Martin Scorsese dropped a bomb on the internet last night when he took to the New York Times to clarify his comments about Marvel movies.
Back in early October, Scorsese gave an interview to Empire magazine in which he said that Marvel flicks aren’t “cinema.” The fanboys freaked, and so Scorsese has responded with an eloquent and clear-eyed op-ed. The venerable director really outdid himself here; the essay explores both how Marvel films are products of studio notes designed for the mass market, and how the film industry at large has become increasingly inhospitable to artists.
“Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures,” wrote Scorsese. “What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.”
“They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way,” he continued. “That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.”
Scorsese didn’t so much insult the MCU as defend unique filmmakers (he cites Ari Aster, Claire Denis, Spike Lee, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, and Kathryn Bigelow as directors who take him to “unexpected and maybe even unnameable areas of experience”). “The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema,” he wrote. “They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other.”
Film twitter went absolutely wild for the piece. Here are some of our favorite memes and reactions. And if you live in a city where you can see his new film The Irishman on the big screen, do it! As the director aptly points out, “the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.”