Marvel vs Martin Scorsese’s Justice League: A complete run-down of who said what
As directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola mince no words in slamming the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, here’s a complete run-down of who said what so far.
As renowned auteurs form a sort of Justice League against the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, the debate only seems to be heating up with every passing day. While it was Martin Scorsese who first set the ball rolling in recent weeks, a couple of popular filmmakers have been speaking against the MCU’s rise (and its impact on the movie industry) for years.
Steven Spielberg told the Associated Press in 2015, “We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns.”
In 2018, Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron told Vanity Fair, “I’m hoping we’ll start getting Avenger fatigue here pretty soon. Not that I don’t love the movies. It’s just, come on, guys, there are other stories to tell besides hyper-gonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process. It’s like, oy!”
In April 2019, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar was quoted by Variety as saying, “There are many, many movies about superheroes. And sexuality doesn’t exist for superheroes. They are neutered. There is an unidentified gender, the adventure is what’s important. You can find, among independent movies, more of this sexuality. The human being has such sexuality! I get the feeling that in Europe, in Spain, that I have much more freedom than if I worked here.”
And then came Martin Scorsese’s statement: “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 fellow New Hollywood filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola said at an event in France that not only did he agree with the Goodfellas filmmaker, he would like to emphasise that he thinks of the Marvel films as ‘despicable’. He said, “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.”
Even British filmmaker Ken Loach said about the controversy. “They’re made as commodities…like hamburgers,” he told Sky News. “It’s about making a commodity which will make profit for a big corporation. They’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise, and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema.”
During a Masterclass talk at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles said, “I can’t disagree with Scorsese because I don’t watch the Marvel movies….I watched a Spider-Man eight years ago, and that was it. I’m not interested. It doesn’t mean it is bad. I don’t know if it’s Marvel, but I watched Deadpool, the first one, and it was very good. Amazing action sequences. Then I tried to watch Deadpool 2 on a plane. I watched, like, half an hour and gave up.”
Meanwhile, several actors and directors involved with the MCU have spoken in defence of the highest grossing film series in history. Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau told CNBC, “These two guys (Scorsese and Coppola) are my heroes, and they have earned the right to express their opinions. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if they didn’t carve the way. They served as a source of inspiration, you can go all the way back to Swingers... They can express whatever opinion they like.”
Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr said during an appearance on Howard Stern’s show, “I’ll tell you the truth: I didn’t expect it to become what it became, and it is this very large, multi-headed Hydra at this point. I’ve always had other interests, and according to Scorsese, it’s not cinema. I gotta take a look at that, ya know?” Stern said, “But it is cinema isn’t it?” to which Downey Jr. said, “Well, it plays in theatres.”
Meanwhile, veteran MCU actor Samuel L Jackson told Variety, “I didn’t pay much attention to it. I mean that’s like saying Bugs Bunny ain’t funny. Films are films. Everybody doesn’t like his stuff either. We do... but not everybody. Everybody’s got an opinion, so I mean it’s okay. Ain’t going to stop nobody from making movies.”
Benedict Cumberbatch was less nuanced in his response. He said on Jenny McCarthy’s radio show, “I agree, we don’t want one king to rule it all and have a monopoly and all that, and it’s hopefully not the case and we should really look into continuing to support auteur filmmakers at every level.”
Taking to Twitter, Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon wrote, “I first think of @JamesGunn, how his heart & guts are packed into GOTG. I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but... Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry’.” And Gunn, the director of the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies added, “Martin Scorsese is one of my 5 favourite living filmmakers. I was outraged when people picketed The Last Temptation of Christ without having seen the film. I’m saddened that he’s now judging my films in the same way. That said, I will always love Scorsese, be grateful for his contribution to cinema, and can’t wait to see The Irishman.”
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