Scorsese And Coppola Are Wrong About Marvel, These Movies Prove It

By Shanna Mathews-Mendez | Published

Several years ago, filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola commented that Marvel films are not films; they’re a “theme park” and a “prototype.” They’re all the same. In a recent piece by Variety, Chris Hemsworth’s reaction, a defense of Marvel films, was covered, but I’d like to take that defense further by pointing to five Marvel films that break the mold — Thor: Ragnarok, The Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: End Game

Marvel Saved Cinema

Hemsworth noted in his interview that superhero movies didn’t destroy cinema, as Scorsese and Coppola have complained about with Marvel. Indeed, Marvel kept people coming back to the theater in spite of streaming services and smartphones to distract people and keep them home. I’d go one further to say that superhero films, particularly Marvel films, show us parts of ourselves we are reluctant to see. 

I have been fighting this fight for decades, long before Scorsese and Coppola had beef with Marvel. Even one of my favorite celebrities, Bill Maher, has lamented the rise of superhero films for making people believe that a hero is coming to save them, leading to the election of feckless leaders who act like they’re coming to save the day. Again, I have to disagree. Superhero films, if you’re paying attention, teach us that we’re the heroes we’ve been waiting for. 

Thor: Ragnarok Balanced Humor With Heroics

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Scorsese and Coppola don’t see the humor and heroism in Marvel. Thor: Ragnarok, written and directed by Taika Waititi, brings the perfect balance of humor and heroism to what had become an old, tired role. Even Hemsworth said he was ready to hang up his cape until he read the script for Ragnarok

This film deals with love and loss inside of a family. We learn that you can make your own family and that we can honor those who have passed by continuing to fight the good fight. As Thor says goodbye to his father, fights his sister, and forgives his brother, we can’t help but find ourselves inside his heart. 

The Ground-Breaking Release Of Black Panther

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Scorsese and Coppola don’t recognize the righteousness in Marvel. The Black Panther, written and directed by Ryan Coogler, confronts Marvel fans with civil rights issues, racism, and discrimination in the real world. Coogler took a superhero story and made it a tale of justice for the underprivileged. Of course, we can’t help but love the goodhearted, kind, and honorable T’Challa, played so spectacularly by the late Chadwick Boseman

However, we also relate to the real anger and outrage of Eric, or Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. While he is wrong in his approach, he’s not wrong when he rails against the unfairness of the way Black people have been treated for centuries. We can’t help but wish it could have been another way, as Killmonger dies watching the sunrise at the end of the film. 

Captain Marvel Was A New Type Of Hero

Brie Larson Captain Marvel

Scorcese and Coppola don’t bear witness to female empowerment in Marvel. When Captain Marvel hit theaters, I knew instinctively, as a mother of two daughters, that this would be one of our favorites. Written and directed by Anna Boden, Captain Marvel confronts the realities of what it is to be a woman in a male-centered world. Carol Danvers is portrayed in this film as always having been tomboyish and picked on for it, mostly by boys. 

I have argued since watching that film in the theater that the scene toward the end of the film, when Carol realizes she’s been “fighting with one hand behind my back” is one of the best in cinematic history. Captain Marvel is a role model for little girls (and grown women, honestly) everywhere. We even got a series on Disney Plus to prove it in the form of Ms. Marvel. Scorsese and Coppola don’t give Marvel credit for that. 

No Movie In Our Lives Will Top End Game

They certainly don’t address how Marvel brings it all together in Infinity War and Endgame. The Western world is astonished by the advances in Wakanda, and a literal god (Thor) suffering from depression after the snap. The way the women rally around each other in both films is remarkable. I have said repeatedly that I’m going to get a tattoo that quotes Black Widow in Infinity War, “she’s not alone.” And in the end, we collectively grieve the loss of Tony Stark as the original leader of the Avengers, never to return. 

Marvel Inspired Millions

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Far from being prototypes, these Marvel films, and many others, show us who we are, what we’re capable of, and who we want to be. You cannot say that about Scorsese and Coppola films like you can about Marvel films. Credit must be given to the famous Marvel bullpen and creators like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jim Shooter, and Jim Starlin (among countless others) for turning what could be fluff or make-believe into something real, relatable, and often incredibly raw. Of course, credit goes to the screenwriters and directors who are able to translate that onto the screen.

No Movies Will Have The Impact Of The MCU

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This is not to knock two of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Scorsese and Coppola have made films I loved and some I didn’t care about, just like Marvel has. Neither is it to say only superhero or Marvel films have a place in theaters. Rather, it appeals to real movie lovers and fans of stories, opening our minds to all kinds of stories and seeing inside them the nuggets of wisdom. 

A great story is great, regardless of the wrappings and trappings. May we honor Scorsese, Coppola, Marvel, or anyone else able to get it right by continuing to show up in the theaters with our popcorn and candy.   

robert downey jr

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