Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest living filmmakers of our time, sparked internet outrage for his view on Marvel movies. “I don’t see them,” he stated. “I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema.” Mr. Scorsese went on to compare them more to theme parks rather than actual cinematic art.
It’s no surprise people are outraged. How can such visually spectacular and emotionally moving movies that have broken box office records around the world NOT be considered proper cinema?
But the harsh reality is that Mr. Scorsese is right. Marvel movies aren’t proper cinema. And, if you really think about it, that is what is so great about them.
Marvel Movies are Entertainment not Art.
Now–stay with me on this–we must look at the difference between Art and Entertainment. Whether it’s music, a portrait, or a movie, the main difference between art and entertainment is most commonly found in the reason why something is made. Is the reason to show something bold, new, and rather off-putting? Or is it to be a crowd-pleaser?
I know there are going to be many who disagree with me on this, but Marvel Movies are simple superhero movies. They are examples of the classic “hero’s journey” which has been told in countless ways since “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” They keep the plot emotionally, philosophically, and politically shallow with low consequence.
“It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” – Martin Scorsese.
That is not to say deep messages can’t be found in these movies–especially “Captain America: Civil War,” “Iron Man 3,” “Black Panther,” and “Infinity War.” But these are movies for normal people. They are made to make money and are riddled with action hero cliches. They need to be entertaining and, like every newspaper in the country, kept at an 8th-grade reading level. Every other experience is dwarfed by the drive to take down an actual bad guy, and an all-encompassing aura of fantasy waters down those real issues.
The MCU’s Innovations Separate it from Cinema.
“Honestly, 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.” – Martin Scorsese.
This is actually a compliment. Because that is the MCU. There are theme parks, VR realms like those found in video games, and then there’s the MCU. A true cinematic universe. Marvel superheroes are brought together in one story, and one canon. While Star Trek and Game of Thrones were able to accomplish this through TV series, Marvel has done this purely through movies.
The MCU is an immersive cinematic fantasy world for kids of all ages. That is what is so awesome about it.
So What If It’s Not “Real Cinema”?
Superhero movies have never been treated with this level of seriousness and respect before. All the action figures are returning to the toy chest, so to speak. But, just as there are those who denounce comic books are real literature, so do the parallels remain with movies.
But, so what? Marvel movies may not be cinema. They are the culmination of backstage innovations and hours of virtuous and wholesome entertainment for the whole family. They are means by which we can escape reality to a fantasy world with an amazing loveable cast of characters.
They may be shallow. They may be cliche. They may be just a series of 2-hour installments of a money-making machine. But that doesn’t make these movies any less awesome.
Mr. Scorses is right. Marvel Movies aren’t real cinema. They are the beginning of something totally new, different, and revolutionary in the movie industry. And whether Mr. Scorsese likes it or not, the MCU has already written its place in America’s cinematic history.