This feels like an older argument now that has long since settled, but it’s still one that can get some people a bit riled. Acclaimed director and filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s attempt to explain superhero movies as ‘amusement parks’ was likely meant to sound explanatory but came off as extremely condescending to a lot of people. The elitism that was felt in his comments wasn’t missed, nor was it made any better when Francis Ford Coppola decided to chime in as well. Many people came to the defense of the superhero genre, and Jason Momoa has added his voice to the mix at this point as he’s gone on to say something similar to what many others have expressed via Movieweb:
“I’m not someone who gets hired to play in a lot of cinema, but by being able to do a superhero movie, I can make a movie about something I really care about. I have a vision for the whole totality of Aquaman. There are environmental issues that I get to put into it. So while you’re going, ‘Oh yeah, it’s just this popcorn movie,’ I’m like, ‘Well, I get to open people’s eyes to things that are important to me.”
The thing about Scorsese’s comments, and many might disagree and argue with this, is that they sound as though they’re coming from a position of elitist arrogance. That may or may not be the case, but after riding high for so long it might be that Scorsese, who’s notorious for his gritty and grimy images within various movies that are masterfully done, might have lost touch with the world that he’s creating movies for. That sounds dismissive and just as arrogant, right? Well, it might be, but sometimes when one wants to get a point across they need to use the type of language and attitude that is being used to minimize something or someone else. This might work better on Coppola however, who doubled down on his approach to superhero movies, despite the fact that both his and Scorsese’s movies can be dissected just as easy to find the pertinent points that make them so popular. The point is that if one wishes to downplay the works of another, they’d best be strong in their convictions and be able to watch as their own works are dissected bit by bit until they realize that despite being award-winning directors, their word is not law when it comes to what is acceptable in cinema.
Scorsese, Coppola, and anyone else that wants to keep harping on the idea that superhero movies ‘aren’t cinema’ might need to peruse a dictionary to discover the literal meaning of the word ‘cinema’. since it happens to be defined as a theater where movies are shown for public entertainment. That’s odd, isn’t it? The definition says nothing about which types of movies are considered worthy of cinema, nor what gives anyone the authority to say what it is and isn’t cinema. How bizarre. But all snide and snarky talk aside, the fact that this is even an argument shows that too much importance has been given to certain types of movies at this point since the idea that any movie isn’t worthy of being called cinema is a grand joke that a lot of people have been pulling on others for decades now. Granted, there are movies that don’t belong in the same class as one another since one would put a kid’s movie in with something like Taxi Driver and label them as the same thing.
But deciding to state what is and isn’t cinema is something that elitists would do in order to make themselves feel better simply because another movie somehow impugns on their precious idea of what the cinematic experience is supposed to be. The thing about cinema is that like all things, it changes, adapts, and evolves. People were into The Godfather and Taxi Driver back in the day, and that was all well and good. But as Scorsese and Coppola have aged and watched their era fade and dim, the era of the superheroes has taken over, and while it is very different from their era, it’s no better or worse than their retconning of history for the purpose of their own movies. Gangs of New York, anyone? The fact is that some superhero movies are better than others and some are kind of hard to watch since they’re not that well done. But it’s so very easy to take Scorsese and Coppola’s comments, along with many others, with a healthy laugh and grain of salt that worrying over them is pretty silly while taking them seriously is admitting that cinema doesn’t need to change, which is erroneous thinking at best. Perhaps if each director was to see the value of the movies beyond the glitz and glam they’d change their tune. But then again, maybe not.