Martin Scorsese and the Refusal to Embrace the New
Martin Scorsese is a towering figure in the film world in terms of both artistry and influence, with some even considering him to be the greatest living filmmaker. Like many others, I have not only been influenced, but amazed by his technical skill, fondness for the classics, and his exceptional directing. However, in the past few years it seems as though Scorsese is now just as famous for his controversial opinions as he is for his film work. Now, are these opinions justified or simply an irrational stubbornness? Let's discuss...
To doubt Martin Scorsese's skill and influence would be just plain wrong. No amount of disagreement could erase his accomplishments, and any attempt to discredit his work because of his dated opinions is an unsophisticated position. That being said, the filmmaker has drawn quite a bit of criticism in recent years for his reactionary stance on the current world of film.
In October 2019, Martin Scorsese famously said that Marvel movies were "not cinema" and were more akin to "themepark rides." At the time, Marvel was the leading producer of movies in Hollywood, with a fanbase that spans generations, so this obviously attracted quite a bit of vitriol. One of the first articles I wrote when I started Cinemasters was about Scorsese's take on Marvel, and at the time I agreed. He argued that "movies aren't film" anymore and compared Marvel films to the movies he grew up with by Ingmar Bergman. But you don't need to be a genius to see that Marvel movies aren't trying to be Bergman. It's actually commonplace nowadays to see gifs of Scorsese looking displeased under online posts about Marvel. It's worth pointing out that Scorsese is not the only auteur, old-school filmmaker to have this take, Quentin Tarantino famously credited the "Marvel-ization of Hollywood" for the "loss of movie stars." While many people share this view, Scorsese has become the involuntary poster child for this way of thinking, for better or worse. Let's just say, he's probably devastated that his historical epic, Killers of the Flower Moon is currently trailing behind Five Nights at Freddy's at the box office.
At the end of the day, people are going to have different tastes and not everyone is going to want to watch a black and white, slow-paced existentialism film, and that's perfectly okay. No matter your taste, you deserve to enjoy movies the same way as everyone because film is one of the most versatile and universal mediums we have. If you would rather watch Spider-Man 2 instead of Metropolis by Fritz Lang, more power to you. Although recently it seems as if Scorsese has opened himself up a little more to the changing times like creating his own Letterboxd account and making tiktoks with his daughter, Francesca.
So how does one handle this? Is it possible for someone of a certain generation to truly resonate with the turning tides of their industry? Of course. The first example that comes to mind is the legendary musician, Elton John, who not only publically praises new pop stars, but collaborates with them professionally, instead of being bitter. John previously went on BBC Radio to express his admiration for new musician, Conan Gray. He even released a collaboration with Dua Lipa in 2021, proving that old-school can work with new-school. It might be a strange thought that the opposite of Martin Scorsese is Elton John, but it's true.
If Martin Scorsese truly has a problem with the way major studios like Marvel conduct business and believes he can do better...why not collaborate? Why not contribute your talent to an industry that you believe needs help? Audiences around the globe would revel in the thought of a Scorsese-directed Marvel movie, even if he put it in his own style of filmmaking.
At the end of the day, change is inevitable, no matter how much we disapprove or protest, there is no point in fighting it. A great way to make your industry stronger is to embrace the new, and make sure that the next generation of people have great art to enjoy, and not judge them for their taste.