Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola don’t like your movies. Well, technically, Scorsese is dismissive of them, Coppola flat out hates them. But before getting into all of that, I want to say upfront. If someone doesn’t like your movie? Their loss, move on. These guys are just two old directors with opinions, why do you care? But for the sake of this piece, let’s say you do care, let’s unpack this a bit.
So that you know I’m a Marvel zombie from way back. Seeing Captain America be the badass I always knew he was on the big screen nearly brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. So I get it. I like most of the Marvel films. I even liked Thor 2. Yeah, that messy movie was kind of fun to watch precisely two times before I came to my senses. I even put Iron Man 3 in my Christmas movie rotation. Anyway, I think you get my point. I love these movies.
But also, I love horror movies. And if there is one thing I can tell you is that we get no respect from the grownup genres, we got over it a long time ago. This general irreverence for horror is why it always makes news when there’s Oscar chatter around one of our movies. It’s nice to be acknowledged and be vindicated about something you know is deserving of respect.
It’s not like the horror space is lacking for talent. What other genre has launched the careers of so many A list actors? Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, George Clooney, and so on and so on. Historically speaking, budding movie stars have used horror as a stepping stone to their stardom. I don’t take that personal, none of us do. But when they stay in the genre like Barbara Crampton, we appreciate them that much more. Seriously, check out Barbara Crampton’s social media. She’s having more fun than anybody because she has never shied away from her fans, and they fucking love her for it.
Or someone like Mike Flanagan who gained critical acclaim for the smart and creepy The Haunting of Hill House. I have to imagine Flanagan can pick and choose his projects these days, but he still feels like one of ours. And that’s because he respects the genre. Now we know some directors won’t touch this community with a ten-foot pole. That’s fine; we can nitpick with the best of them, we’re a rowdy bunch. Some directors will dip their toes in; perhaps they want to pad their filmographies, and horror is only a stop for them. I can respect that. But for the most part, renown directors aren’t making horror movies in the golden years of their careers. We get it, and we’ve gotten over it. Most horror fans I speak to find this relatively newfound interest in horror funny. It’s the nature of pop culture, and it’s all cyclical.
What Scorsese and Coppola are doing is a form of gatekeeping. The old guard is resisting change and drawing lines in the sand. They did that here, and everyone does some form of it everywhere. It’s a survival tactic. If you listen to what Scorsese says, he’s talking about his frustration with his studio. He’s just taking it out on the new kid on the block. Scorsese films are profitable but not Marvel movies profitable. So when his studio budgets out their yearly investments, they’re trying to fit in as many mega-blockbusters in as they can. As they say, corporations are not people. They are an entity with the singular purpose of making a profit. It’s not to tell stories; it’s not to stand for something; it’s to make a profit plain and simple. If it were socially acceptable, corporations would bring back gladiator battles to make a buck. So Scorsese is just upset that movie studios are chasing the money makers instead of wanting to tell stories. Frankly, he’s not wrong, but again, we can’t blame a studio for following the money. Do we blame fish for taking in water?
So we know why he said what he said. But you have to admit; he has a bit of a point. The Marvel movies are fun, but they’re not bold narrative. I see this as a format issue, though, not a creative one. If you’re a comic book fan, you know how deep and complex these characters and story arcs are. There’s no way Sony is ever going to fully appreciate the complexity of Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane Watson. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the Spider-Man movies but let’s be honest here, it’s impossible to fit the 40 plus years of character nuance into three movies. What they have done is make a great version of Spider-Man that fits a movie-every-three-years model. These are fun films that have tons of great action, with witty characters, and exciting developments. In other words, they’re blockbusters, good blockbusters, but blockbusters nonetheless.
If the modern-day superhero movies are a new sub-genre, they’re a relatively new one. And paradigm shifts can scare people. It wasn’t until 1972 when a horror movie was finally nominated for Best Picture. Horror has been around for decades, and we’re to believe that it took The Exorcist to prove they’re worthy of industry respect? Not The Innocents? Not The Birds? We don’t believe that. So it takes a while for those outside the bubble to accept change. Give it time; the modern super movie will grow up and mature in time.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying Marvel movies aren’t cinema. Of course not. By sheer definition, they’re cinema, good cinema even. But they aren’t Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorsese cinema, that’s a different cinema of a different era, and that’s fine. Raging Bull is a work of brilliance. Taxi Driver is a force of a movie that has inspired filmmakers for over 40 years. You can even see the influence it had on this year’s breakout movie, Joker.
Francis Ford Coppola made arguably the most significant war movie in the history of the medium, and it’s not even his best film. These directors are titans of our industry. I believe their opinions should always be respected. But also, they’re just two guys with opinions. Maybe this version of cinema isn’t as deep as it was before. I’d argue their version of cinema is hard to match in any genre. If there is one thing we know on our side of the theater is that what can scare one person doesn’t necessarily scare another. Just peruse the subgenres on Shudder for proof of the broad spectrum. So if the old geniuses don’t like your thing, that’s on them. It doesn’t move them; they’ll get over it.
Take it from me; you don’t need the grownups to tell you that what you like has value. They’re allowed not to get it. You know how captivating these characters can be. And Marvel deserves a ton of credit for masterfully planning out these phases. If there’s one thing comic book creators know, it’s how to keep an audience engaged for years and years. So I expect them to keep trucking along, with or without the approval of the elites. Don’t listen to the haters, and enjoy your movies. While you’re at it, check out Godfather III or Hugo if you’d like a reminder that even the gods among us are still mortal.