Something a little different on the blog today. I thought I’d throw in my two cents on the ‘Scorcese vs Marvel’ debate. Spoiler alert – I’m not a fan.
For anyone who is unaware, a brief catchup. A few weeks ago Martin Scorcese was interviewed by Nick de Semlyen for Empire Magazine, and the subject of Marvel movies came up when Scorcese was asked about the use of de-aging technology in The Irishman. Scorcese very respectfully stated that he doesn’t really watch them because they’re not his thing. He then said that he doesn’t personally consider them cinema and compared them to ‘theme park rides’. And of course, it was this phrasing that all the parasitic journalists jumped on, ignoring the rest of the brilliantly written and insightful interview, to create a bunch of click-bait ‘Scorcese hates Marvel’ headlines. This has sent the internet into a frenzy, with filmmakers from either side of the “debate” chiming in with their responses. So now everyone is caught in a state of picking an allegiance to one group or the other.
I’m sorry to burst the bubble, but this entire conversation is tedious, exhausting and, to put it simply, doesn’t matter.
I’ll begin, as this whole shitstorm did, with Scorcese. I feel extremely sorry for Martin Scorcese. He has just released some of the best work of his incredible career with The Irishman, and yet he is having to spend every press junket and interview fielding questions about Marvel. In the interview, Scorcese was eloquent and respectful in his response (which can’t be said for some others), but it was made abundantly clear that he doesn’t watch or care about Marvel movies. Which is completely fine. One of the greatest directors of all-time has more than earned his opinion about what cinema means to him, and if the MCU doesn’t fall under that definition, that’s fine by me. Just because I love the MCU doesn’t mean that everyone on the planet has to. I’m sure that if Scorcese ever saw Avengers: Endgame he would appreciate the emotional and human character work on display. But he will probably never see it, and that’s completely his choice.
Not everyone was so polite in their criticisms. Francis Ford Coppola described Marvel movies as ‘despicable’. Now again, the man who made The Godfather has more than earned to right to speak out and criticise against any film he wants. But this unnecessarily damning description is frankly irresponsible, as it plays right into the hands to the internet trolls, determined to turn this debate into a full-on cyberwar.
I have a few problems with Coppola’s comments. The first being that they seem ignorant. I completely understand someone not liking Marvel movies, but it’s impossible to deny their impact on the current cinematic landscape. Now, box office returns and statistics are not and should never be, the only measure of a film’s success (plenty of brilliant films make no money, and plenty of awful movies makes millions). But Avengers: Endgame rise to the biggest film of all time, alongside the billion-dollar hauls of Captain Marvel and Black Panther is proof that these films and this franchise mean something to a whole lot of people. They are hugely significant to the current state of film as a medium, and to disregard that importance makes Coppola feel a little out of touch.
Now the MCU is a franchise that is incredibly important to me, so I’m aware that I’m writing this with a certain amount of bias. But I genuinely believe that much of this ill-will being directed towards Marvel is undeserved. Has the MCU caused problems for the film industry? Some. Has the success of their shared universe storytelling led every other studio to try and hamfistedly created their own cinematic universes through lazy sequels and reboots? Almost certainly. But I honestly think that people are using Marvel as a scapegoat to voice concerns about the industry as a whole. The MCU is on top of the world right now, and being on top leaves a target on your back, and as a result, whenever someone complains about Disney’s monopolisation of the industry, or the sequel/reboot culture (both perfectly valid and important criticisms) they dump the blame on Marvel. When in reality, Marvel is a studio that allows people like Taika Watiti, Anna Fleck and Ryan Boden, filmmakers with indie sensibilities and stories, to tell to operate on a huge blockbuster scale. I defy anyone to mention a filmmaker who has caused such a cinematic and cultural event as Ryan Coogler did with Black Panther. Certainly more than anything Ford Coppola has done recently.
Regrettably, this conversation seems to be going nowhere. Journalists have smelled the blood in the water and now seem intent on asking any and every celebrity they can get their hands on what they think of the MCU. I hate to break it to them, but it’s not interesting or shocking to hear that Ken Loach doesn’t like Marvel. Why? Because he’s an 83-year-old man. I wouldn’t expect an 80-year-old man I met on the street to enjoy the MCU, so it’s not surprising that so many of Hollywood’s elder stars and directors are not fans. Does anybody really care what Jennifer Anniston thinks of the MCU? (For the record, she said it has a ‘negative impact on cinema’, which I think is rich coming from someone whose 1 IMDB credit this year was in an Adam Sandler Netflix comedy). Where does this end? Shall we dig up Orson Welles so we can ask his corpse what he thinks of Thor: The Dark World?
To be honest, I don’t have a big closing statement. This piece has already descended into enough of a rant. However, I would like to encourage people to consider something. Instead of stooping to the level of these idiots and ‘choosing a side’, instead think about what cinema means to you, and whether the MCU falls into that meaning. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
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