2019 was a year of cinema records. Avengers Endgame raked in a staggering 2.789 Billion USD. The Lion King followed close behind in second with an astounding 1.657 Billion USD, respectively. The next eight of the top 10 movies in order are Frozen II, Toy Story 4, Captain Marvel, Star Wars Rise of Skywalker, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Aladdin, Joker, and Jumanji: The Next Level. Down eight spots lower sat the 18th highest-grossing movie Once Upon A Time in Hollywood directed by the legendary Quentin Tarantino. Which was nominated for more Oscars than any of those located in the top 10. Us sat just above in the 12th spot and beat out Tarantino for Oscar nods as well.
While all these movies in the previous paragraphs were wildly successful and a handful controversial, there is a pattern emerging in cinema. In all the top 10 highest-grossing movies listed above, each movie was animated or starred heroin of some kind (supervillain in one case). Martin Scorsese released the Irishman last year and set Netflix records for the groundbreaking film. But when Scorsese was asked about Marvel, he gave an interesting response saying that his biggest problems with the film are how it clashes with the traditional standards of cinema.
In a New York Times article the same year, Scorsese was given a chance to defend himself and his negative view of Marvel movies. "Cinema is an art form that brings you the unexpected. In superhero movies, nothing is at risk", the director claimed. Scorsese later in the article mentions the films he adored and why he adored them growing up, "cinema was about revelation – aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters – the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves." The director also in one passage admits that if he grew up in this time period, he would perhaps be a fan of these movies too and possibly make one, but ultimately is proud of his roots.
Scorsese was chastised by Marvel fanatics for these statements and deemed a Marvel hater. After looking at the figures he is correct and stepping back for a moment, Scorsese is correct in his view of Marvel. The way Marvel has impacted cinema has not only revolutionized film but also has hindered it. Acting is now geared towards action. More movies depend on explosions for success. The more animated characters the wider the audience. It seems that today, it is nearly impossible to be in the top 10 without a leading character who is a super or an animated fuzzy (Deadpool showed us you can do both for boatloads of money). These movies are now focused on the financial gain (don't believe me check the budgets of these movies who bank on massive payouts), and also productivity (how many movies can we pump out in three years). Scorsese claims that cinema because of these factors has been separated into two categories "audiovisual entertainment" and "cinema" as a result. This separation has resulted in the substance of cinema being diminished greatly.
The problem is with these movies is they are all money pits. Directors have teams of animated specialists doing the work for them. Actors have become voice actors. CGI is on the verge of replacing props from sets. Movies are shot on green screens instead of open plains of grass. Don't you see that this isn't a movie? Does this sound like a movie to you? Sure, there is work put into movies, a lot of painstaking work, and preparation. But when all that work is for movies that have a superhero saving the planet for the 100th time, doesn't it seem old? Or doesn't it seem a bit of a snore that it's an outcasted pet that is lonely and finds the love of her/his life only to ride into the sunset?
While I am not a hater of animated movies or superhero movies. I will say that these movies are becoming repetitive and becoming clearer that they are all money pits. Each film has dozens of car scenes showing off the new Chrysler (plagued with product placement). Every hero is saving the Earth from a meteor or alien. Cinema used to be things like Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River, Forrest Gump, The Notebook, The Pursuit of Happiness, and so much more. These real tales of human endurance, the quest to find true love no matter the cost, a journey of a hero without a cape have faded off into the distance.
At one point in time these movies gave you a reason to live and become a mortal hero of your own. That is what I truly believe that Scorsese meant by his comment. He was not asking to get rid of Marvel movies or ranting how much he despises them because he is jealous (he has no reason to be). Scorsese was trying to reach aspiring filmmakers to return us back to earth for a second, because there are real problems that we all face without a cape, and the film is our way to shed light on those problems. Without good films, we are just characters without a tale. The truth is we will never have superpowers. We will never be able to fly into space to punch a meteorite into oblivion. No light in the sky will solve our problems for us and justice will return to our cities. So, write stories that capture our lives, our problems, and our way of life. Not in a galaxy far, far, away.
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