Martin Scorsese’s movies have covered a pretty wide swathe of conceptual territory over his last 50 years of filmmaking—from angry men driving taxis, to angry men boxing, to angry men visiting Japan. (To say nothing of that persistent theme of the great director’s work, “angry men bustin’ each other’s balls, ey, let’s go do some crimes.”) And yet, for all the breadth of his work, there are certain themes that have never cropped up in Scorsese’s oeuvre, despite their universality in our shared culture. Why, we ask the heavens, has Martin Scorsese never ended one of his movies with a very strong blonde man hitting a big stupid robot with a hammer?
Tragically, the true reason for this bizarre oversight may have made itself known this week, as Scorsese—a 76-year-old man who’s built an entire career out of gritty, grounded exercises in character study, and who possesses a marked (and sometimes intentionally cantankerous) independent streak—admitted to a shocked—shocked—world that he just doesn’t like blockbuster superhero movies very much. Even worse, though, is his implication that he doesn’t respect them, even though many of them make a lot of money, and a whole bunch of people like them, and also our entire monoculture is derived from collectively agreeing that they matter, because god knows something must.
Scorsese made this obviously career-ending revelation during an interview with Empire this week, in which he was promoting The Irishman, which—while actually having a pretty hefty amount of special effects work on display, in the form of its Captain Marvel-esque age-regression tech—fails to feature even a single army of generic alien monsters rampaging across a green screen landscape, or one goddamn magical stone. And while Scorsese says he tried, darn it, he just doesn’t consider those extremely lucrative Marvel movies “cinema.” Here’s his fuller comments—and please, dear reader: Keep your pearls handy for when the inevitable urge to clutch ’em overcomes:
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.
Sensing heretical septuagenarian movie legend blood in the water, the assembled forces of nerd-dom have circled around Scorsese’s comments, tacitly demanding he stop saying these things that are pretty much exactly what you would expect Martin Scorsese to say when asked about fucking Aquaman. Ignoring the fact that it would have been extremely bizarre if Scorsese’s answer had, instead, been “Hell yeah, Ant-Man And The Wasp, that’s my shit,” the sense of having their passions dismissed by anyone, anywhere, appears to have set the hordes on high alert. The most high-profile response has been from avowed superhero fan James Gunn, whose efforts in the genre over the last decade or so represent some of the most deliberate attempts to inject some actual style into the mass-produced proceedings, and who seems a little miffed that a personal hero has dismissed the majority of his non-Slither body of work:
(Meanwhile, we can only assume that Todd Phillips—whose Joker, out this weekend, does everything in its power to mimic the look and feel of several of Scorsese’s films, and distances itself from its comic book origins as much as clownishly possible—is out there stumbling around heartbroken right now, trying to figure out how this is all somehow “woke culture”’s fault.)
Scorsese, meanwhile, is presumably doing just fine; The Irishman is drawing rave reviews, his legacy remains one of the most solid in all of film, and he’s just stumbled onto a fresh source of high-volume nerd ire to keep him feeling young and fresh for the rest of his foreseeable days.