Director joins the controversy he began by praising the art of the blockbuster franchises but lamenting that they lack mystery and emotional danger
The Irish director Martin Scorsese decided to join the debate about the artistic value of superhero films that he sparked in an October magazine interview by saying they were “not cinema” and comparing them to “theme parks.”
Scorsese writes in the New York Times, saying: “The situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art. And the act of simply writing those words fills me with terrible sadness.”
He refused that his original comments were “insulting, or … proof of hate on my part for Marvel,” and acknowledged that “many franchise movies are made by people of considerable talent and art.
You can see it on the screen … I know that if I were younger, I might have been excited by these pictures if I had come of age at a later time, and I might even want to make one myself.
Scorsese, however, went on to describe his own movie theory, which is “as far from the Marvel universe as we are from Alpha Centauri on Earth.” He says to himself and his contemporaries as well as to those he admired: “Cinema was about discovery –aesthetic, spiritual and emotional revelation. It was about characters – people’s complexities and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical nature, the way they can harm one another and love each other and unexpectedly come face to face with themselves.”
Scorsese also calls cinema a “form of art … equivalent to literature or music or dance.”
He’s adding: “Many of the elements in Marvel’s pictures that define the cinema as I know it. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger … Sequels in name but remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t be any other way. That is the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, screened, modified revetted and recast until they are ready for use.
He describes Hollywood as part of the problem as well, he said. “There are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art”.
“Sadly, the situation is that we now have two separate fields: audiovisual entertainment worldwide, and cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but this is increasingly rare… one’s financial dominance is used to marginalize and even discredit the other’s existence.
Fellow Hollywood new wave director Francis Ford Coppola and celebrity Benedict Cumberbatch backed Scorsese’s position in the week-long controversy, with filmmakers James Gunn and Joss Whedon supporting superhero films.
Robert Iger, Disney’s chairman and CEO (which owns Marvel), also defended his franchises, stating: “I don’t get what [ Coppola and Scorsese ] blame us for making movies that people obviously enjoy going to and that’s what they’re doing by the millions.”


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