Are arguments about Marvel’s cinematic validity reasonable?


Jaden Cheloha, Staff Writer

It wasn’t all that long ago when Martin Scorsese told Empire Magazine that “Marvel movies aren’t cinema.” Everyone reacted in expected fashion: there were those up in arms, those finding themselves defending Scorsese, and those who just didn’t care. It came and went, and we had no need to think about it again. That is until another filmmaker by the name of Denis Villeneuve re-lit the embers of this debate on just how much praise the Marvel Cinematic Universe is deserving of. 

In an interview with The Direct just this September, the director of movies Blade-Runner 2049 and Dune offered up a few of his viewpoints on the MCU, “Perhaps the problem with that we are in front of too many Marvel movies that are nothing more than a ‘cut and paste’ of others. Perhaps these types of movies have turned us into zombies a bit . . .” 

For those Marvel fans who first saw this, it made it even easier to hate on someone who already doesn’t necessarily follow the same formula as those working for Kevin Feige. However, there might just be some merit to what Villeneuve is trying to say. If you’ve ever watched at least a few Marvel movies, you might already be able to notice a few similarities these films share, and no, I’m not simply talking about the actors. 

If I were to describe to you a Marvel movie starring a rich, cocky, and arrogant man with a go-tee who goes through a traumatic event, changing his life and turning him into a selfless and overall better person, there’s a chance Iron Man came to mind, but there’s also a chance some of you thought of Dr. Strange. 

I’m not trying to defend Villeneuve, but catering to his point of view is important in seeing the wider scope of where some of these other filmmakers are coming from when they bring up their controversial opinions on the MCU, and if these opinions have any genuine bearing in the film industry as a whole. 

It might be best then to reexamine what Martin Scorsese had to say about Marvel and its films back in 2019. It’s not terribly difficult to interpret what he’s trying to say about Marvel in his interview with Empire Magazine, but luckily for those interested in diving deeper into this type of cinematic criticism, Scorsese himself published an opinion piece for the New York Times where he further elaborates on just what he was trying to say in his original interview, and from what was said, it all came down to risk. His main argument comes down to how the Marvel movies of today are just made to satisfy a supply and demand and a final goal of financial dominance. 

Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.” 

This one blurb from the article perfectly exemplifies what Scorsese was trying to get at. Yes, there are tons of talented individuals working on films like Black Widow and Shang-Chi, but those individuals aren’t making those movies to push the boundaries of what cinema could be. According to Scorsese, in today’s movie theaters, there are far fewer films that feature a sense of revelation, mystery, or genuine emotional danger. 

In my attempt to wade farther into the waters of Hollywood and the film industry, I’ve come across a multitude of arguments that just love to bash on Marvel and its “copy and paste” formula, and they’ve shown me that cinema is much more than just a moving picture on a screen. However, the whole point of my article was to bring into question the validity of these arguments. So, have the likes of Denis Villeneuve and Martin Scorsese “shown me the light”, per say? 

After seeing the perspective these filmmakers, it’s not actually that difficult to see why the heavy hitters in the industry have an issue with the 90 or so movies and TV shows Marvel pumps out each year. These people know filmmaking inside and out, and their many years of experience have given them a very specific set of guidelines to follow when deciding what exactly qualifies as cinema. 

For me, cinema skates down a fine line between just being a set of frames on a projector and masterfully crafted adventure that makes you re-examine your perspective on the world. The movies are place where you can escape, a place where you can leave your reality for a whole new one. To me, the term cinema isn’t exclusive to those individuals who want to reinvent the process of filmmaking every time they have a new story to tell. Cinema doesn’t need risk, or originality, or even a sense of adventure. 

Sure, the MCU can release a new movie every week, but if they have an audience that’s truly invested in the story they’re trying to tell, then it doesn’t matter that they’re not bringing the film industry to new highs. If Addison Rae wants to attempt to act and get hilariously made fun of for it, then that’s perfectly alright with me.