Published on October 21st, 2019 | by Ian Goodwillie0
Scorsese and Coppola VS Marvel Movies
Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola used to be the disrupters of Hollywood, but now, with all due respect, they’re old me yelling at clouds.
There’s a fine line between art and entertainment, at least for some people. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and superhero movies in general have dominated the box office for more than a decade, now. Fans have flocked to theatres year after year as the cast and stories grew bigger and bolder. It seems, though, not everyone is happy with this.
Martin Scorsese, one of America’s most celebrated filmmakers, recently described Marvel movies as “not cinema” but more like “theme parks.” He meant that in a bad way in case that was unclear. He doubled down on that later, talking about how moviegoers need to start defending theatres from this invasion. At least he was remotely civil about his feelings. Acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola backed up Scorsese by calling Marvel films, “despicable.”
This is the point where I would normally shift into some sort of well-reasoned, rational argument that was kind to Scorsese and Coppola while refuting their claims and explaining the other side of the situation. Not this time. These two mother fuckers just hit a nerve and it’s time to throw down.
They want the smoke? They got it.
For those of you who haven’t taken a film history class, Francis Ford Coppola is the director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. He also directed 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the movie that successfully made vampires lame and unbearable. Unlike Coppola, Martin Scorsese has actually managed to remain remotely relevant over the last couple of decades, releasing movies that critics love and many film goers have tolerated. He’s best known for movies like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and Goodfellas. He also directed The Last Temptation of Christ, the worst movie about Jesus until Mel Gibson got a bright idea one grey December morn.
They are two of the most highly acclaimed directors in the history of American cinema. That is unquestionable. Both directors should be applauded for their accomplishments. They should also spend a few minutes pulling their heads out of their asses.
In Hollywood, there are those people who make movies that are considered art, that tell evocative stories that engage the viewer in a journey they might find uncomfortable. Then there are those people who make movies that your average filmgoer actually pays money to watch. I should specify that I’m not including the independent film scene in this. The indies are an important source of diverse stories and unique points of view. But Scorsese and Coppola are not indie filmmakers. They are elitist Hollywood heavyweights deriding the movies that actually make money. In case they haven’t noticed, Marvel movies are the life preservers keeping Hollywood afloat these days. Take them out of the equation and those two are directing Burger King commercials to get by.
The easy answer to why they made their comments is that Scorsese and Coppola are, in fact, old school Hollywood elitists. They decide what art is and look down on what doesn’t measure up to their personal standards. I find that funny considering all the incredible movies Scorsese made that didn’t win him Oscars. It’s almost like Hollywood looked down on his work, not considering it award worthy. Lord knows The Departed sure wasn’t.
This elitism is familiar to anyone like me who spent a good portion of their life reading comic books. To many authors, comics books were viewed as a lesser media form, one that couldn’t possibly have good characters and engaging stories. Many of those same authors see screenwriting and filmmaking the same way. But these days, comics are the foundation of some of the biggest stories on both TV and film screens. There is a narrative structure flowing through all of these movies that has rarely, if ever, existed in movies before now. That accomplishment is being diminished by people who are supposed to be vanguards for the industry.
My favorite quote from the initial interview with Scorsese was, “It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” I can’t speak for every individual who watches movies, but I found that laughable at best.
Scorsese and Coppola are arguably best known for movies about Italian American mobsters. While they are, for the most part, great movies, I don’t relate with them on any level. The characters in Goodfellas, The Godfather, and Casino are about as real to me as Captain America, Spider-Man, and Black Panther. I do not connect with Michael Corleone on any emotional or psychological level. Period. I’m not an idiot. I know that the Mafia is real and people like those film characters do exist, unlike superheroes. I also don’t connect to those characters at all. The experiences in them are not relatable. Beyond mobsters, what’s relatable about The Wolf of Wall Street or The Aviator? On the other hand, I find the characters in Marvel movies to be infinitely more relatable.
Steve Rogers was a kid who wanted to stand up to bullies and was willing to do what it took to fight them.
Thor had to learn humility and compassion to become the man he needed to be.
Captain Marvel had to find herself before she could find her true power.
There are real, relatable lessons to be learned in Marvel movies, primarily about working past your flaws to find redemption. The only thing Goodfellas did was reinforce some really negative stereotypes about Italian Americans. Black Panther is a wonderful movie that presents Black viewers with an incredible view of Afrofuturism. Goodfellas shows Italian Americans they can be mobsters. Shoot for the stars!
On a filmmaking level, Scorsese and Coppola have produced movies that can be accurately described as technical masterpieces. There’s a reason why they get brought up in film studies classes. I have seen and appreciated all of their work, at least once in all cases. That being said, I have no desire to ever watch them again. Did I enjoy Apocalypse Now? Of course. It’s brilliant on a number of levels. Will I ever press play on that one again? Hell, no. I got everything I needed from it the first and only time I watched it. Again, I know that’s not true for everyone but I’d rather re-watch Black Panther for the 14th time.
Frankly, Coppola’s comments are even worse and more out of touch; “…we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration…” What in the hell are we supposed to find inspiring about Apocalypse Now or Bram Stoker’s Dracula? I don’t even want to think about what Taxi Driver has inspired people to do.
The most disgusting part of their cinematic elitism is that Scorsese and Coppola are not just trying to say what is and isn’t art in the grand sense, they’re trying to tell you what media you should consume and enjoy. They’re telling you what you should take away from a movie. They’re saying you’re wrong for liking Marvel movies better than their movies, or at least at all. The hubris it takes to carry that opinion is absurd. Both men have become detached from reality, and certainly aren’t aware of why movie consumption habits are the way they are.
There’s also more than a little bitterness in their comments, probably coming from the fact that they’re no longer the young rabble rousers making movies that challenge culture and put the establishment on its ear. They are the establishment, now. Coppola described seeing Marvel movies as seeing the same movie over and over again, comments he made to support Scorsese’s opinions without a hint of irony.
A mob flick featuring a combination of Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino? Bold move, Marty.
Scorsese has talked about why he took The Irishman to Netflix, a big reason being he couldn’t find room for it at studios in the current filmmaking climate. As pointed out by others, the cost of his digital de-aging technology was a much bigger factor for studios. It would have been unlikely to make that money back in theaters where Netflix is less concerned about such problems. The budget for The Irishman was comparable to a Marvel movie but with less of a chance to make that kind of money at the box office.
Marvel movies have not just taken over the box office in North America, they dominate theatres around the world. As respected as Scorsese and Coppola are, their films have never had that kind of impact. As members of the Hollywood elite, it has to bother them that filmmakers they don’t respect are building huge careers by making movies they can’t stand.
The most offensive part is Scorsese’s admission that he hasn’t seen most of the Marvel movies but has still judged them accordingly. One has to imagine that Coppola has done the same. Providing concrete opinions on something you know nothing about is the work of the ignorant and uniformed, regardless of the topic. If you don’t want to watch Marvel movies, that’s fine. You shouldn’t have to watch movies you don’t want to. Just shut the fuck up about it because no one cares what either of you think about movies you can’t be bothered to watch. As I said before, I’ve seen most, if not all, of their movies and have no desire to see them again. That doesn’t mean they don’t have value and other people shouldn’t enjoy watching and re-watching them.
What makes me sad is that these two great filmmakers are trying to remain relevant by slagging their modern contemporaries, rather than trying to stand on the quality of their own work. Not all attention is good attention.
When I read their comments, I immediately thought about one of my favorite gags on The Simpsons. It features a news article with a photo of Grandpa yelling at a cloud with the headline, “Old Man Yells at Cloud.” That’s what these two respected and influential filmmakers have been reduced to over the last few days, old men yelling at clouds. If they’re bored and need a friend, they should just join Alan Moore on whatever front porch he’s sitting on and lament the good ol’ days of creativity, before everything got crapped up with stories not personally approved by them.
Do you know why the masses go to theme parks, Marty? They’re fun. Movies can be, too.