By Mark Saldana

As a Scorsese fan and a fan of comic book/superhero movies, I found myself smack dab in the middle of this “argument.”  First of all, for many years I have had great respect for Martin Scorsese as a filmmaker. His work not only has a profound impact on cinema and future filmmakers, it has made an indelible mark on American pop culture.  This fact  remains unchanged. 

As a kid who grew up with comics, cartoons, and superheroes, I have much love for comic-inspired movies. This will continue, as long as I feel they are made well. Now that  these movies dominate in American cinema, people will get their share of great ones and bad ones.

When Martin Scorsese made his “controversial” remarks regarding Marvel movies, I wasn’t all that terribly surprised.  If the director had any contact or exposure to comics, it was probably in a limited or very casual capacity.  Scorsese’s generation probably never developed the same level of love, fascination, or obsession for the medium. 

In addition, Scorsese probably has rather distinct tastes when it comes to movies.  He grew up in a time when cinema was different and launched his career with a rebellious bravado.  While inspired by old Hollywood, his Italian heritage, and the rebels who preceded him (Hitchcock, French New Wave, Italian cinema) certainly fueled his passion to do something bolder and more real.

I understand his perspective.  Do I agree with him? No, I do not. Cinema should offer audiences a wide variety of genres, but is definitely limited by what makes money easily and what doesn’t. I am, in no shape or form, condoning or supporting this business strategy, but that is the reality. Cinema isn’t only art. It is entertainment and a business.

And it is a business that has tremendously changed with advancements in technology.  Before cable or satellite TV, before the video market or digital streaming, films were limited to theatrical distribution mostly.  Now, independent movies, or movies that are challenging to distribute theatrically find venues via digital outlets.  So, the studios opt for the so-called big tent poles which are best experienced on the big screen. This is why Scorsese struck a deal with Netflix for The Irishman.  He is getting a limited theatrical push with a later run on Netflix streaming.

Perhaps that Scorsese is a little bitter for this. I don’t completely blame him.  But to say that Marvel movies are not cinema is a rather foolish thing to say, given his knowledge of the medium.  To reiterate a previous statement with another argument. Cinema isn’t only art. It is entertainment and a business, for better or worse.

The movie business does limit options for cinema when saturating cinema with superhero fare, but Scorsese’s opinion reflects a limited and biased view too.  Cinema cannot thrive on art films or films deemed as having artistic integrity alone. People also enjoy entertainment and a lot of comic book fans absolutely love this huge renaissance of comic book cinema. Variety is the spice of life and there are a variety of tastes out there. Not everyone likes films Scorsese likes and obviously not everyone likes comic book movies.

At some point the business and mass audiences will want something different or discover another new flavor that sells tickets. Until then, studios will keep churning out comic fare and other tentpoles that will probably make some serious money.  And, other more niche filmmakers will have to struggle for their art. Scorsese has been quoted recently that the struggle defines cinema. Perhaps that has been his experience.

Bur, that is what he thrives on to make his films work.  Ultimately, I get what he is expressing; however as iconic a filmmaker he is, he and those who completely agree with him cannot define what an artistic medium is. To do so, limits possibilities.  On the other hand,  his take has inspired much discussion and discourse about art and entertainment which is usually a great thing. Regardless of Martin Scorsese’s opinion, I will continue to respect him as a great filmmaker and enjoy comic book movies as long as they keep making good ones.

Photo Source: Indiewire

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