Marvel movies as cinema discourse isn't ready to die just yet, and fans have found a very strange ally through the magic of the Internet. Steven Spielberg has been critical of the superhero genre in the past, but people are taking notice of his words at the Cannes Film Festival about his favorite work in the genre. Some are positioning it as a direct rebuttal of the kinds of arguments against the films that have cropped up in recent weeks. Multiple high-profile directors have directed their ire at Marvel Studios' behemoth operation and the relative stranglehold that superhero movies have on the popular culture at the moment. (Keep in mind people have been saying this since the first Iron Man came out.) But, you won't find a more thoughtful reflection on some of the recent films than the director's comments below.
The Omelete had the original comments and they've been transcribed. Spielberg began, "I love the Superman of Richard Donne, The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan, and the first Iron Man, but [the] superhero film that impressed me most is one that does not take itself too seriously: Guardians of the Galaxy. When his projection was over, I left with the feeling of having seen something new in movies, without any cynicism or fear of being dark when needed. There is a difference between heroes and superheroes. The hero is an ordinary person who is faced with a serious fact and acts to modify it. A hero is a person who, walking down the street, see[s] a car on fire and runs [to] help the person who is in the driver's seat, attached to the seat belt to loosen it. [A] superhero is a person who, on the same scene, would fly to the car and try to turn it upside down and shake it using his super strength, until the driver is released. I identify more with the first example. Films about everyday heroes."
This all comes after Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese launched criticism at Marvel Studios films. Scorsese got things started with these comments in an interview, "I don't see them. I tried, you know? But that's not cinema," he said. "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."
Coppola would follow it up with a more harsh stance entirely. The director said to journalists in France after receiving the Prix Lumber, "When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he's right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don't know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it's not cinema. He didn't say it's despicable, which I just say it is."
If one thing has become absolutely clear. This debate is going to wage on well throughout the Fall and maybe into 2020. Stay tuned.
Photo credit: Marc Piasecki/GC Images