Martin Scorsese: Franchise Films Like Marvel Threaten To Destroy Cinematic Art

"The Irishman" filmmaker steps up his criticism of Marvel with a warning about predictable corporate franchise films.

Marvel movies bristle with drama, but nothing in the franchise films is risky enough to be considered true cinema, legendary director Martin Scorsese argued in a New York Times op-ed on Monday.

Scorsese, responding to the outcry that followed his criticism in an interview last month that Marvel movies just weren’t for him, offered a bit of an apology — and a deeper explanation why he said the superhero flicks seemed more like “theme parks,” and were simply “not cinema.”

“Many franchise films are made by people of considerable talent and artistry. You can see it on the screen,” Scorsese wrote in the Times.

But cinema, for him and the filmmakers he respects, was about “revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters ... It was about confronting the unexpected on the screen and in the life it dramatized and interpreted, and enlarging the sense of what was possible in the art form,” he wrote.

“And that was the key for us: it was an art form.”

And that’s not Marvel, he argued.

“Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes.”

Predictable, corporate franchise films are eating up theater screens and sucking in audiences to create an “ominous change ... the gradual and but steady elimination of risk,” he warned. Scorsese fears the “financial dominance” of the franchise film is “being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence” of cinema.

“For anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out, the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art,” he lamented. “And the act of simply writing those words fills me with terrible sadness.”

Scorsese’s half-century filmmaking career includes the new release “The Irishman,” as well as classics like “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” and “Goodfellas.”

Read Scorsese’s entire Times op-ed here.

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