Here we go again.
Francis Ford Coppola agrees with Martin Scorsese on the Great Marvel Question of Our Time—and actually thinks his fellow filmmaker was being kind when he described MCU films as “not cinema.”
Let’s refresh your memory. Scorsese spoke with Empire magazine earlier this month during a press run for his latest film, The Irishman. When the topic of the whole superhero genre came up, he said he doesn’t think they qualify as true films and likened MCU movies to theme parks.
“I don’t see them. I tried, you know?” he said. “But that’s not 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. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
Coppola echoed this sentiment over the weekend during an interview with France 24—only he went farther, describing Marvel movies as “despicable.”
“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again.”
It’s fair to say that most people don’t watch Marvel movies to attain enlightenment per se, but one person’s cinematic exhilaration is another’s torture—hey, kind of like theme parks! Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn pointed out what he saw as a historical parallel on Instagram.
“Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies the same, often calling them ‘despicable,'” Gunn wrote. “Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same.” (I guess whatever the grandmothers thought is irrelevant to Gunn?)
The point is, of course, that art is subjective. (Yes, still true after all these centuries.) What isn’t debatable is that Marvel’s parent company, Disney, with its monopoly on the film market (it will likely end 2019 having released at least seven of the year’s top 10 grossing movies), has changed American filmmaking dramatically. With movies based on existing IP accounting for billions in box office revenue, studios just aren’t taking as many risks on what Scorsese and Coppola see as the “cinema” of Hollywood’s glory days.
And if you do agree with the Oscar-winning directors of The Godfather and Raging Bull, at least you have some bolder options available via streaming—including Scorsese’s The Irishman.