Martin Scorsese on comic-book movies: ‘That’s not cinema,’ they’re ‘theme parks’

Netflix Screening of Rolling Thunder

Martin Scorsese is probably going to get nominated for a million Oscars for The Irishman. The Irishman was produced by Netflix, and it will be distributed by Netflix too, through streaming and a theatrical release. Netflix is already gearing up for a big, expensive Oscar campaign too. Scorsese’s entrance into the streaming game is notable because so many of the iconic directors of his generation have fought the rise of streaming. To be fair, I don’t think Marty was happy about going to Netflix – he would have much preferred the old way of doing it, getting financing from Hollywood studios, making a flat-out studio movie on his own terms, then doing a traditional theatrical release and Oscar campaign. But maybe that option wasn’t open to him anymore because studios are only interested in superhero movies and theme park movies. And so Marty has some negative vibes about those kinds of films:

Martin Scorsese, one of cinema’s most venerated current directors, has decried superhero movies – the dominant force in today’s industry. The director of films such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas told Empire magazine that his attempts to get up to speed with contemporary superhero films had failed.

“I tried, you know?” the director said when asked if he had seen Marvel’s movies. “But that’s not cinema.” He continued: “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.”

[From The Guardian]

What he said is… true. That was my immediate reaction and that’s still how I feel. He’s not saying every superhero movie is a steaming pile of garbage, he’s saying that those movies are like “theme parks” and where is the f–king lie? The argument I’ll make is that superhero movies and Scorsese’s movies suffer from the exact same problem: the default deification of the white dude’s experience. That only white dudes really *feel* things or have interesting stories or have stories which deserve to be told. One side chooses to tell those white dude stories with capes, masks, hammy acting, spandex and theme parks. The other side chooses to tell those white dude stories with Italian-American actors yelling “fuggetaboutit.” No, I jest – I’ll talk sh-t about Scorsese’s mafia obsession, but Marty is crazy-talented and so many of his films are amazing.

James Gunn said words. Once again, Marty didn’t say superhero films shouldn’t be made or that they’re all garbage. He said they were f–king theme parks AND THEY ARE.

Once Were Brothers red carpet premiere at TIFF 2019

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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52 Responses to “Martin Scorsese on comic-book movies: ‘That’s not cinema,’ they’re ‘theme parks’”

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  1. Tiffany says:

    So Marty was not happy about getting a 150 million dollar production budget and his fee without taking a paycut to get financing from Netflix. And just to make him more angry they are gonna throw millions more behind an aggressive award season campaign.

    White men are gonna white men and still get paid. That is BS.

    • Janet says:

      Why all the Marty hate?

      He’s a huge feminist. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore? He always creates fully developed, alive female characters.

  2. BayTampaBay says:

    I doubt Mean Streets, Taxi Driver or Raging Bull could get made today by a traditional Hollywood movie studio.

    • SM says:

      You are right. And he is not wrong to say that. And there is no need for anyone to get offended or outraged. There is a market for superhero movies and there is a demand for different kind of storytelling. This is why tv and steaming is thriving now. With all that is going on in the world the taste in movies or music is the last thing we should argue about. If you don’t like it, just switch the channel/station

  3. Valiantly Varnished says:

    The literal meaning of cinema is a movie for public entertainment. So…just on basics he’s wrong. I have a huge problem with elitist views towards film in general. I am a move buff. Have been since I was really young. And while Scorsese films are great there are arguments to be made about HIS films as well.

    But ultimately I can’t take anyone’s criticism of an entire genre seriously when they admit that they havent even taken the time to watch films from said genre.

    And I think what his comment really stem from is a bit of jealousy and anger because studios have thrown all their money behind these types of films and aren’t funding the kid of work Scorsese does anymore.

    • Cee says:

      I agree with everything you’ve written. I love cinema for what it is – entertainment. I don’t care about genres, a story is a story told through different mediums and resources.
      I always hold off until I’ve watched a film (main reason I watched Joker lol) and I find Scorsese snobbish. Everyone has a price – I’m sure he would delve into superhero territory, for the right price tag.

    • Snazzy says:

      Well said VV. I agree 💯

    • Anne Call says:

      His point was that these movies are crowding out every other genre. I agree. Thank god that Netflix and Amazon are stepping up to the plate and financing smaller diverse movies.

    • Carol says:

      @vv I totally agree!!! Scorsese I think is struggling to remain relevant. Yeah, the bulk of these superhero movies are crap but how can you not love the Guardians of the Galaxy?

  4. Rapunzel says:

    Eh, he says it’s not cinema, which to me is saying it’s garbage in comparison. He’s clearly acting like he does “real” movies and Superhero films aren’t that. It’s an unnecessarily elitist definition of cinema and ignores the amount of work it takes to tell these stories. Considering Scorsese rarely stretches himself as an artist, it’s a bad take, imo.

    And people love theme parks, Marty.

    • Janet says:

      What do you mean, rarely stretches himself?

      There was Hugo, the children’s movie that was largely CGI. HUGE departure.

      Shutter Island, the horror movie. Total departure.

      Shine a Light, music documentary.

      The Aviator, period biopic.

      Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, character piece about a woman leaving her abusive husband.

      His career is one of the most varied in cinema. Way better than the directors who only crank out superhero formula films.

  5. STRIPE says:

    Coming from someone who loves super hero movies…they are theme parks. 100%. They are loud, colorful theme parks. And that’s ok.

    The buckets of money they make funds the prestige films that Scorsese et al make that break even at best.

    • MamaT says:

      I was going to say the same thing. I love going to Museums and I love going to Theme parks. Both are a form of entertainment and pleasure to me. I will never be one or the other. I love both.

  6. Maria says:

    He likes hanging out with child rapists (Allen, Polanski) so I don’t care what he thinks.

  7. Lightpurple says:

    Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street wasn’t cinema, it was 3 boring hours of a smarmy white guy trying to get an Oscar by playing a smarmy White guy and numerous women being objectified in a very sleazy manner. I much prefer Gunn’s Guardians films. However, Scorsese’s film Hugo was lovely.

    Samuel L. Jackson had the best response: everyone has the right to an opinion.

    Note: we sat at a table near Scorsese after seeing Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. He hated that too.

    • Ann says:

      Wolf of Wallstreet was skeevy. I did find it entertaining but it wasn’t high “cinema” either. Marty just replaced the silliness of superhero movies with titties and drugs. Just because it’s not family friendly doesn’t make it any less gratuitous and stupid.

      • Lightpurple says:

        From what I understand, the women who worked on the film said they were treated as badly as the characters they played in the film

    • Jerusha says:

      WOWS was loathsome.

    • Lauren S. says:

      I mean, everyone hated War of the Worlds. Bad reviews all around

  8. JennyJenny says:

    The only comic book movie I’ve truly enjoyed was ‘Deadpool’; and it was mainly for the sarcastic, funny dialog.

    The others just all seem to run together anymore. But they’re money makers, so I don’t believe they’ll be going anywhere.

  9. Neners says:

    ITA. And I’m one of those bitter curmudgeons who is just sick to death of them lol

  10. Craptastic says:

    Bwahahaha! Marty doth protest too much, methink. He’s a total FANBOY, probably has some Spider-Man swag under that suit. One of two things, embarrassed because he loves them OR jealous because he isn’t one. Either way, I’m super, duper excited to see what Takia Waititi does with Thor 4. Which is more than I can say for The Irishman (yawn).

  11. Rdoug says:

    This feels very I don’t watch television I read books. Him calling them theme parks doesn’t matter, him trying to be the gatekeeper of “real cinema” is. These types of comments alienate a portion of viewers, people don’t like to be talked down to and they don’t like to feel dismissed. Meanwhile, this is just advertisement for Marvel, as everyone on Twitter was arguing about that and not talking about his new film.

  12. minx says:

    I sort of agree with him (ducks).

    • My3cents says:

      Hey, no shame, me too.
      I just can’t connect with these superhero action movies. They always feel like some 12 year old boy’s fantasy brought to life.

    • Anne Call says:

      I agree. They’re made for a certain demographic that still goes the movies and spends money there. That’s fine except for the perception that studios are not willing to take a chance on smaller character driven non sequel films anymore. Luckily Netflix and amazon are stepping up to the plate and financing good small movies. And I could care less if it streams right away, I prefer watching those kind of movies at home anyway. The last big budget cgi film I watched on screen bored me to death-just one big confusing battle after another and mainly characters I didn’t care about. Yawn.

  13. DS9 says:

    So everything’s he’s made is “cinema” by his definition?

    Please, sir, no.

    Silence was breathtakingly beautiful both in cinematography and in scope. I want to watch it often to rethink and ponder.

    But WoWS was trash. Tony and Peter Parker have more heart and development than anything Leo did in that movie.

  14. Chimney says:

    I mean he’s right though. Superhero movies are wildly entertaining and fun for the whole family but they aren’t great or even thoughtful works of art. Scorcese’s films are taught in classrooms across the country bc he’s extremely talented, I doubt this bumper crop of superhero movies will stand the test of time like his films have. It’s okay to enjoy something and admit it’s just dumb fun.

    People get too emotionally invested in these movies and try to make it their whole personality.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      He’s also made films that are complete trash. The irony of all of this to me is that the directors who came before him criticized his work as not being true cinema. It’s funny when one becomes the establishment railing against today’s popular films after being the subject of the same criticism yourself.

      • DS9 says:

        Sometimes people forget or don’t know old gossip/ history.

        Scorsese was roundly snubbed for decades because his work didn’t fit the old guard’s definition of cinema.

        That’s why it took The Departed, which isn’t even his best or better film to get Oscar.

      • Anne Call says:

        He made a bunch of iconic films in the 70’s and 80’s that will stand the test of time. Superhero movies not so much.

      • Lauren S. says:

        Complete trash is a little harsh –

        even Wolf of Wall Street has incredible scenes and shots that are well-considered. The scene with the FBI agent, where he tries to bribe him? Better than anything in the Marvel universe. Superb acting, incredible dialogue, so tense.

        Can’t say superb acting, sharp dialogue, and real tension about any scene in a Marvel movie. The dialogue is on the nose (“I am struggling right now! I am upset!”) and there’s no tension, just explosions, and really poorly done exposition.

    • Ali says:

      IMO Avengers Endgame was great and thoughtful. So was Black Panther.

    • The Recluse says:

      Captain America – The Winter Soldier has been ranked up there with Day of the Condor, so some of them do stand out.
      I like all sorts of movies. Being snobbish is odd. I love serious films: The Searchers. I love silly films: The Marx Brothers Animal Crackers. I love classic animation. Bette Davis and I love F.W. Murnau and other silent films. And I enjoy a good superhero action film.
      And my favorite Scorsese film is Casino. Don’t know why. But it is.

  15. Lena says:

    Marty never said he didn’t see them, he did try to watch and prefers a movie that is more realistic. I agree and the description that they are like theme parks is apt. They aren’t showing us real life (and aren’t supposed to). Rom coms are not cinema in the accepted (not dictionary or Brit) use of the word either. And Nobody would get upset if an author said he or she prefers not to read someone else’s books that are fantasy or sci-fi or take offense.

  16. paranormalgirl says:

    I guess people need to get off his lawn, too.

  17. Kayahead says:

    He may or may not be right about superhero movies, but I wonder how he feels about his so called cinema of human emotions when it’s basically a photocopy of another person’s genius. SMDH….ps, I’m talking about his Oscar winning The Departed….

    • Jerusha says:

      Yeah, I commented below that Infernal Affairs is so, so much better than The Departed. I saw IA first, then thought I’d check out TD. Big mistake, waste of time. I cared about the characters in IA, cared about their fates, didn’t care who lived or died in TD.

  18. Leriel says:

    I guess superhero villain movie, he literally just produced, is some kind of high cinema, ugh. He’s such a snob, I hope my other favourite directors won’t become like him in their old years.

  19. MellyMel says:

    He’s not wrong and I agree with him. But sometimes you want to watch the “theme park” movies and that’s fine.

  20. VintageS says:

    Yeah, some of them are, and some of them like Avenger’s EndGame, The Black Panther, and yes, ugh, The Dark Knight are great standalone movies.

    He sounds like a sixth grade girl criticizing the cute new girl. Get over it.

    • DS9 says:

      I’m really in my feelings about the amount of people who don’t appreciate Black Panther as more than just another super hero movie.

      And The Dark Knight IS cinema in the Scorsese sense. The pacing, the acting, the brilliant use of the score.

      I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.

    • Maddy says:

      End game was horrible! Oh my god. 100% plot and very clumsy exposition. Emotional moments given no space to land, bad dialogue, predictable outcome.

      You can’t say it’s a good film.

      You can say you liked it because you were invested in the story, but you can’t point to a well-shot sequence that has more craft or art than even the worst scenes Scorsese has shot.

  21. Esme says:

    Cinema is a broad church, IMHO. But yes, there’s a distinction to be made between genre movies and auteur projects, just like there’s a distinction between, say, Agatha Christie’s crime novels and Proust’s work. One can enjoy the both, or just one type of work.
    In the end is not a moral judgment, it’s an aesthetic one. And culture is tied to social class in ways that makes these kind of comments elitist.

  22. Jerusha says:

    I was a big Scorsese fan 40 some years ago, the days of Who’s That Knocking at My Door, Alice …, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, but if I ever have to see another mafia movie with Pesci running around shrieking expletives I’ll go psycho.
    His latest movies that I’ve seen-WOWS and The Departed-ugh. If you want to see The Departed done right check out the Hong Kong original-Infernal Affairs. Tony Leung and Andy Lau outact Leo D and Matt D a 1000 to 1. You really feel for their characters and their fates. I think I’ll add The Irishman to the list of films I’ll skip.

  23. Starkiller says:

    I mean, he’s not wrong, but at the same time I certainly wouldn’t consider any of his films “cinema” either, so not sure he’s the best judge of the matter.

  24. Mia4s says:

    Honestly my favourite part of this was the outrage. Person expresses opinion, Internet loses its mind trying to show how Scorsese is “not that great”. I get that some people find it “elitist” but I really don’t think it’s healthy how much some people tie their identity (bordering on their self-worth) to Marvel, Disney, Star Wars, etc. (For the record, I think the same about some sports fans as well.) They take it sooooo personal. I mean…at least James Gunn worked on them, so it is personal.

    But good lord even against Scorsese, the Disney properties are not and never will be some scrappy underdogs. 😂

  25. Alyse says:

    Classic “high art” “low art” convo here… in the end people should just like what they like and appreciate that everyone has different tastes, and that different people can be talented in different ways.

    best regards, someone who likes pretentious indies just as much as i like crappy c grade horror xxx

  26. Amaria says:

    He’s right. Superhero movies are not high art and were never intended to be. Some of them are really well-constructed,but the idea is they’re fun, colorful, light entertainment. Just like serious cinema is more serious… Entertainment. The difference is, the great movies are actual art that says something about human condition. No-one expects Marvel to beat Bergman in this area. If you’re going to get offended that someone pointed it out and make fuss about it – really? Is the “honor” od multimillion dollar earning machine the hill you want to die on?

  27. Miss America says:

    I apologize if I’m totally wrong or ignorant. But to me it kind of makes sense Scorsese makes films about white men, because that is HIS experience. I would definitely not feel equipped to tell stories about other identities and races or experiences that were totally foreign to me. Plus, yeah he’s old. Maybe he’s also only really familiar with that format. But I like him. I like his work. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.