Martin Scorsese vs. Marvel Movies: Understanding the True Impact

To put it simply, the film industry is, historically, extremely elitist. Hollywood is notorious for snubbing marginalized artists, and instead recognizing their (typically) white, male counterparts. This reality was emphasized by controversial comments made earlier this month by Hollywood legends Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola.

Scorsese was the first to set the cinephile community ablaze with his polarizing comments on Marvel movies. Speaking on them, Scorsese said, “that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them […] is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” Scorsese’s comments were lauded by Coppola, who added “Martin was being kind when he said it wasn’t cinema. He didn’t say it was despicable, which is what I say.”



While both Scorsese and Coppola have a plethora of awards and critical acclaim, it’s difficult to ignore the patronizing nature of their comments. The film industry is constantly evolving, and so are the genres of content that audiences enjoy. While Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) productions may not have the psychological depth of The Godfather trilogy, there are still accomplishments to be noted. Especially in their most recent releases, Marvel has made strides to feature stories about diverse characters, produced by diverse artists. Black Panther (2018), directed by Ryan Coogler, is one of the MCU’s highest-grossing films, second only to Avengers: Endgame (2019). Captain Marvel (2019) featured Marvel’s first titular female lead, as well as a female director, Anna Boden. It's notable to consider the significant effect Marvel has had on increasing the number of filmmakers from marginalized backgrounds who are now directing multi-billion-dollar blockbusters. This is even more laudable when considering that in the 90+ year history of the Academy Awards, the nominees for Best Director have only ever included five female and six African American filmmakers.



In Marvel’s 2020 releasesthey continue to promote stories produced by marginalized artists. Among them are Black Widow, directed by Cate Shortland, The Eternals, directed by Chloe Zhao, and Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. These films include several firsts for Marvel, including the first lead character of Asian descent and the first directors of Asian descent.




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As a young filmmaker looking to break into a fiercely competitive industry, I strive to recognize and respect the significance of any genre of film. Scorsese and Coppola's statements seem to diminish the magnitude of modern films, especially when they are compared to earlier films. I’ve watched A Trip to the Moon (1902) more times than I can count, but I also saw Avengers: Endgame (2019) on opening day. There's no rule stopping you from enjoying countless genres of films. The industry of film is ever-changing and, reasonably so, it can be difficult to keep up with. Every film that has ever been produced has contributed to the makeup of an industry that is both a form of art and a form of entertainment. That being said, not every film is going to be Citizen Kane (1941) and revolutionize filmmaking, and that’s okay.

"There's room for all types of cinema," added Natalie Portman, who stars in Marvel's Thor franchise. "There's not one way to make art."

To many moviegoers, the characters and stories on screen are so much more than just a two-hour escape from reality. They represent the courage, bravery and strength humans are capable of. The popularity of comic book-based films has grown at an exponential rate since their premiere, and it definitely looks like there's no stopping them. Even if you consider superhero films to be “despicable,” you can’t ignore their massive impact on the culture of today’s film industry.

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