The Avengers: Endgame star adds his two cents on the idea that the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't "cinema."
Martin Scorsese unknowingly sparked some controversy last week when he deemed that Marvel Studios and their 11-year streak of hits (and three Oscar wins, FYI) was not "cinema." The Irishman director went on to say that, while he tried to watch Marvel moves, he doesn't see them at all because they are closer, in his view, to theme parks than "real movies." (insert *dismissive wank gesture here*). His problematic opinion garnered responses from Marvel filmmakers James Gunn and Joss Whedon, as well as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse co-director Peter Ramsay. Now, Iron Man himself is chiming in to defend Marvel. Grab some popcorn, folks.
Robert Downey, Jr was recently a guest on The Howard Stern Show and he, in pure class-act form, where he diplomatically challenged Scorsese's "not cinema" views: “It’s his opinion,” Downey, Jr. said. “I mean, it plays in theaters."
The actor when on to say "I appreciate his opinion because I think it’s like anything. We need all of the different perspectives so we can come to the center and move on.”
Fans of Marvel's blockbusters, both filmmakers and average movie goers, did not react well to Scorsese's elitist comments. Marvel movies, while more inclined to be theme park centerpieces than, say, Last Temptation of Christ (we'd totally love pay admission for a VR, first-person sim of After Hours, though), they are cinematic experiences without peer. The emotional drama and character dynamics Scorsese claims the movies lack are, in fact, there in abundance across more than 20 films (and counting). Take away the talking trees and kick-punching and exploding CG, and all you have is what audiences want: The characters. You can't get this dynamic anywhere else, which is why we are even having this conversation because if Marvel's movies were just eye candy designed to primarily sell popcorn and merch, then we would have exhausted any sh**s to give. We would have seen through that and moved on.
But we are invested -- adults, children, men, women -- we are invested for the long haul because of how Marvel makes us care about the heroes and villains throwing shields or getting hit with them. As Downey, Jr. summarizes:
“In [Scorsese's] view — and, by the way, there’s a lot to be said for how these genre movies, and I was happy to be part of the problem, if there is one — denigrated the art form of cinema. When you come in like a stomping beast and you eliminate the competition in such a demonstrative way, it’s phenomenal.”
What You Can Learn
If there is any takeaway from this, other than try to watch movies from a vantage point other than atop a high horse, it's that subscribing pretentious labels on your fellow filmmakers and their output will never service you. Not in the long-term. Some narratives are better told, emotionally, than others. Some movies are better made and executed than others, in ways that warrant a theatrical experience that studio films have made us accustomed to. But we are all in this boat together. So more rowing it together (even if you are at Scorsese's level) and less feeling like you're beating colleagues with the oars.
Collaboration and respect, like "cinema," endure for far longer than the other thing.