Martin Scorsese’s not wrong about Marvel movies being like theme park rides, but let’s explore and see if there’s any truth to Scorsese’s words.
If ever there was a single quote that online fandom has latched onto and refused to let go of, it’s acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s often misrepresented views on Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Never have such a harmless group of words caused so much anger in the online community. At the risk of incurring the wrath of more fans, maybe the reaction to one person’s words was a little bit overblown in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s explore the impact of Scorsese’s words, the truth behind them, and what he’s actually trying to say about Marvel and the film industry. The key thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong — all art is subjective, after all. Additionally, this is a very nuanced debate that is difficult to compress into single bite-size sentences. Exploring these ideas is something that requires space to breathe, and it’s actually through discussion that people may find that there is more that unites audiences than divides them.
The famous quote came from an interview Scorsese did with Empire, in which he states that he does not view MCU films as “cinema,” instead saying, “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.” Looking at these words at face value, it’s not such an inaccurate statement. Sure, on a technical level, MCU films are cinema since, by and large, they get released in theaters. But Scorsese’s definition of cinema is slightly different; it’s built on artistic intent and is quite beautiful in its way. To Scorsese, cinema challenges audiences; it provides perspective on the world, and it takes audiences on a journey. It’s a nebulous term that lacks a strict definition, and that’s the joy of it.
And then there’s the comparison of MCU movies to theme park rides — the statement that drew the ire of many comic book movie fans. But here’s the thing: MCU films draw massive crowds, they have huge spectacle and big emotions, and audiences love it. It’s a rollercoaster ride, plain and simple. There are numerous videos online that show crowds at MCU films whooping and cheering at big iconic moments. With all this, is it truly unfair to describe them as theme park rides?
However, the core crux of the issue that’s not often discussed is not what MCU movies are, but rather the impact they have on the industry. Disney is a big corporation that, now more than ever, has a vice-like grip on the film industry. The opening weekends for MCU films force out a lot of alternative options for audiences — the number of screenings these movies take up is ridiculous and can be quite overwhelming. It’s great business for theater owners, but it’s not good for building a diverse range of films for audiences to see.
The problem Scorsese has is not the idea that MCU movies are theme park rides. It’s the risk that theme park rides will become the only option for audiences. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Fortunately, recent trends at the box office give reason to have hope. Top Gun: Maverick has had an incredible run at the domestic box office, and Everything Everywhere All At Once has had an unprecedented run to become A24’s highest-grossing film of all time. Films big and small are thriving at the box office, and the market isn’t as dominated by Marvel as one would be led to believe.
A graduate who has recently completed an English and Creative Writing degree – and a lover of all things nerdy. Has written for publications such as New Welsh Review, and Aberystwyth Student Media; having regularly covered film & TV for the latter. Also enjoys acting and performance in their spare time. They/He