Martin Scorsese – arguably one of the greatest living directors, known for classics such as Goodfellas and Taxi Driver – gave his not-so-popular opinion on Marvel films, claiming “that’s not cinema” and sparking widespread discourse online. While promoting his upcoming film, The Irishman, the auteur told Empire magazine: “the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks.”
Avengers: Endgame, starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and the rest of the superhero ensemble, beat James Cameron’s Avatar to become the highest-grossing movie of all time, but not everyone was happy about it. Scorsese believes cinema is being “invaded” by Marvel films: “it’s not cinema, it’s something else… we need theatre owners to step up for that to allow theatres to show films that are narrative films.”
While many Marvel fans debated and disagreed, Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn, took to Twitter to defend himself, referring to one of Scorsese’s most controversial films: “Martin Scorsese is one of my 5 favourite living filmmakers. I was outraged when people picketed The Last Temptation of Christ without having seen the film. I’m saddened that he’s now judging my films in the same way.”
Scorsese would later go on to defend his comments in the New York Times: “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 kind of thing.” He also praises Netflix, the platform on which The Irishman is soon to be released, for allowing him to create the film the way he wishes, without adhering to what he claims is now expected on the big screen. “Most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.”
Unlike Scorsese, fellow auteur Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), didn’t sugar-coat his opinion on the debate. “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.” The only director, so far, that doesn’t seem to have a bad opinion of Marvel is Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs) who even has a favourite one. “I started catching up with some of the Marvel movies so I could go see Endgame. Actually, the last one I saw was Ragnarok. I loved it. It was my favourite one of the series since The Avengers – drastically my favourite.”
Forget Iron Man vs Captain America, it’s all about Marvel vs. The Auteurs. Are you Team Scorsese or Team Gunn? Let us know below and join the debate.
The Irishman will be in UK cinemas for a short period of time beginning on November 8th. It will arrive on Netflix on November 27th.
Words by Libby Briggs