Following anti-Marvel sentiments expressed by The Irishman filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who compared Marvel movies to theme parks before saying such films are "not cinema," Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger is defending Disney-owned Marvel Studios and the "talented people that are putting their hard work and talent into making films that entertain people in theaters around the world." When promoting recently published memoir The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Iger told BBC Radio's The Media Show he would "debate" Scorsese over comments that inspired public agreements from filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola and Roger Corman.
"Martin Scorsese is a great filmmaker. I hope he hears this," Iger said. "I don't have a relationship with him, but it doesn't matter, I admire him immensely. I think he's made some great films. I look back and think of Goodfellas, Raging Bull, just to name a few, Taxi Driver. Just a phenomenal filmmaker. I would debate him on this subject. First of all, Marvel's making movies. They're movies. That's what Martin Scorsese makes. And they're good movies."
Following up on his comment that Marvel movies are "not cinema," Scorsese later told EW some tentpole superhero movies are "well done" at "all levels," but are nonetheless "theme park movies."
Iger says such criticisms are writing off the efforts of the thousands of creatives involved with each Marvel movie and the impact those films have on global audiences.
"Good directors, and good writers, and good actors, and good cinematographers, and good costume designers, and good sound engineers, and good editors, I could go on and on," Iger said. "These are talented, talented people that are putting their hard work and talent into making films that entertain people in theaters around the world. Everybody goes, the lights go down, people buy popcorn, they have a good two-hour experience, they come out feeling happy or better about themselves."
When asked about Scorsese's most stinging critique against Marvel movies — that they're not "the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being" — Iger replied, "I don't think he's ever seen a Marvel film."
"I would question that," he said. "Anyone who's seen a Marvel film could not, in all truth, make that statement." Iger then said he's "looking forward to talking" with Scorsese, adding, "I'd like to have a glass of wine with him."
When promoting Netflix gangster epic The Irishman at Rome Film Fest, Scorsese expressed concerns comic book-inspired movies are "taking over the theaters" before again saying "amusement park" films "shouldn't become what our young people believe is cinema."
But Marvel movies are not in danger of over-saturation, according to Iger.
"Marvel is just doing sensationally well," he said. "The last film they released [Avengers: Endgame] had the highest global box office in the history of the motion picture business, and their pipeline is very, very rich with new stories and new characters and new adventures and new superhero exploits. So not true."
Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn was among the talent in the Marvel stable to speak out after Scorsese's controversial criticisms.
On Twitter, Gunn wrote, "Martin Scorsese is one of my 5 favorite living filmmakers. I was outraged when people picketed The Last Temptation of Christ without having seen the film. I'm saddened that he's now judging my films in the same way." Gunn added in a subsequent tweet, "That said, I will always love Scorsese, be grateful for his contribution to cinema, and can't wait to see The Irishman."