Superhero Movies: Cinema War

Trey Guillotine, Staff Writer

Despite Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Endgame,” the applauded finale to their twenty-year-long Infinity Saga, the survival of their recent tug-of-war with Sony over whether Spider-Man will remain in the M.C.U. or not (he’s in, for now), and D.C.’s surprisingly successful release of “Joker,” superhero movies everywhere are once again under attack. 


In an interview with Empire, critically acclaimed director Martin Scorcese recently shared his views on the popularity of superhero movies. “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. 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.”


Standing in solidarity with a friend and fellow filmmaker, famed director Francis Ford Coppola let shared his own thoughts. “… We expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration… Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”


Despite their words being harsh, Coppola and Scorsese are titans in cinema. Both are recognized as two of the greatest directors of American film, so when they are speaking about what is and isn’t cinema, they might just know what they’re talking about.


So, that’s it folks. Time to put away our Captain America t-shirts and Iron Man sunglasses. Superhero movies aren’t cinema and are despicable. 


Not so fast. It can be argued that in Scorcese and Coppola’s own words, Marvel movies, most superhero movies in fact, qualify under the umbrella term of cinema. 


In their latest film, Marvel Studios accepts Scorcese and Coppola’s challenge of delivering a film that gains “some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration,” and presents “human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” In “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” we see a post “Avengers: Endgame” Marvel Cinematic Universe where the world is trying to figure out how to move forward, while young Peter Parker grieves the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. Not only does he work through this grief with friend and former bodyguard of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, but he also becomes more confident in his abilities as Spider-Man without the safety net of Iron Man. 


I’ve loved superheroes since I was a kid, watching “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Power Rangers,” this golden age of superhero movies has been a dream for me. I’ll be the first to admit there are some that fell flat (“Fant4stic?”). But the majority of superhero films from Marvel and D.C., even before Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” have been fantastic action movies with strong characters for audiences to cheer for and relate to. They may be superhero movies, but “Captain America” is also a spy-thriller and “The Dark Knight” is a crime-drama. Superhero movies are simply stories of people with exceptional abilities trying to make the world a better place. As a fan of films across the spectrum, I loved “The Departed” and “The Godfather,” but “Apocalypse Now” was one of the most boring three hours I’ve spent, so perhaps Coppola and Scorsese aren’t the gatekeepers to cinema they think they are.


To broaden my perspective, I reached out to fellow students at U.N.O. “Yes, [I’m a fan of superhero movies]! Every single last one. Even the dumb ones,” says Biology major Troy James. “They make people who think they may not be able to do something feel like they can impact the world in a big way.” Kirsten Quarforth, an English graduate student, feels differently, that “they are a cinematic experience, but I don’t take away anything else from them, apart from just seeing a lot of violence.”


Even in 2000, we couldn’t comprehend the effect that the success of superhero movies would have on the film industry. Coppola and Scorsese may be titans now, but once upon a time they were young film makers in the early frontier of the modern day film industry. With the experiences of their long, successful careers, are they right about superhero films being despicable, or is this the last gasp of the old guard of cinema bracing themselves against an ever changing industry?