Are Marvel Movies Cinema?

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Martin Scorsese has been in the news recently, and it has almost nothing to do with his new film The Irishman. Instead, it has to do with him bashing Marvel movies. He recently doubled down on his previous statement saying:

“The value of a film that is like a theme park film, Marvel-type pictures, where theatres become amusement parks, that’s a different experience. It’s not cinema, it’s something else, we shouldn’t be invaded by it, so that is a big issue and we need the theatre owners to step up to allow theatres to show films that are narrative films.”

Scorsese’s comments have caused numerous MCU actors and directors to respond, including James Gunn, Joss Whedon, Samuel L. Jackson, Karen Gillan, and Robert Downey Jr. All have had varied responses, and the internet seems just as mixed.

So the question I ask today is: are Marvel movies cinema or theme park films?

Alright, let’s break this down. If we go off the Google definition of cinema, which is “the production of movies as an art or industry,” then Scorsese is both right and wrong. Marvel movies, just like Scorsese movies, are part of the industry which is Hollywood. They’re both made to be crowd pleasing films that hopefully earn critical and box office acclaim.

The “movies as an art” is where it gets a bit tricky. Art is subjective. Scorsese certainly doesn’t view Marvel movies as cinema, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think 2014 delivered a one-two punch of excellent Marvel films. Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy are two vastly different superhero films that have different emotional beats. You could take away all the thematic ties to the larger MCU and you would still be left with an excellent political thriller and a science-fiction film.

Not every Marvel movie tries to be art, there are certainly some that feel very much industry-driven. But to call them a “theme park film” is absurd and narrow-minded, especially if Scorsese hasn’t even been able to get through watching them. The joys of going to the cinema, “a theater where movies are shown for public entertainment,” is that there is usually something for everyone to enjoy. There are biographical pictures, romantic comedies, thrillers, dramas, slashers, R-rated, PG-13, G-rated, animated, live-action, stop motion, etc. the list could just go on-and-on.

Are we getting invaded by Marvel movies? Maybe. But until Marvel puts out three or four duds in a row, I’m not exactly worried about that. Also, I think anyone who saw Avengers: Endgame will agree that it was an experience completely different than a theme park. Unless you spent the last decade of your life going on a certain Disneyland ride only for it to be torn down for a new ride. Maybe that would be just as emotional for you, I don’t know.

The point I’m trying to say is that I think Marvel movies are cinema.

But what about you, folks? Do you agree with Scorsese when he refers to Marvel movies as “theme park films”?

I’ll see you in the trenches.

Author: Marmaduke Karlston

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute Doc, uh, are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"