Martin Scorsese Calls Comic Book Movies “Manufactured Content”

Director Martin Scorsese at the Academy Awards.

Director Martin Scorsese at the Academy Awards.

Martin Scorsese, with his long, successful career, many superb movies and avowed advocacy for both classic and modern cinema, has earned the right to his opinion about the medium.

And he has been vocal in the past about his issues with the movie industry’s focus on superheroes and their associated genre, with billions spent on films from the likes of Marvel and DC at the expense of other output.

Now, sitting down with GQ in advance of his next release, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’, he’s back on the subject, voicing his concerns about young audiences being indoctrinated into thinking that costumed heroes are the only game in town.

Scorsese on comic book movies as “manufactured content”

Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Robert Downey Jr. in 'The Avengers.'

(L to R) Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Robert Downey Jr. in ‘The Avengers.’ Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Here’s what the iconic filmmaker had to say about comic book and other movies:

“The danger there is what it’s doing to our culture. Because there are going to be generations now that think movies are only those —that’s what movies are. I do think that the manufactured content isn’t really cinema.”

And this was his concern about the content, not the people creating it:

“What I mean is that it’s manufactured content. It’s almost like AI making a film. And that doesn’t mean that you don’t have incredible directors and special effects people doing beautiful artwork. But what does it mean? What do these films, what will it give you? Aside from a kind of consummation of something and then eliminating it from your mind, your whole body, you know? So, what is it giving you?”

Related Article: Martin Scorsese is Part of the Team Adapting ‘Gangs of New York’ for TV

Scorsese says fight back

Martin Scorsese promotes the upcoming film 'Killers of the Flower Moon' during the Paramount Pictures presentation during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 27, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage.

Martin Scorsese promotes the upcoming film ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ during the Paramount Pictures presentation during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 27, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage.

According to the director, the response is to have filmmakers who make other types of movies “fight back”:

“Which means that we have to then fight back stronger. And it’s got to come from the grassroots level. It’s gotta come from the filmmakers themselves. And you’ll have, you know, the Safdiebrothers, and you’ll have Chris Nolan, you know what I mean? And hit ’em from all sides. Hit ’em from all sides, and don’t give up. Let’s see what you got. Go out there and do it. Go reinvent. Don’t complain about it. But it’s true because we’ve got to save cinema.”

For more from Scorsese, read the GQ profile.

Counterpoint

Scene from 'The Dark Knight.'

Scene from ‘The Dark Knight.’ Photo: Warner Bros.

While we’re in complete agreement that cinema needs a boost, particularly in the wake of the pandemic and the strikes, and the fact that many of the studios have poured their resources into the superhero genre (because, partly thanks to Marvel, it has been hugely successful, generating billions of dollars at the box office and beyond), it’s perhaps not as simple as that.

Saying that audiences will begin to think that superhero movies are all that is out there doesn’t match up with history –– after all, there was a time when gangsters were dominating cinema. And musicals. And for years, Westerns were massive, but rarely produced these days (they’ve moved to TV with the likes of ‘Yellowstone’).

The age of the superhero will pass too –– we’ve already seen signs that the genre is not as popular as it once was, on screens big and small.

And while Scorsese spotlights the likes of Christopher Nolan and the Safdie brothers, let’s not forget that Nolan directed threeBatmanmovies (and produced others in the DC universe) and Benny Safdie has made acting appearances in the likes of the ‘Star Wars’ universe.

Ewan McGregor

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his eopie in a scene from Lucasfilm’s ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi,’ exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

Also, though it’s totally true that younger audiences in particular shouldn’t go thinking that comic book movies, there is something to be said for them serving as gateways to other genres and cinematic focuses.

After all, haven’t the likes of Scorsese contemporaries such as George Lucas commented on the genre outings that helped get them into moviemaking in the first case? No one wants to watch ‘Flash Gordon’ movies all the time, but they helped inspire some very popular directors.

Didn’t Scorsese himself first get into movies by watching genre material? Unless at age six he was watching long, Polish, black and white dramas set during medieval times.

Who is to say that a young person watching the likes of a Marvel, DC or other offering won’t go on to make a cinematic masterpiece, full of drama and consequence? Yes, they should also be watching work by the likes of Nolan, the Safdies, Greta Gerwig, Wes Anderson and Scorsese himself, but if their interest is sparked does it really matter where they get their start?

Finally, while there are many sub-par comic book and sci-fi efforts (as there are in any genre), it feels disingenuous to suggest that nothing from the genre can have an impact: witness the cultural effect of something like ‘Black Panther’ or the audacious scope of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Endgame’, both of which delivered giant emotional moments and represented the culmination of years of carefully crafted storylines with connected characters and movies.

Still, we will never disagree with the notion that Scorsese has a lot of value when it comes to talking about cinema in general.

Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Killers of the Flower Moon,' coming soon to Apple TV+.

(L to R) Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ coming soon to Apple TV+.

The director’s latest film, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’, stars Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone.

Adapted from David Grann’s bestseller by Scorsese and Eric Roth and based on a true story, ‘Flower Moon’ is set in Oklahoma in the 1920s when oil brought a fortune to the Osage Nation, who became some of the richest people in the world overnight. The wealth immediately attracted white interlopers, who manipulated, extorted, and stole as much Osage money as they could before resorting to murder.

‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ will be in theaters globally on October 20th before eventually arriving on Apple TV+.

Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese in 'Killers of the Flower Moon,' coming soon to Apple TV+.

(L to R) Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ coming soon to Apple TV+.

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