James Gunn Accuses Martin Scorsese of Criticizing Marvel to 'Get Attention' for His Own Movies

James Gunn explained on the Happy Sad Confused podcast why he thinks Martin Scorsese's 2019 "not cinema" comment about Marvel seemed "awful cynical"

James Gunn; Martin Scorsese
James Gunn (L); Martin Scorsese. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock; Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

James Gunn is addressing comments previously made by fellow filmmaker Martin Scorsese, in which the latter said Marvel films are "not cinema."

"I tried, you know?" Scorsese, 78, said in an October 2019 interview with Empire via The Guardian, of attempting to watch a superhero film released by the studio. "But that's not cinema."

The Oscar winner further elaborated in an opinion piece for The New York Times one month later, explaining he grew up in a different time when franchises didn't rule movie theaters and filmmakers took more risks in what they sent to screens nationwide.

Gunn, 55 — who wrote and directed the first two Guardians of the Galaxy films and is returning for the third, after initially being fired when insensitive years-old tweets resurfaced that included jokes about pedophilia about rape — said on Wednesday's episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast that "it just seems awful cynical that [Scorsese] would keep coming out against Marvel and then that's the only thing that would get him press for his movie."

"So then he just kept coming out against Marvel so that he could get press for his movie," he argued. "He's creating his movie in the shadow of the Marvel films, and so he uses that to get attention for something he wasn't getting as much attention as he wanted for it."

A rep for Scorsese did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese. Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty

In his initial comments, Scorsese, who was promoting The Irishman at the time, said of Marvel films, "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," the director added.

Scorsese later wrote in his November 2019 opinion piece for the Times, "Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What's not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes."

"They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can't really be any other way," he said. "That's the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they're ready for consumption."

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On the podcast Wednesday, Gunn (who also wrote and directed DC's The Suicide Squad, out Friday) also stressed his respect for the director, saying he sees Scorsese as "one of the greatest filmmakers who's ever existed."

"I love his movies. I can watch his movies with no problem," Gunn said. "And he said a lot of things that I agree with. There's a lot of things that are true about what he said — there are a lot of heartless, soulless, spectacle films out there that don't reflect what should be happening."

The filmmaker again praised Scorsese on social media Wednesday, tweeting "Martin Scorsese is probably the world's greatest living American filmmaker. I love & study his films & will continue to love & study his films."

"I disagree with him solely on one point: That films based on comic books are innately not cinema, that's all. 🙏" Gunn concluded.

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