At this time of year the big battles of the film industry are usually for awards consideration or last minute box office dollars. And yet, the biggest battle in Hollywood right now seems to be between Martin Scorsese and anybody who happens to like superhero movies. The accomplished director’s negative comments sparked responses from fans all over social media, Marvel directors like James Gunn, and even Disney CEO Bob Iger himself. But good news, it looks like our long national nightmare is almost over as Scorsese and Iger are reportedly making plans to sit down together.
Yesterday Time Magazine called Bob Iger the Businessperson of the Year, a title, it’s difficult title to argue with considering 2019 marked the completion of the Fox acquisition, the opening of a massive new land in two major theme parks, and the launch of an already competitive streaming service. In Time’s profile of Iger, the magazine mentions the war of words between himself and Martin Scorsese, and also reveals that “his people and Marty’s people are arranging a get-together.” Maybe they’ll go to Disneyland.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that conversation. It would be amazing to hear what Martin Scorsese and Bob Iger, two major forces in the industry, but from very different backgrounds and with very different directions, talk about.
Martin Scorsese initially accused Marvel films, and largely genre films in general by association, of not being cinema, though the director admitted he had never sat through one of them. He later clarified his comments to say that what he felt was missing from Marvel movies, that he believes is important to cinema as an art form, is a sense of risk. Because Marvel movies are engineered to attract a particular audience, that is already predisposed to like the material, there’s no risk in the filmmaking process, and something important is lost.
Martin Scorsese, certainly has a point there. Although, in the Time piece Bob Iger specifically draws a line between the idea of “artistic risk” and “art.” It seems Iger doesn’t necessarily argue that Marvel movies aren’t designed to be “safe” projects, he simply feels that risk isn’t necessary to make art.
All of Bob Iger’s comments on the topic have focused on the hard work that is put in by great filmmakers to produce Marvel films, and that by itself should keep Marvel in the conversation with “cinema.”
If Bob Iger and Martin Scorsese simply have different definitions of the term cinema, that it seems unlikely one of them is going to convince the other that they’re wrong. We shouldn’t expect Scorsese to come out of any future meeting singing the praises of the MCU. Having said that, if each one begins to understand the other a little better that’s not a bad thing.