In a recent episode of Variety’s “Actors on Actors,” Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson came to the defense of Marvel movies in light of the ongoing back and forth about “cinema” that all began with legendary director Martin Scorsese.
As the name implies, “Actors on Actors” is a YouTube series in which two actors interview each other about recent projects in a casual setting.
Johansson first brought up the Marvel versus “cinema” debate, saying that several people have mentioned that “a couple of extremely esteemed directors” have been “really vocal” about blockbuster Marvel movies:
At first I thought, “That seems kind of old-fashioned.” Somebody sort of had to explain it to me because it seemed so, kind of, disappointing and sad in a way – and then they said, “No, I think that what these people are saying is that in the actual theater, there’s not a lot of room for different kinds of movies, or smaller movies, or independent movies because the theater is actually just taken up by these huge blockbuster movies, and there’s actually no space for these movies.”
Johansson added that she then contemplated the consumption of media, especially in light of streaming services and technology, and that the “cinematic experience … has changed for people.”
Evans then offered his take on the issue, first noting that “original content inspires original content,” and that television is where such content is blossoming at the moment.
He then spoke directly to the issue:
I just believe there’s room at the table for all of it, you know what I mean? Like, it’s like trying to say a certain type of music isn’t music. Well, why bother? Who are you to say that? It just feels like a strange, you know – same team, same team.
In October, director Martin Scorsese spoke with Empire Magazine, and compared Marvel movies to “theme parks.”
“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese said. “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.”
His remarks have been met with backlash from Marvel fans, as well as actors and directors who have participated in various Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. Other notable individuals have sided with Scorsese.
Paul Rudd, who plays Scott Lang in the MCU, offered perhaps the most robust defense of Marvel as “cinema,” telling Howard Stern:
Ultimately, you really care about relationships with people. It isn’t all just special effects-driven action – whatever genre it falls into – you want to see people in human behavior and talking to each other. I know that when we’re working on these things, we care about the characters. In “Ant-Man,” I have a whole relationship with my daughter, and the human struggles of being a superhero. I think we’re trying to deal with human issues and things that are relatable, that are not just rides.
Scorsese later doubled down on his opinion, telling an audience at the London Film Festival: “What has to be protected is the singular experience of experiencing a picture, ideally with an audience. But there’s room for so many others now, and so many other ways. … The value of a film that’s like a theme park film, for example, the Marvel-type pictures, where the theaters become amusement parks, that’s a different experience. I was saying earlier, it’s not cinema, it’s something else.”