Why Are All These Acclaimed Directors Clowning Marvel Movies?

L-R: Martin Scorsese, Fernando Meirelles, Francis Ford Coppola
Image: Getty

The best dude fights among famous men are those that are completely meritless and totally stupid, yet they inspire a burning desire within the best of us to form an opinion about them. This month, there is only one dude fight worth unpacking: the war between Marvel movies and a bunch of renowned directors who are like, “Why would anyone want to watch that trite excuse for cinema?” to which I respond, “Me, it’s fun.” Let’s dive in.

The Players:

Martin Scorsese - Award-winning filmmaker. You know him for Goodfellas and other stuff. He recently put out another movie that is not Goodfellas but also stars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and that is 210 minutes long

Samuel L. Jackson - Actor, Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Robert Downey Jr. - Actor, Iron Man

Francis Ford Copoola - Award-winning filmmaker. You know him for the Godfather, which is not Goodfellas

Fernando Meirelles - Oscar nominee, best known for co-directing the film City of God

Ken Loach - English director who won the the Palme d’Or at Cannes twice for dramas The Wind That Shakes the Barley and I, Daniel Blake

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The Events:

October 4, 2019

According to The Guardian, Scorsese kicked off the Marvel hate when he told the English publication Empire magazine that he “tried, you know?” to watch MCU movies, “but that’s not cinema.”

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He went on to compare watching Marvel movies to theme parks. I don’t see this as a problem, because Marvel does have theme parks, but whatever. He said:

“Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

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October 5, 2019

The next day, Variety reporter Angelique Jackson asked Samuel L. Jackson, at the opening of Tyler Perry’s Atlanta film studio, what he thought about Scorsese’s comments, and he replied by saying not everyone likes Scorsese’s movies, either:

“I mean that’s like saying Bugs Bunny ain’t funny. Films are films. Everybody doesn’t like his stuff either. Everybody’s got an opinion, so I mean it’s okay. Ain’t going to stop nobody from making movies.”

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October 7, 2019

Iron Man, and by that I mean Robert Downey Jr., paid a visit to Howard Stern where he, too, mentioned Scorsese:

“I’ll tell you the truth, I didn’t expect [the Marvel Cinematic Universe] to become what it became and it is this very large, multi-headed Hydra at this point. I’ve always had other interests, and according to Scorsese, it’s not cinema so I have to take a look at that, you know?”

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He added that Scorsese’s comment “makes no sense” because it would be like, “saying Howard Stern isn’t radio.” I’m not sure that’s the hill to die on, but fair.

October 20, 2019

Not long after Scorsese’s words made the rounds in film spheres, journalists in Lyon, France decided to ask Francis Ford Coppola for his take. I’m not sure why. He said he agreed with Scorsese, but went a step further to call Marvel films “despicable”:

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

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October 21, 2019

At this point, I feel bad for these elderly filmmakers who are being prompted in every interview to give their opinion on Marvel movies, but not too terribly bad because they keep offering up their opinion. In an interview with Sky News, Ken Loach added to both Scorsese’s and Coppola’s stance by comparing Marvel movies to “commodities like hamburgers.” He said:

“Superhero movies, I just find them boring. They’re made as commodities—this is the essential point—they’re made as commodities like hamburgers or whatever, and it’s not about communicating. It’s not about sharing our imagination. It’s about making a commodity that will make a profit for a big corporation—they’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema.”

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October 22, 2019

According to Variety, at the 2019 Mumbai Film Festival, Fernando Meirelles jumped on the bandwagon and said, “I can’t disagree with Scorsese because I don’t watch [Marvel movies]… I watched a Spider-Man eight years ago, and that was it. I’m not interested.”

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He, however, was much more generous than the others, adding:

“It doesn’t mean it is bad. I don’t know if it’s Marvel, but I watched Deadpool, the first one, and it was very good. Amazing action sequences. Then I tried to watch Deadpool 2 on a plane. I watched, like, half an hour and gave up.”

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Something about the first Deadpool movie resonating with an all-star filmmaker is very funny to me. Perhaps because I have never met a person who prefers Deadpool to Spider-Man? Like, you gotta watch Tom Holland in action, first.

Update (3:37 p.m.): In a new interview with CNBC, Jon Favreau, longtime MCU executive producer and Happy Hogan in the Iron Man and Spider-Man franchises, has responded to criticisms from Scorsese and Coppola. “These two guys are my heroes and they’ve earned the right to express their opinions. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if they didn’t carve the way,” he said. “They’ve served as a source of inspiration, you can go all the way back to Swingers where I was referencing Marty, and I’ve worked with him. For me, they can express whatever opinion they’d like.”

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What’s next?

I’m sure some other pretentious, canonical director will throw his hat in the ring because, well, why not? The beef is very vapid and extremely low stakes, which means it is totally open for more shots to be fired. It is a dude fight that has become a dude brawl with too many players, criticism I once held for the Avengers franchise but now realize was very, very wrong. It’s super funny when a bunch of guys are fighting. I’d argue Marvel is the clear winner here because no movie performs better at the box office, but everyone involved is stupid rich, so I’m not sure that matters much. Or at all.

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Screenshot: Disney/Marvel

Fin.

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About the author

Maria Sherman

this is my day job: senior writer at jezebel