Martin Scorsese, the man who gave us cinematic treasures like “Goodfellas,” caused quite a stir when he boldly declared that Marvel movies aren’t true cinema. “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese told Empire magazine.
He didn’t mince words, likening Marvel movies to theme parks: “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.”
Scorsese’s comments came at an interesting time. He was basking in praise for his film “The Irishman,” which debuted to much acclaim at the 2019 New York Film Festival and was a top contender for numerous awards.
On the flip side, Disney and Marvel Studios were also gunning for Oscar glory with “Avengers: Endgame,” a movie that grossed over $2.7 billion worldwide in the same year. Clearly, the stakes are high, and the tension between commercial success and artistic integrity is palpable.
But Scorsese isn’t alone in his viewpoint. Ethan Hawke chimed in with similar sentiments back in August 2018. “Now we have the problem that they tell us ‘Logan’ is a great movie,” Hawke said. “Well, it’s a great superhero movie. It still involves people in tights with metal coming out of their hands. It’s not Bresson. It’s not Bergman. But they talk about it like it is.”
Martin Scorsese is far from a lone wolf in his criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The director’s sentiment—that Marvel movies aren’t cinema—is echoed by many others in the film industry. From Jennifer Aniston to Quentin Tarantino, numerous Hollywood luminaries have publicly expressed their reservations about the MCU’s impact on filmmaking and culture.
Jennifer Aniston, for instance, saw the rise of Marvel as a sign of shrinking opportunities for diverse storytelling. It’s part of the reason why she chose to work on Apple TV+’s The Morning Show. She’s not eager to “live in a green screen,” as she put it.
Christian Bale, who ironically played in Thor: Love and Thunder, didn’t exactly sing praises for his experience. For him, the days on set felt like a blur of monotony, hardly distinguishable from one another.
James Cameron, the mind behind Avatar, thinks that the Marvel heroes are emotionally stunted. In his eyes, they’re like college kids, lacking the qualities that make us human—love, purpose, and groundedness.
Francis Ford Coppola goes a step beyond Scorsese, labeling Marvel movies as “despicable.” According to him, they don’t offer any enlightenment or inspiration. Similarly, Stephen Dorff feels “embarrassed” for Scarlett Johansson, stating bluntly that these movies are “garbage.”
Even Robert Downey Jr., who arguably built the MCU on the back of his iconic Tony Stark character, admitted to some creative stagnation after a decade of playing Iron Man.
The list goes on, featuring other distinguished voices like Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ken Loach, Gaspar Noé, Simon Pegg, Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, Ridley Scott, and Quentin Tarantino. Each of them has articulated, in one way or another, concerns about the MCU’s influence on cinema.
So, Scorsese isn’t a solitary voice in the wilderness. The criticism spans from actors who have been a part of the Marvel machine to directors who would never touch it with a ten-foot pole. They raise questions about storytelling, originality, and the art of cinema itself. It seems like Hollywood is having a bit of an existential crisis, and Marvel is right in the crosshairs.