Ever since Martin Scorsese expressed his opinions on how Marvel movies are not cinema, there have been heated debates between audiences, critics, and filmmakers about the artistic and cinematic value of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the main issue is not the consideration of Marvel films as cinema, but their artistic integrity. Cinema has been through many different stages and depending on each era there are some genres that are more influential than others. The natural state of cinema is constant adaptation, innovation, and evolution, and Marvel movies are a direct result of this.
Marvel movies can be compared with the cinema of attraction that was prominent during the beginning of the 20th century. This type of cinema strived to captivate audiences in fictional worlds and entice them with visual effects and fantastical storylines. Much like this type of cinema, the artistic value of Marvel movies lies with their ability to create powerful emotions for their audiences, to amaze them with their visual effects and to resonate with them on a deep personal level.
What Is the Issue With Marvel Films?
Ever since director Martin Scorsese commented on superhero films, especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there has been much talk about the role of superhero movies in 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.” He would later write an op-ed piece for The New York Times where he would emphasize that he ultimately does not consider them as cinema. These statements have prompted other filmmakers, like Riddley Scott, to weigh in their own opinions on the matter. However, at the end of the day everyone has their own idea about what cinema truly is.
Marvel movies have been some of the most profitable productions to ever be created, with some of them ranking in the top 10 highest grossing films of all time. With superhero movies in general being produced ever since Superman debuted in 1978, they have made their own genre that has been influential ever since. So, how can an entire genre be described as having no artistic merit, nor being a part of cinema? The real answer is that it cannot. Much like every other genres in cinema history, superhero movies have some miss and hits. Nonetheless, it is because that they are produced in the cinematic medium that they are indeed a part of cinema. Most importantly, because cinema continuously adapts, one could argue that Marvel films are its natural evolution.
Marvel Movies Are Connected With the Earliest Form of Cinema
The MCU is known for creating intense visual spectacles and for following an interconnective narrative that spans over 32 films and almost a dozen TV series. A common criticism is that Marvel movies are more concerned with visual effects rather than the films actual storyline and character development. It is because of this criticism that they are considered “theme parks” and not cinema. However, during the early 20th century, there was another form of cinema that was more preoccupied with creating a fantastical setting for moving pictures, and to give them a more immersive nature than before. This type of cinema was called “the cinema of attraction”, where innovative directors aimed to stimulate the audience through entertainment and the power of illusion through their revolutionary visual effects.
One such director was none other than Georges Méliès, who created films such as A Trip to the Moon. Ironically enough, Martin Scorsese directed a movie in 2011 called Hugo, in which Méliès’ story is told and in which he is recognized as a revolutionary of cinema. Marvel movies have a link with the cinema of attraction, since they are both entertaining and captivate audiences through stunning visual effects that can excite, shock, and inspire. Through Marvel films, audiences can be shocked and experience cinema at the level that it was originally meant to be experienced, through wonder and awe. There are many Marvel productions that have managed to convey emotional and psychological experiences to spectators, a notable example being Avengers: Endgame.
Genres Are Meant to Rise and Fall in Cinema Depending on Each Era
Cinema has come a long way ever since the creation of the first motion picture system. When the medium started to grow, it became evident that each era there were some genres more popular than others. During the silent film era comedy and melodrama reigned supreme, whereas during the Great Depression it was musicals. After World War II audiences turned to film noir, and during the Cold War era they turned to horror science fiction movies. In the 1980s, action-oriented films prevailed. However, since the early 2000s the superhero genre has been the most preferred one, making the 21st century the golden age of superheroes in cinema. The superhero genre is indeed the most popular at the moment and Marvel movies are the most well-known and well-liked in that genre.
During each genre’s peak, there were many films that were recognized as being some of the best movies ever to be created. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises were some of them. Even more critically acclaimed films such as Psycho came forth from an era where they appreciated the horror genre above all others. Marvel movies replicate the same formula that Hollywood has been perfecting ever since it was created. They have been the next step in the evolution of cinema, and in turn there will be other genres that will be influenced by them and succeed them in the future.
Just because Marvel movies are more well-known than other genres and movies, does not mean that they have any less artistic value than other cinematic productions. They are able to convey the same emotions and ideologies as other movies. The audiences’ reactions to Avengers: Endgame showed that it created intense emotions to fans and critics alike. This attests to the fact that no matter what genre, movies have the power to influence and affect viewers. At the end of the day that is cinema’s most important mission, to be able to convey thoughts and emotions to audiences whether they know it or not. It is not just passive entertainment.
Nevertheless, art is subjective. Marvel films will still be considered as “theme parks” that lack any artistic integrity by many. However, their merit is seen through casual audiences and fans alike. Cinema is meant to adapt and to reconfigure the symbiotic relationship between it and viewers. Marvel movies are but just another form of art that has enamored millions of people around the world, achieving the prime objective of art in general. It may be true that some MCU movies are not as good as others. But in the long run, they are cinema and above all else they resonate with viewers.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared universe centered on a series of superhero films produced by Marvel Studios. The films are based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics.
Despite Marvel movies being criticized as theme parks, the MCU’s appeal and their ties with early 20th century cinema attest to their artistic value. Read More