Martin Scorsese, Superhero Film, and what makes a Film

Martin Scorsese the director of such hits as The Wolf of Wall Street, Goodfellas, Shutter Island, Gangs of New York, Cape Feare, and many other revolutionary and groundbreaking films has taking a moment to say “It isn’t the cinema” about MCU films in an interview with Empire magazine. The full quote is this.

“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.”

Narrative Stories

So, let’s unpack that step by step going from the end to the beginning. Starting with “It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

Focusing on the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone, to focus on the least popular of them like Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3 you still have a narrative story, you even have a narrative story leading from the previous films and into future films in a way never successfully done before in cinema. Look at the most popular like Spider-Man: Far From Home and Captain America: Winter Soldier you get some of the best character development and stakes that most fans had only seen in the pages of comic books while moviegoers are experiencing for the first time.

Even Spidey who’s had two film series before has successfully grown in the MCU in ways the previous series were unable to touch on.  Then the historical hits like Captain Marvel and Black Panther which focus on characters who over the years have been ignored or unwanted have strong narrative tales that are more than simple: beginning, middle, and ends.

All the way back to 2008 with the first Iron Man we have a narrative tale about a weapons manufacturer who goes through a struggle of conscience when attacked by his own weapons and held hostage. Re-telling a forty-five year old story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby with a look into modern warfare. Where he escapes, comes home changed, and becomes a superhero. That is a narrative story which conveys emotional, psychological experiences to other human beings.

Theme Park Films

Next up, “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.”

This sentence makes me think of classic summer blockbusters like Jaws and also every Disney movie because those have been and are Theme Park rides and themes in multiple ways. Merchandise abundant is sold based on these products, and you know what? It’s the same with Marvel, especially the MCU, but that’s not an insult. Theme Parks are vast beautiful things that bring joy to many people, and take a lot of work to do right. At Disney theme parks actors have to stay in character the whole time and that’s hard even if we all take that for granted or think it’s silly that person under the Donald Duck mask is an actor and deserves just as much respect anyone who’s ever stared in an MCU or even a Scorsese film. Because films, especially big epics like Avengers: Endgame with a multitude of character and narratives to follow, take tons of people, not just actors to make and you’d think a fellow film maker could at least respect the effort.

That said, sure some are who burnt out and tired of walking over and over through what feels like repetitive stories about superheroes. The thing is, and I cannot stress this enough, just because MCU films are out there, and doing well, does not mean more stereotypically art house or indie films are doing bad or are better or worse than the other. Films are a medium in which a myriad of stories can be told and the concept that there is a specific kind of narrative story or film style is ridiculous. If we wanted to make pure, unchanging films we’d still be in black and white and there’s be no sound.

Martin Scorsese takes time to critique superhero films, saying they aren't cinema. I don't agree. Here's why.

Watch the Movie before you Hate It

Lastly this. “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,”

It’s fine to not like MCU films, not to even want to see them, same with Scorsese movies or any movie ever. I personally don’t watch a lot of horror films because I don’t like to be scared, but to say something you haven’t seen isn’t cinema is an objective lie. You cannot say a film or any piece of art in any medium is bad, at least not subjectively without seeing it. Like James Gunn pointed out on Twitter,

“Martin Scorsese is one of my 5 favorite 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.”

Scorsese has a voice that he’s earned from years of making groundbreaking films, and has chosen to use that voice to target something that isn’t hurting anyone and has given voice to every toxic Scorsese fan, because every fandom has toxic fans, to voice their biased and cruel statements. That said there are also toxic MCU fans attacking and arguing with Scorsese ones and there will be bystanders drawn into this socially draining and depressing ordeal when we could all just be enjoying the films we like. Because just because someone likes one kind of film and someone else likes another in the abundant of films that come out every year, doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Meaning the film and the fan.

While writing this I’ve found that Scorsese said this yesterday.

“Theaters have become amusement parks. That is all fine and good but don’t invade everything else in that sense. That is fine and good for those who enjoy that type of film and, by the way, knowing what goes into them now, I admire what they do. It’s not my kind of thing, it simply is not. It’s creating another kind of audience that thinks cinema is that.”


So, like I’ve said. Just because something isn’t what you’re into doesn’t mean it’s not good and in the case of films doesn’t mean it’s not cinema. Thanks for reading.

Oh, is this a bio? I better tell people who I am and what I do, right? Well, that's easy I'll explain that I'm a writer of sorts who goes under the alias of Nobody, but my friends call me Kade because that's my name. Check out some of my short stories on under Social Cues of Mythology.

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