Disney Studios has seen tremendous success with every movie they released into theaters this past year, and we still have 2 months left in 2019 where their two most anticipated movies will drop: Frozen 2 and The Rise Of Skywalker (which has already surpassed Avenger’s Endgame in ticket presales). All of this has lead to Disney/Fox accounting for over 40% of the domestic box office this year and worldwide, they’ve garnered billions (yes, billions). The numbers speak for themselves and many would agree, it’s Disney’s world and we’re just living in it.
However, a few Hollywood veterans have voiced their opinion regarding the state of cinema, particularly Marvel movies. Just a few days ago, Martin Scorsese shared a very strong opinion about the current state of theaters and Marvel taking over the big screen;
“The theaters support the films. But right now the theaters seem to be mainly supporting the theme park, amusement park, comic book films. They’re taking over the theaters. I think they can have those films; it’s fine. It’s just that that shouldn’t become what our young people believe is cinema. It just shouldn’t.”
Scorsese’s friend and fellow Director, Francis Ford Coppola, then piggy-backed on the comment stating;
“When Martin Scorsese says that 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.”
Despicable, really? Isn’t that being a little dramatic? Marvel fans were quick to weigh in on social media, defending their beloved Marvel movies- and then came Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger. He acknowledged Scorsese and Coppola’s right to complain about movies, but that obviously millions of Marvel fans enjoy watching the movies on the big screen. He then went on to say;
“Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese are two people I hold in the highest regard, but when Francis uses the words, ‘those films are despicable’. I reserve the word ‘despicable’ to someone who committed mass murder. These are movies.”
I like to imagine Bob Iger then dropping his mic after that comment and walking off stage like the boss he is, but it didn’t stop there. He followed up that comment with one that seemed to stick up for the people involved in making these movies;
“It seems so disrespectful to all the people that work on those films… are you telling me Ryan Coogler, making Black Panther is doing something that is somehow or another ‘less than’ what Marty Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola have ever done on any one of their movies? Like, come on. There. I said it.”
Following Bob Iger’s comments, several celebrities have come to Marvel’s defense. Natalie Portman acknowledged that there’s not one way to make art and that there’s room for all types of cinema. James Gunn expressed his sadness and disappointment in Scorsese’s comments and stated that he was someone he admired in the industry.
So this is where I thought my article would come to a close, but the comments made by these two men (who come across as being out of touch with all things cinema) really started to irritate me. I got to thinking and quickly realized how wrong they both are. So, I had to dust off my trusty soap box and make it a point to express my opinion. Not the opinion of a professional movie critic, or even a celebrity, but the opinion of a mother who’s trying to raise two little boys in this crazy world. A world where Marvel movies give my children something to look up to and believe in, while tapping into their imagination and creative side.
Mr. Scorsese, when you say young people shouldn’t believe in these movies to be cinema, what exactly do you mean? Are you suggesting that watching characters who come from all walks of life and overcome numerous trials and tribulations, to be whoever they want to be, aren’t a good thing for my children to believe in or look up to? Characters who would in fact, give their own life to protect the ones they love- is that not a good thing to believe in? Would you rather my chidlren believe in Italian and Irish mobsters? Maybe you’re suggesting they believe in Jordan Belfort, the real life character you based “The Wolf Wall Street” on? Jordan Belfort abused drugs and power, stole from honest people while cheating the system, lost everything and went to prison. Is that what you think young people should believe is true cinema?
Mr. Coppola, you said we aren’t learning anything from these movies. That we aren’t enlightened and we’re not leaving these movies inspired. I assume you’re speaking for yourself because you couldn’t be any more wrong in your statement. I’d like to point out 5 life lessons we can learn and be inspired by from Marvel movies;
- Fight for what you believe in, even if you’re fighting alone: Steve Rogers always stands up for what he believes in. Even when others don’t agree. This was the entire theme of Captain America: Civil War. If you believe in a cause, then you fight for that no matter what people say. I don’t know about all of you, but for me, teaching my children to stand up for what they believe in, is right up there with teaching them to be kind to others.
- Everybody has their demons: In today’s society, so many of us (young and old) are struggling with mentall illness and those inner demons. Marvel characters are no different. Tony Stark is shadowed by his father’s legacy, yet he’s still expected to put on his Iron Man suit and save the world- just like humans who are struggling are expected to put on brave faces and face the world. If a fictional character helps a child or adult cope with their demons and serves as an example for them, let them have that.
- It’s what’s on the inside that counts: Before Steve Rogers was Captain America, he was just a regular kid from Brooklyn who had several health problems. Because of what he over came, he learned humility and compassion. Abraham Erskine summed it up best when he told Steve; “This is why you were chosen. Because the strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows compassion.” If that’s not enlightening or inspiring, I don’t know what is.
- Love is powerful and there’s all kinds of love: Love can move mountains, it can make you do some heroic things, and love can ultimately change your destiny. Love is a theme that is scattered through out all Marvel movies and perhaps the best example of it came from End Game, and the popular line, “I love you 3000.” Google “how much is a ton”, watch the movie, and tell me if it doesn’t make you want to sacrifice everything for your children or those you love.
- Gender Equality: This is perhaps the biggest lesson Mr. Coppola and Mr. Scorsese could take away from Marvel. Rather than teaching children only boy cans be superheroes, Marvel features several girls who can handle evil, just as well as the boys. These female characters fight for what they believe in just like everyone else. Marvel has proved that women aren’t just there to look pretty or play the love interest and by doing that, they’ve inspired millions (actually, billions) of little girls all over the world.
Not that we can’t learn anything from movies directed by Francis Ford Coppola. If I wanted my kids to learn that violence solves all your problems or be inspired on how to handle those who betray you, I’ll put on The Godfather next time we have family movie night.
What Scorsese and Coppola are failing to realize is that the world has changed since they started directing movies. We live in scary times and that these small doses of hope and believing in humanity that we get from Marvel movies remedies some of our worry about the world. The reason why Marvel dominates at the box office, along with any Disney Studios Movie, is because they’re movies entire families can watch together. Just like with Star Wars, Marvel characters are some of the most beloved characters of all time. The nostalgia is not lost on any of us parents as we sit down to watch these movies with our kids, and visit some of our favorite superheroes (or in my case, Jedis) from our childhood- while also watching our childrens’ eyes light up with joy and excitement as they enter the Marvel Universe.
At the end of the day, I’m just a mom who writes for a blog. My words won’t reach these two men, although I do feel better expressing my thoughts. I’ll end this article by leaving a video of my 4 year old dressed up as Spider Man below. Is there anything more magical than a child putting on a superhero costume and truly believing he (or she) is that character? Mr. Scorsese and Mr. Coppola, this video is why Marvel dominates the box office and this is what you fail to acknowledge. Fortunately for you and the rest of the world, Disney gets it and will continue to own cinema because of it.