Scorsese versus Marvel: In Defense of the Superhero Genre

  |   Article, Commentary

Famed directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have both made public statements against Marvel films calling them “not cinema” and “despicable.”  It is hard to argue with two people who defined the American auteur and created some of the most memorable movies of all time. However, what is cinema? Is anything projected on a screen in theatres cinema? Are only art films considered cinema?


Simply put, cinema is the art of storytelling.  Our ancient ancestors would sit by a fire and tell about their hunting adventures, their gods, and their lives.  Cinema is only technologically advanced storytelling. Marvel movies are nothing more than modern retellings of the stories of the gods of old.  The villain of the Avengers movies, Thanos, shares traits to the god of the Old Testament who flooded the earth, only leaving Noah and those on his ark alive. Captain America could be seen as the archetype of dharma embodying traits like duty, ethics, virtue and laws.  Heracles and Hulk both have anger issues. Thor? Marvel just updated the god of thunder and lightning from Norse mythology.   


So I would ask Scorsese and Coppola to pick up the Joseph Campbell book “Hero With a 1000 Faces” and apply that to the Marvel Universe.  The hero’s journey is a timeless story and as Theseus had to go into the maze to face the minotaur, stories about confronting our fear and overcoming it is a thread in thousands of movies, including movies by Scorsese and Coppola.  


“My theory about why people like superheroes is that when we were kids, we all loved to read fairy tales. Fairy tales are all about things bigger than life: giants, witches, trolls, dinosaurs and dragons and all sorts of imaginative things. Then you get a little bit older and you stop reading fairy tales, but you don’t ever outgrow your love of them.”

Stan Lee