For weeks now, a debate has been roiling in the aftermath of comments from director Martin Scorsese. In an interview with Empire, Scorsese said that, for him, Marvel movies were not cinema. He argued that instead, they were something closer to a theme park ride. The comments sparked outrage online. Marvel fans took offense to the directors’ claims, and there’s been a heated argument about what Scorsese meant ever since.
Now, the director of “The Irishman” has weighed in to clarify. In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Scorsese explained that he has no control over the ways in which people characterize his comments. He continued by acknowledging that he respects the many talented people who work on Marvel films, before getting to the heart of his argument.
“For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation,” Scorsese writes. “It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.”
Scorsese continues by arguing that what Marvel films lack is any sense of genuine danger or surprise. “Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures,” he writes. “What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk.”
The acclaimed director of films like “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” continues by saying that it’s a perilous time for theatrical experiences. Movie theaters are dominated by Marvel, he says, and that makes it harder for the kind of original work he treasures to break through.
His article is a nuanced elaboration of the comments he made in October. To my mind, it seems like the director is wistful for a period when movies were less carefully assembled and more daring. Marvel movies aren’t the root cause. For Scorsese, they’re a symptom of a larger problem.
What do you think of his piece? Does Scorsese have a point? Let us know in the comments below.