The Russo Brothers Defend Marvel From Scorsese (Again)

Much like Thanos, the urge to comment on "Are Comic Book Films Cinema?" just won't die. Here's the latest update from the directors of Avengers: Endgame.

Over the last few weeks, everyone in Hollywood has gotten in on the Scorsese versus Marvel debate

The only truisms that have come out of it are that Martin Scorsese is a defender of cinema and an emissary of the arts all over the globe, as well as that Marvel is a giant conglomerate making some of the best event movies in the history of cinema. 

The cinema debate rages onward. I have talked about my stances on this site. I think that Scorsese is wrong and that these movies are some of the best American pop are being produced in the modern era, but I also respect Scorsese's opinion that they may be killing the art around them -- which is depressing but true. 

In my opinion, our cinematic art is evolving. But you didn't come here for my opinion. 

The Russo brothers, the directors behind many of Marvel's crowning achievements, were asked about Scorsese. Let's look at what they had to say. 

The Avengers: Endgame Directors Defend Marvel From Scorsese (Again)

In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, the Russo brothers shared their opinions on the medium and the debate:

“We choose to define cinema as a film that binds people together and creates a sense of community around the narrative,” said Joe Russo. He continued “Very few movies in history have been able to bring audiences around the world together and have an emotional experience in a movie theater. We were in those theaters when that movie premiered and heard at every screening the cheers and the audible sighs and the cries of anguish and the cries of surprise. It’s very rare that that happens with several hundred people together in a theater. In a lot of ways it felt historic. But, you know, ultimately it’s tough to have any kind of dialogue about this because the perception is that, I don’t think Scorsese’s actually seen the films... So it’s hard to have an intellectual conversation with someone who hasn’t seen the movies.”

His brother, Anthony, agreed.

“It seems almost absurd to dialogue about it with somebody who’s so ill-informed. And then secondly, it’s like, look, the second you try to put art inside a box, I mean, it’s going to turn on you.”

“And defy you,” said Joe, reentering the conversation. 

Joe finished their statement on the matter this way: 

 “It seems anathema to the very nature of art to try to define it. But at the end of the day, what do we know? We’re just two guys from Cleveland, Ohio. I think ‘cinema’ is a New York word. In Cleveland, we just call them ‘movies.’”

What can we learn from these statements? 

I have always valued the idea of going to the theater. It felt like the place I belong. In Los Angeles, I go on Sunday mornings. I call it "Murch," as in the movie church. Yeah, I'm creative. 

I think at the end of the day, it boils down to this: You have to be willing to see the thing you want to criticize. 

While Scorsese's points about the crumbling of studios taking chances is spot on and scary, I think stripping these movies of the title of "cinema" is harsh and ill-informed. It reminds me of the art world pushing away Andy Warhol, only to embrace him later. 

One thing few people are talking about is the class difference of "movies" versus "cinema." Scorsese came up at a time before blockbusters. When cinema was being formed. The Russos grew up with event films and embraced that truism. 

When Scorsese came of age, he was able to define his own dream of cinema with the works that came before him. That meant chasing a form of cinema that he was used to, like The Red Shoes, Casablanca, The Seven Samurai, and other classics. 

Things changed when the Russos came of age and realized a dream. They grew up on blockbuster movies. The Spielbergian fare that defined the age of wonderment and lines around the block.  

It's possible for each to be right about their pursuits, without attacking one another. But I think we need to recognize both were reared on different things and different perspectives on why they wanted to participate in filmmaking at all. 

If you make something true and something you want to see then it doesn't matter if you're making cinema or making movies. 

You're making something that matters. 

That's art. And no one can take that away from you.      

Your Comment


The superhero fanboys responses have all been weak. Some of the greatest directors of all time called your superhero movies shit. Get over it. You are making lots of money and that is what superhero movies are for.

November 22, 2019 at 12:54PM


Not usually the one who comments but I really feel this side of the debate has to cool it.

This whole thing started with these "great" directors feeling butthurt over losing appreciation for their type of films. By all means, I love their movies just as much as I love the pure collective joy I get from Marvel's ones. But in my eyes, a director who feels that he or she just has to place a patronizing word about another person's movie, is not someone I'd ever deem "great".

Although very few of the films in the MCU are more than mediocre by themselves it's when you begin viewing them as a whole that you really fall in love with the films, the universe and (most of) its characters. As the Russo brothers say, it's not often that you see an entire theater fully immersed in a film like when Endgame premiered.

But of course, in the end of the day our different tastes in cinema (hope I'm allowed to use that word, sorry Scorsese) are what makes the interest in films such a fantastic experience. I mean there's pretty much something for everyone.

And for the record, when you're talking about the American movie industry it's always going to be about money. It's not just the superhero movies.

November 23, 2019 at 5:05PM


To rag on Scorsese for having a different definition of "cinema" as you is ridiculous. Before you can have a debate you need to have an agreed on premise and a definition of what it is that you are debating. If Scorsese's definition of cinema is "films as art" and another person's definition of cinema is "films that give an experience" you can't start a debate on "is the marvel series cinema". You can ONLY first debate on what the definition of "cinema" is.

The only other option is to accept that perhaps Scorsese has different views on what cinema is and that it's OK to have different opinion. Though, I think we'll see that Scorsese's films will go down in history while Marvel films will fade into worthlessness as soon as their box-office records get wrecked by some other future movie.

November 25, 2019 at 1:25PM


These 2 bozos again? They're outclassed, outworked and outwritten by MS. Just keep making theme park movies and show respect for someone whom can take you to school with his eyes closed.

November 25, 2019 at 6:38PM

Paolo Mugnaini

The Russo bros are overhyped GARBAGE just like the rest of Di$ney marvel movies made for CHINA. Hollywood should be on their knees if Scorsese wants to make a movie, yet they give him such a hard time just to greenlight one.

November 26, 2019 at 10:11AM