Earlier this month, the Guardian reported:
Martin Scorsese, one of cinemaâ€™s most venerated current directors, has decried superhero movies â€“ the dominant force in todayâ€™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.
â€œI tried, you know?â€ the director said when asked if he had seen Marvelâ€™s movies. â€œBut thatâ€™s not cinema.â€
He continued: â€œHonestly, 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 isnâ€™t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.
Now, Francis Ford Coppola is reported to have seconded Scorsese’s opinion with a bit more vehemence.
The director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now has joined Martin Scorsese in dismissing the dominant series of superhero films.
Speaking to journalists in Lyon following his acceptance of the Prix LumiÃ¨re for his contribution to cinema, Francis Ford Coppola, 80, said: â€œWhen Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, heâ€™s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.â€
Coppola continued: â€œI donâ€™t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said itâ€™s not cinema. He didnâ€™t say itâ€™s despicable, which I just say it is.â€
I can understand these directors’ perspective. I’m also a geezer from the same generation. Like Scorsese and Coppola, I’d read some Marvel Comics, decades and decades ago, but I was never a collector or a serious fan. I could vaguely remember a few of the characters, but most of them were invented after my time, and new to me.
When I tried watching Avengers films the first several times, they were just a confusing mishmash of loud, endlessly complicated spectacles that seemed pointless, just sound and fury signifying nothing. I actually kept nodding off and losing track of who was who and what was happening.
But Hollywood kept making them, and I inevitably wound up seeing more of them. I am the sort of person who gets frustrated when he sees things he doesn’t understand, so I eventually looked up the order of the films and began streaming them one by one and making an effort to pay attention.
I came to realize that the Marvel Avengers series films provoke the kind of hostility and criticism they received from me previously and from Scorsese and Coppola precisely because they are so dense and complex and filled with fictional history and insider-jokes that cursory viewers d’un certain Ã¢ge will inevitably find themselves confused as all the complicated, elaborately choreographed fighting goes by and will become alienated and bored, feeling these films were not made for them. Really, one needs to see these films multiple times and to bone up on the Marvel fictional universe and familiarize oneself with each of the hero characters, his or her history, quirks, abilities, and relationships to appreciate them. Scorsese and Coppola condescending from their rocking chairs about the Avenger films being just noisy, violence-filled kid stuff is really the same kind of obtuse Philistinism that finds the films of Bergman or Antonioni merely boring. I’d argue that their “cost of entry,” the effort and attention required to appreciate these films demonstrates per se the value and intelligent design they contain. And, if the late Susan Sontag were here, I bet she’d agree with me.