In the wake of acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese saying that Marvel movies are “not cinema,” directors and stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are responding to his remarks, and in some cases pushing back in defense of the mega-franchise. With Scorsese’s fellow auteur Francis Ford Coppola echoing his sentiments — the Godfather director recently called Marvel movies “despicable” — this debate could be far from over.
Chadwick Boseman, who played the title role in the 2018 hit Black Panther, is the latest Marvel star to respond to the controversy. He reportedly told BBC 5 Live, “The mystery that Scorsese is talking about is in Black Panther. If he saw it, he didn’t get that there was this feeling of not knowing what was going to happen that black people felt. We thought, you know, ‘White people will kill us off, so it’s a possibility that we could be gone.’”
While Boseman added that he has to “respect” the famed director — who he says is “a genius at what he does” — he said Scorsese missed a lot of the feelings fans felt after the watching the Ryan Coogler-drama. “We felt that angst. We felt that thing you would feel from cinema when we watched it,” he said. “That’s cultural. Maybe it’s generational.”
Boseman also said he thinks there may have been a bigger reason Scorsese decided to make inflammatory comments about the MCU while promoting his new film The Irishman. “You’ve got to think about when he’s saying it,” he said. “He’s saying it when he’s possibly campaigning for an award. He’s saying it at a time when he’s making a Netflix movie, so that’s how eyes get on his film, and it’s not going to be in the cinemas — it’s not going to be seen the best way.”
Fellow Marvel stars Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans shared their two cents on the matter while promoting their respective new projects. Johansson, who plays Black Widow in the MCU, told Variety she finds the commentary “sad.”
“At first I thought that seems kind of old-fashioned, and somebody had to explain to me, because it seemed so disappointing and sad in a way,” she said. “They said, ‘I think what these people are saying is that at the actual theater, there’s not a lot of room for different kinds of movies, or smaller movies, because the theater is taken up by huge blockbusters.’”
Captain America star Evans added, “I think original content inspires creative content. I think new stuff is what keeps the creative wheel rolling. I just believe there’s room at the table for all of it. It’s like saying a certain type of music isn’t music. Who are you to say that?”
“I think myself and everyone who works on these movies loves cinema, loves movies, loves going to the movies, loves to watch a communal experience in a movie theater full of people,” he said.
He added, “Everybody has a different definition of cinema. Everybody has a different definition of art. Everybody has a different definition of risk. Some people don’t think it’s cinema. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Everyone is entitled to repeat that opinion. Everyone is entitled to write op-eds about that opinion, and I look forward to what will happen next. But in the meantime, we’re going to keep making movies.”
Mark Ruffalo, who plays Bruce Banner/Hulk in the MCU, spoke to BBC about how he thinks Scorsese can fix his problem with Marvel.
“If we’re living in a world where economics are how we measure the value of a society, then yeah, whoever makes the biggest thing is going to dominate,” he said in a video. “They are going to try and keep making it again and again. In that article [Scorsese] said something really interesting, and I wish he took it all the way. He said, ‘I am not suggesting that we subsidize films.’ But that’s exactly what he’s suggesting. We should have a national endowment of the arts that gives money to another kind of cinema and does support another kind of cinema.”
He added, “If you’re working in the milieu of ‘I’m going to try and make a movie that has economic success,’ which [Scorsese] does too by the way, then how can you complain about that system when you’re not on top of it anymore? I would love to see Marty create a national film endowment, and he could do this, that lets young, new talent come in that isn’t just driven by the marketplace but driven by precepts of art. That would be amazing. That’s really the crux of this conversation.”
Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo are also adding their opinion about Scorsese.
“Ultimately, we define cinema as a film that can bring people together to have a shared, emotional experience,” Joe told The Hollywood Reporter.
He added, “When we look at the box office [of] Avengers: Endgame, we don’t see that as a signifier of financial success, we see it as a signifier of emotional success. It’s a movie that had an unprecedented impact on audiences around the world in the way that they shared that narrative and the way that they experienced it. And the emotions they felt watching it.”
“These two guys are my heroes, and they have earned the right to express their opinions,” Favreau said while promoting his Star Wars series The Mandalorian. “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.”
“Of course it’s cinema! It’s at the movies. It’s in cinemas…” he said while pointing at the camera, “near you!”
She added, “I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life.”
MCU star Sebastian Stan weighed in on Scorsese’s comments while speaking at Houston’s Fandemic Tour.
“He’s one of my heroes and I was listening to him and meanwhile, I just spent the day with all of you,” Stan said, according to ComicBook.com. “People have been going up to me like, ‘Thank you so much for this character,’ ‘This movie helped me out so much,’ ‘This movie inspired me. Now I feel better. Now I feel less alone,’ so how can you say these movies are not helping people?”
Director James Gunn has been outspoken about the comments from Scorsese and Coppola against comic book films — including his two Guardians of the Galaxy movies (with a third on the way). He shared his thoughts via Instagram.
“Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them ‘despicable,’” he wrote alongside a photo of Guardians characters Groot and Rocket. “Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, ‘I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!’ Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful. Like westerns and gangster movies (and before that, just MOVIES), not everyone will be able to appreciate them, even some geniuses. And that’s okay.”
Avengers and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon singled out Gunn’s work when responding to Scorsese in early October. He tweeted, “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’” (the latter quote being a Hulk reference).
Robert Downey Jr., who played Iron Man/Tony Stark in multiple MCU projects, spoke to Howard Stern when the controversy over Scorsese’s comments first erupted.
“It is this very large, multiheaded hydra at this point,” he told Stern. As to whether Marvel movies are cinema, he said, “I mean, it plays in theaters. I appreciate [Scorsese’s] opinion. I think it’s like anything where we need all of the different perspectives so we can come to center and move on.”
Samuel L. Jackson also shared his respect for the Raging Bull director during an interview in early October, though he agreed to disagree on the topic.
“That’s kind of like saying Bugs Bunny ain’t funny,” Jackson told Variety. “Films are films. You know, everybody doesn’t like his stuff either. I mean, we happen to, but everybody doesn’t. There are a lot of Italian-Americans that don’t think he should be making films about them like that. Everybody’s got an opinion, so it’s okay. It’s not going to stop anyone from making movies.”
Disney chief Bob Iger addressed the controversial comments by Scorsese and Coppola during an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He said their commentary doesn’t bother him, but it does bother him on behalf of those that worked on the films.
“They don’t see how audiences are reacting to them,” Iger said when asked what the pair don’t see in the MCU. “They’re entitled to their opinions. Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese are two people I hold in the highest regard in terms of the films they’ve made, the films I’ve liked, the films we’ve all watched. But when Francis uses the words ‘those films are despicable,’ I’d reserve the word ‘despicable’ for someone who had committed mass murder—these are movies.”
He added, “I don’t get what they’re trying to criticize us for when we’re making films that people are obviously enjoying going to and they’re doing so by the millions.”
Benedict Cumberbatch, who has played Doctor Strange in multiple Marvel movies, also made a statement in support of the MCU while speaking to Jenny McCarthy on her SiriusXM podcast.
“I know there’s been a lot of debate about this recently, but very fine filmmakers coming to the fore saying that these film franchises are taking over everything but luckiest actors who get to do both kinds of variety at either polarity of budgeting,” he said. “And I agree, we don’t one King to rule them all and have kind of a monopoly. Hopefully, that’s not the case and we should really look into continuing to support all filmmakers at every level.”
This article was originally published Oct. 22, 2019, and most recently updated Nov. 11, 2019.