Despite Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame, the applauded finale to their twenty-year-long Infinity Saga, the survival of their recent tug-of-war with Sony over whether Spider-Man will remain in the M.C.U. or not (he’s in, for now), and D.C.’s surprisingly successful release of Joker, superhero movies everywhere are once again under attack.
In an interview with Empire, critically acclaimed director Martin Scorcese recently shared his views on the popularity of superhero movies. “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? 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.”
Standing in solidarity with a friend and fellow filmmaker, famed director Francis Ford Coppola let know his own thoughts. “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. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”
Despite their words being harsh, Coppola and Scorsese are titans in cinema. Both are recognized as two of the greatest directors of American film, so when they are speaking about what is and isn’t cinema, they might just know what they’re talking about.
So, that’s it, folks. Time to put away our Captain America t-shirts and Iron Man sunglasses. Superhero movies aren’t cinema and are despicable.
Not so fast. It can be argued that in Scorcese and Coppola’s own words, Marvel movies, most superhero movies, in fact, qualify under the umbrella term of cinema.
In their latest film, Marvel Studios accepts Scorcese and Coppola’s challenge of delivering a film that gains “some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration,” and presents “human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” In Spider-Man: Far from Home, we see a post Avengers: Endgame Marvel Cinematic Universe where the world is trying to figure out how to move forward, while young Peter Parker grieves the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. Not only does he work through this grief with friend and former bodyguard of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, but he also becomes more confident in his abilities as Spider-Man without the safety net of Iron Man.
To gain some perspective, I reached out to fellow students at U.N.O. “Yes, [I’m a fan of superhero movies]! Every single last one. Even the dumb ones,” says Biology major Troy James. “They make people who think they may not be able to do something feel like they can impact the world in a big way.” Kirsten Quarforth, an English graduate student, feels differently, that “they are a cinematic experience, but I don’t take away anything else from them, apart from just seeing a lot of violence.”
This entire discussion is subjective to each person’s own tastes. Someone who loves superhero films may also love The Godfather (1972) and The Departed (2006), but think Apocalypse Now was boring (I’m talking about myself, here). Whatever our different opinions, movies are also meant to entertain. As long as they continue to do that, whether superheroes or cinematic dramas, they’ll still have a place in society.