Marty is Right

Martin Scorsese  is right.

The great director who graced us with Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The King of Comedy, Shutter Island, Silence, The Departed and many, many others made a claim that Marvel movies are not “cinema”. The internet went insane. Marty then did an interview where he clarified his position. The internet went even more insane. I have watched the hot takes, counter-arguments, screeds, and comment section meltdowns with bemusement. I have been bemused for two reasons:

1.       He was right
2.       No one seemed to under stand what he was saying

Let’s look at number two first: Scorsese wasn’t talking about the quality of the Marvel movies. He even made clear that he thought that some of them were good. He wasn’t disparaging the fans. In fact, he seems to view the fans, as well as all lovers of film, as victims in this process.  He also wasn’t insulting the writers, directors, actors, etc. He was deriding a process and the corporate structure that has taken over Hollywood.

Scorsese’s issue is with the way that these movies are created. Rather than being the product of a singular vision created by an Autor, or a shared vision created by the partnership between writer, director, and producer they are corporate product. Plots, character beats, camera placement, all of it is decided by a committee intent on producing a product guaranteed to make money. There is no risk to it.  One wants to say that there is no art, but pf course the effect may be art – but the intent is not to make art. This is commerce.

Further, he does not seem to be upset that such films exist, or even that they get made this way. The real issue is that corporate mergers have created behemoths like Disney (BV, Pixar, Marvel, Lucas Film all absorbed into it)  that have a total strangle-hold on film. And now, the studios have started buying theaters. This can only get worse. 

Scorsese’s fear (and it should be your fear) is that soon the theater will have no room for the personal, the weird, the Avant Garde, the risky. Soon, only market tested, pre-cleared, safe corporate products will be allowed to exist. And no, that isn’t cinema.

Disclaimer: I like Marvel. Black Panther, Captain America The Winter Soldier, Thor Ragnorok, Spider_Man Homecoming and others have excited me. I look forward to the new movies coming. I still recognize that these aren’t the same thing as The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, or even Evil Dead.

-Nathan Tyree