Marvel as Cinema: Respectfully Disagreeing With Scorsese and Coppola

Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola are two of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and both have agreed that when it comes to the definition of cinema, Marvel doesn’t qualify. 

Scorsese has referred to Marvel movies as theme park movies, that “theaters have become amusement parks” because of the influx of superhero movies. Coppola took it one step further and said that Marvel movies are “despicable.” 

I wonder if they feel the same way about their friend’s cinematic universe, the one that started a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Scorsese and Coppola came up together in a pivotal age for cinema along with a couple of other household names, including Steven Spielberg and someone named George Lucas.

One can imagine a younger Scorsese and Coppola enjoying Spielberg’s blockbusters and Lucas’s seminal trilogy. It was a time when there was plenty of room for any and all types of movies.

If anything, all of these filmmakers helped to expand the definition of cinema for later generations. So if Scorsese takes issue with what Marvel movies are doing, he must take issue with Star Wars, which literally has a theme park. 

Star Wars revolutionized what cinema could be in 1979, and Marvel has only followed in its footsteps by expanding upon the cinematic universe that Star Wars trailblazed. In fact, Star Wars is now following in Marvel’s footsteps by expanding its universe even further and under the same banner as Marvel with Disney.  

While James Gunn (The Guardians of the Galaxy) and Natalie Portman (Thor) have expressed their disagreement with Scorsese’s statements, Jon Favreau (Ironman) has actually defended Scorsese and Coppola as filmmakers, who have “earned their right” to state their opinions.

Favreau cited them as inspirations, whose work has made his own possible. 

I can’t help, but agree. These legendary directors have paved the way for numerous filmmakers, including those at the helm of superhero movies. Although I do disagree with Scorsese and Coppola, their influences are evident in the movies we watch today and will watch in the future. 

The controversial Joker was heavily influenced by Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Ryan Coogler has said that the ending to Black Panther was influenced by Coppola’s The Godfather. In a way, it feels that Scorsese and Coppola are insulting themselves when they denigrate superhero movies as lesser than cinema. Many of these films have taken a page out of their or their contemporary’s cinematic playbook and was a better film for it. 

Despite what Scorsese and Coppola think, superhero movies qualify as cinema not only because of George Lucas’s influence, but because of theirs. 

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