Let us refresh our memories, Martin Scorsese expanded on his criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying that while the films were made “by people of considerable talent and artistry,” they lacked “revelation, mystery, or genuine emotional danger.”
In early October, the multiple Oscar winner sparked a backlash when he referred to superhero films as “theme park experiences” rather than “cinema.”
I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema, in a New York Times op-ed. Scorsese authored, “Let Me Explain,
“Many franchise films are made by people of considerable talent and artistry. 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.”
Making movies, the filmmaker maintained, was about aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual revelation for the masters who affected his art, his contemporaries, and him. “It was about personalities,” he wrote, “the complexity of individuals and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can harm and love one another and then come face to face with themselves.”
Scorsese, 76, wrote the MCU movies to be everything Paul Thomas Anderson, Claire Denis, Spike Lee, Ari Aster, Kathryn Bigelow, and Wes Anderson’s films aren’t.
“When I watch a film by one of those filmmakers, I know I’m going to see something completely different and be brought to the uncharted and possibly unnamed territory. My understanding of what is feasible in terms of telling stories with moving images and sounds will be broadened.” He claimed that Marvel lacked “nothing at risk” in their films.
“Marvel films contain many of the aspects that characterize cinema as I know it. There isn’t any revelation, suspense, or genuine emotional peril. Nothing is jeopardized. The images are created to meet a precise set of requirements and are designed to be variations on a limited number of themes.” Scorsese argued that huge companies like Marvel were commoditizing cinema by making films that were “sequels in name but remakes in spirit,” as he put it.
“…and everything in them is officially sanctioned because there’s no other way to do it.” Modern film franchises are built this way: they’re market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted, and remodified until they’re ready to be consumed.” The most dangerous development that has occurred quietly, according to him, is “the gradual but steady removal of risk.”
“Many of them are expertly crafted by groups of gifted individuals. Nonetheless, they lack something vital to cinema: an individual artist’s uniting vision. Because, of course, the riskiest aspect of all is the individual artist.” The filmmaker bemoaned the fact that cinema presentation was at a “perilous time.”
Franchise pictures were the most popular choice for a big-screen experience, while indie films were losing ground. Scorsese said that the equation has changed, and streaming has become the principal delivery channel, noting that he was speaking as someone who had recently finished Netflix’s highly anticipated The Irishman.
“I’ll be eternally grateful to (Netflix) for allowing us to make The Irishman the way we needed to. We have a fantastic dramatic window. Is it possible for the film to be shown on more large screens for extended periods of time? Sure, I’d do it. However, regardless of who you work with to make your film, the fact is that most multiplexes are packed with franchise films.” He also refused to accept that it was a supply and demand issue, labeling it the “chicken-and-egg problem.”
“Of course, if people are only provided one sort of thing and are only sold that one kind of thing, they would want more of that one kind of thing.” Scorsese further clarified that he was not advocating for cinema to be subsidized as an art form.
The filmmaker noted that the conflict between the artists and the makers was “continuous and fierce” during the age when Hollywood studio machinery was still alive and well, but that the friction was “productive” and the outcome was some of the finest films ever made.
“Today, that tension is gone, and there are individuals in the industry who have complete indifference to the basic idea of art, as well as a disdainful and proprietary attitude toward the history of film – a fatal mix.” Unfortunately, we now have two distinct fields: international audiovisual entertainment and film. They still cross paths now and then, but it’s becoming less common. And I’m concerned that one’s financial clout is being used to marginalize and even dismiss the existence of the other.”
Many MCU stars, including Robert Downey Jr, Samuel L Jackson, Natalie Portman, James Gunn, Jon Favreau, and veteran filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola and Ken Loach, have chimed in on the topic since Scorsese’s original criticism.