If there’s one news story that just won’t die this month, it’s “Auteur Director Criticizes Marvel.” Whether it’s heavyweights like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola or distinguished filmmakers who most Americans barely know but are still making headlines because Marvel!!! like Ken Loach and Fernando Meirelles, everyone with a DGA card seems to have an opinion on the merits of the MCU. And that’s the beauty of being human — we can agree to disagree!
The latest to wade into this media-perpetuated fracas is Marvel’s favorite son Jon Favreau, who directed the first two Iron Man movies. Favreau told CNBC (huh?) that Scorsese and Coppola “are my heroes, and they have earned the right to express their opinions. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if they didn’t carve the way. They served as a source of inspiration, you can go all the way back to Swingers,” before adding that “they can express whatever opinion they like.”
What a level-headed response! Maybe Jon Favreau should be our next President! The idea that people who call themselves movie fans have villainized legends we’re on a one-name basis with like Scorsese and Coppola because they don’t consider Marvel’s output to be “cinema” is downright embarrassing. Because at the end of the day, who cares? Are the outraged masses going to change Marty’s mind with some passionate monologue about how Tony Stark’s death in Avengers: Endgame made them cry? I highly doubt it.
The truth is that there are two kinds of motion pictures — movies, and films. Joker is a film. Logan is a film. In my opinion, Marvel makes movies. And that’s totally fine! What would capital-C Cinema be without movies? I’ll tell you… it would be a lot less fun. But everyone has their own definition of “cinema,” and you’d better believe that Scorsese and Coppola’s definition is quite a bit different than how most people would define the term, simply due to their age and the depth of their knowledge. That may make them pretentious or snooty in the eye of the average Marvel fan, who shouldn’t be shamed for what they enjoy, but it doesn’t mean that the old masters don’t have a right to their opinions, and to share those opinions when asked by journalists on the hunt for a controversial sound byte.
Naturally, Coppola didn’t do himself any favors, calling Marvel movies “despicable,” which, of course, they are not. I mean, regardless of how you feel about Black Panther or Captain Marvel, you have to acknowledge what those movies meant to millions of people, and not just women or people of color. Meanwhile, I have no doubt that hundreds of thousands of people did, in fact, cry when Tony Stark made his final quip in Endgame, because they were so emotionally invested in that character and the 22-film universe (at that point) it had launched. Endgame may still me a “movie” in my eyes, but if creating that emotion isn’t part of the foundation of cinema, then I don’t know what is.
Here’s are my final thoughts on this hullabaloo. Studios and publicists need to be better gatekeepers. As a veteran reporter, I’m shocked at who has access to talent these days, and who does not, and why. Shocked, I tell you! I don’t even know the specific question that launched this ongoing saga, and I’m not opposed to asking Scorsese a question about what he makes of the current Hollywood landscape, so if he then singles out Marvel on his own, it’s on him. But if a reporter is singling out Marvel to provoke a response with the goal of weaponizing that response, then I’d take issue with the question — just like how Scorsese was offended by a reporter who took issue with the lack of women in The Irishman and Scorsese’s history of male-dominated movies. Lorraine Bracco and Sharon Stone give two of the best performances of the ’90s in Goodfellas and Casino, respectively, so while I have no idea whether The Irishman passes the Bechdel Test because I haven’t seen it, I’m inclined to give Marty the benefit of the doubt when he says that “if the story doesn’t call for it… it’s a waste of everybody’s time.”
Is Marvel “cinema” as you define the term? Is Favreau’s own Zathura? Sound off in the comments section below…