Should Marvel movies be considered cinema? Not according to director Martin Scorsese. In an interview with Empire, Scorsese stated, “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. 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.”
So what is cinema? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, cinema is defined as “the art or technique of making motion pictures.” By that definition, Marvel movies seem to be cinema. They require hundreds of people including actors and crew members to make a single movie.
But what about Marvel movies being cinema from an artistic point of view? What is considered artistic may be subjective, but it is hard to deny that Marvel movies have set cinematic achievements. The highest grossing film of all time is “Avengers: Endgame.” It made over $2.7 billion during its run at the box office. Eight other Marvel films are in the top 50 highest grossing films of all time.
In addition to box office success, films produced by or based on Marvel material have received 25 Oscar nominations and six Oscar wins since 2002. The first win went to “Spiderman 2” in 2005 for best visual effects followed by two more wins for best animated feature to “Big Hero 6” in 2015 and “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” in 2019. However, the most successful Marvel film in terms of both awards and nominations is “Black Panther.”
Released on Feb. 16, 2018, “Black Panther” was a massive success, being the highest grossing film in North America with over $700 million made at the box office and the second highest grossing film worldwide with a total of $1.347 billion. It was also the first superhero film to receive an Academy Award nomination for best picture along with six other nominations in best sound editing, best sound mixing, best original song, best original score, best production design and best costume design. The film won in the latter three categories, making “Black Panther” the first superhero film to win these awards.
With all of these accomplishments set by Marvel, there are still people who dismiss the movies as not being “cinema” because they are “formulaic” and do not dive into the human psyche. This kind of thinking misses the point of cinema. Rather than being an arbitrary term for films that meet the standards of movie experts and critics, cinema may want to be looked at as different variations of expressing complicated ideas and visual concepts through different genres. An example could be that “Avengers: Endgame” is considered thematic cinema because of how it uses computer generated imagery along with intense action sequences to create a film that is thematic, while a film like “Moonlight” is character cinema because the dialogue and score help viewers gain a better understanding of the characters that live in Liberty City, Florida.
Speaking of “Moonlight,” Oscar-winning writer and director Barry Jenkins tweeted in support of “Avengers: Endgame,” saying “the Russo Bros are so fundamentally sound in the way they communicate spatial relationships between characters during set pieces.”
So what is considered cinema? While that may be ultimately up to personal preference, calling films like the Marvel movies not cinema because they do not match up to a particular style is not only demeaning to filmmakers, but it creates a standard that pits people against each other based on what is considered cinema.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @marvel Instagram.
Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org