Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed both “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” issued a forceful response to film icon Martin Scorsese’s claim that Marvel movies are not cinema.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, the directing duo said their movies have made an “unprecedented impact” around the world, arguing that the Marvel movies had the magic to gather people for an emotional experience.
“Ultimately, we define cinema as a film that can bring people together to have a shared, emotional experience,” Joe Russo told THR.
“When we look at the box office [of] ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ we don’t see that as a signifier of financial success, we see it as a signifier of emotional success,” he continued. “It’s a movie that had an unprecedented impact on audiences around the world in the way that they shared that narrative and the way that they experienced it. And the emotions they felt watching it.”
“But, at the end of the day, what do we know?” Joe Russo jokingly said. “We’re just two guys from Cleveland, Ohio, and ‘cinema’ is a New York word. In Cleveland, we call them movies.”
Anthony Russo added that nobody owns the word “cinema.”
“The other way to think about it, too, is nobody owns cinema. We don’t own cinema. You don’t own cinema. Scorsese doesn’t own cinema,” Anthony Russo said.
Last month, Scorsese stoked the ire of millions of Marvel fans when he said the MCU movies were more like theme park rides than cinematic experiences. “I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese told Empire Magazine. “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.”
After mounting criticism and charges of elitism, Scorsese penned a lengthy and heartfelt op-ed in The New York Times where he clarified his position, lamenting how utilitarian the industry has become.
“That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption,” wrote Scorsese. “In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.”
Last week, while receiving the Kirk Douglass Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, the director also warned against the illusion of an industry that runs on algorithms and formulas.
“I realize that commitment and dedication to the art form are always rare so, you know, when you see it, this incredible commitment and dedication, please don’t take it for granted,” Scorsese told the audience. “Today, it’s a new world, of course, and we have to be extra vigilant. Some actually believe that these qualities that I’m talking about can be replaced by algorithms and formulas and business calculations but please remember it’s all an illusion because there’s no substitute for individual or artistic expression as Kirk Douglas knew and as he expressed through his long film career.”