Sorry Scorsese, Marvel movies are cinema


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Martin Scorsese has recently declared that the films of the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are not true cinema.

By Rohan Dewan, Richard Montgomery High School - MD

The cinema has been an integral component of American society since the year 1895, when prolific inventor Thomas Edison developed the world’s first Kinetoscope, thus enabling the creation of the movie theater. His invention ushered in a new field of entertainment that would displace radio shows and plays, forever changing how we experience storytelling.

With the advent of these modern theaters, an entirely new mode of entertainment flooded the American market, originating from Hollywood, California. Movies have evolved greatly since then and have had several ramifications, but recently, Marvel Studios has pioneered a new style of film, blending the sci-fi, action, and superhero genres all together into one. Although they may drastically differ from previous film forms, they are undoubtedly a crucial component to current American cinema.

A cultural phenomenon, Marvel movies have taken the 21st century by storm. Films like “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spiderman: Far From Home” have been mega-blockbuster hits, the two amassing 4 billion dollars at the box office and attracting over 100 million viewers each. No one denies the fact that Marvel movies are currently the most popular and best performing in all of Hollywood. However, filmmaker Martin Scorsese has recently taken shots at the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), claiming the movies are not true cinema.

In Scorsese’s own words, “cinema [is] about revelation—aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It [is] about characters—the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.” Though others briefly describe cinema to be the production of movies as an art.

Even given Scorsese’s subjective definition of cinema, MCU movies meet and exceed every criterion set out, while still achieving great popularity. Each brim with tense action and numerous characters whom we have all developed a close fondness of, an example being Thor, son of Oden and the God of Thunder. Throughout the MCU, we have seen him grow both in maturity and strength while witnessing his occasional downfalls and lunacy. We both rise and fall with the character, like when he is able to wield his hammer once more, demonstrating the immense powers the characters have over us.

Other characters, such as Black Widow, are presented with tear-jerking and labyrinthine backstories that push viewers to analyze the character and arrive at their own opinions and theories. These characters seem to fit neatly into the criteria Scorsese set out for cinema.

Furthermore, the movies seamlessly blend stories and plotlines that typically would have nothing to do with one another, such as the Norse god Thor fighting alongside the superhuman Captain America. It creates an experience rivaled by nothing else. Scorsese should not scoff at the unique imagination of the Marvel movie writers.

Marvel movies also accomplish something far more important to society than thrilling an audience for two hours. Movies such as “Black Panther” portray ethnic groups in a far more positive and exciting light than ever before. While a majority of the western world regards Africa as a third-world land riddled with problems of every kind, Marvel created a utopian society that gave black children hope that they can be more than what society has prescribed.

And as the MCU progresses into phase four, they will shift gears and introduce a more diverse set of characters. Films like “The Eternals” will introduce some Asian characters, “Black Widow” will be Marvel’s second female-focused movie, and “Thor: Love and Thunder” will provide another incredibly powerful female superhero. This expands cinema to represent a wider range of the human population, as opposed to Scorcese’s frequently all-white casts.

I remember the first time I watched Marvel’s debut movie, “Iron Man,” the one that started the cultural movement. It was different from anything I had ever seen before and I instantly fell into Marvel’s hypnotic trance. I felt a twinge of excitement almost every time someone spoke on screen as if I was watching the most captivating piece of art I had ever seen before.

A decade later, and the sheer exhilaration I had previously felt only grew in magnitude. As Marvel closed a chapter on its first series of movies with “Avengers: Endgame,” I was moved emotionally. The characters we grew to love over the years were taken away, causing us to shed a tear or two. That is the impact that Marvel has had on society, to generate such powerful emotions within the audience through well-developed characters with complex personalities and backgrounds, and how is that not cinema?

Mr. Scorsese reminisces about a time when Hollywood movies were black and white and full of glamour. But those days have left, and cinema has evolved with the times. Just as those same movies captivated the young Mr. Scorsese, Marvel captivates the young audiences of today.

Scorsese’s most recent film, the Irishman, according to critics is an incredible piece of art, however, according to those same reviewers, so was “Avengers: Endgame.” The Irishman strives to create an emotionally heavy story that showcases a deeper meaning to the viewer, however, it has resonated far less in the community than Marvel movies have. While one is a stand-alone work that caters to the intellectual community, Marvel builds off of itself and creates an entire universe where imagination runs free. Though both types of films are cinema in their own rights.

Whether it’s the dramatic special effects that seem to throw you to your seat or the character’s love for one another that can stir feelings deep within you, Marvel is most definitely cinema. The creation of these movies can be described as nothing less than the development of art. While Scorsese may feel it doesn’t align with the old standards of what a movie should be, the industry must push onward and change with the times if they are to keep the next generation of viewers satisfied.

This story was originally published on The Tide on January 8, 2020.