Martin Scorsese says franchise films are pushing any other type of filmmaking out of theaters nationwide
In a new opinion piece written for The New York Times, the celebrated Oscar-winning director elaborated on what he meant in his now-viral quote culled from an Empire Magazine profile. Scorsese, 76, wrote that he grew up in a different time when franchises didn’t rule movie theaters, and filmmakers took more risks in what they presented to screens nationwide.
“Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures,” he wrote of what excites him about movies. “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.”
He continued, “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. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.”
Scorsese went on to write about movies from directors like “Paul Thomas Anderson or Claire Denis or Spike Lee or Ari Aster or Kathryn Bigelow or Wes Anderson” who makes movies that are “absolutely new” and take him “to unexpected and maybe even unnameable areas of experience.”
“So, you might ask, what’s my problem? Why not just let superhero films and other franchise films be?” he continued. “The reason is simple. In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever. The equation has flipped and streaming has become the primary delivery system. Still, I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters.”
Scorsese’s initial opinion on Marvel and its films drew the ire of some other well-known Marvel filmmakers such as Joss Whedon, who directed 2012’s The Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.
“It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” I first think of @JamesGunn,” Whedon, 55, tweeted. “How his heart & guts are packed into GOTG. I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but… Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry.’ ”