Kathryn Bigelow or Wes Anderson are not. When I watch a movie by any of those filmmakers, I know I’m going to see something absolutely new and be taken to unexpected and maybe even unnameable areas of experience. My sense of what is possible in telling stories with moving images and sounds is going to be expanded.

Scorsese goes on to call this a "perilous" time for theatrical film as streaming has gained such a foothold in the industry that it's becoming the delivery system of choice for large swaths of the audience...

And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.

But, you might argue, can’t they just go home and watch anything else they want on Netflix or iTunes or Hulu? Sure — anywhere but on the big screen, where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen.

In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.

There's a lot more that Scorsese has to say, and you should definitely check out the whole thing. I think it's tough to argue the substance of what he's saying, it's the way he says it that gets me, using intentionally dark language as if this is all part of some sinister plot. It's just the evolution of the business, and I feel it's up to us, as in people with a platform and a voice, to let people know there's more out there than superhero movies.