The man behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe has responded to Martin Scorsese’s comments that the comic book inspired-films are “not cinema”.
“Everybody has a different definition of cinema,” said Kevin Feige, calling his words “not true” and “unfortunate”.
“Myself and everyone who works on these movies loves cinema, loves movies [and] loves going to the movies,” he added.
Feige’s comments follow a BBC interview with Disney chief Bob Iger in which he took issue with Scorsese’s remarks.
“I don’t think he’s ever seen a Marvel film,” Iger told BBC media editor Amol Rajan. “Anyone who’s seen a Marvel film could not in all truth make that statement.”
The Marvel vs Marty row kicked off earlier this month when Scorsese contentiously compared Marvel’s output to “theme parks”.
“It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being,” he told Empire magazine.
Scorsese doubled down on his remarks in a New York Times opinion piece in which he criticised “the sameness of today’s franchise pictures”.
“Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures,” he wrote. “What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk.”
The Oscar-winning director went on to accuse “franchise films” like Marvel’s of keeping other films off cinema screens.
“For anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out, the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art,” he continued.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Feige said “everybody is entitled to their opinion”, adding: “I look forward to what will happen next.
“But in the meantime, we’re going to keep making movies,” he continued, insisting Marvel had taken creative risks with its stable of characters.
“We killed half of our characters at the end of a movie,” he said, referring to the conclusion of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War.
“I think it’s fun for us to take our success and use it to take risks and go in different places.”
Over the last 11 years, the films released under the banner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have enjoyed record-breaking box office success.
Earlier this year Avengers: Endgame overtook 2009’s Avatar to become the highest-grossing film ever, having already set a new record for the biggest global opening of all time.
Marvel’s movies have also been embraced by critics and awards bodies – among them the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
This year saw Black Panther – the first superhero film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar – win awards in three other categories.
Chadwick Boseman, who starred in Black Panther, told Emma Jones of BBC Talking Movies he does not want non-superhero films such as his latest movie 21 Bridges to be pushed out of the market.
“The thing is, I am not just on a Marvel team,” he said. “I am part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but you want all types of movies and even in [Scorsese’s] extended comments he admits that there is a criteria for what cinema is. [Good narrative] could happen in a superhero movie – I am not going to jump on an argument on one side about it.
“He has a great opinion, he’s a genius at what he does so he is obviously not wrong. But it is an opinion and he’s not completely right either.”
Next year’s Oscars are likely to see nominations for Joker, an origin film about DC Comics’ iconic super-villain.
This week saw Joker became the first film since Avatar to remain at the top of the UK and Ireland box office chart for six consecutive weeks.
In a recent interview with the BBC’s World Service, Scorsese said he had considered directing Joker but had eventually decided he “didn’t have the time for it”.
Todd Phillips ended up directing the film, which overtly pays homage to such Scorsese classics as Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.
Robert De Niro – star of both those films and Scorsese’s new film The Irishman – also appears in Joker alongside Joaquin Phoenix.
This week, Joker became the most profitable comic book movie of all time, having made more than 15 times what it reportedly cost to make.
Both Feige and Scorsese were guests at the Hollywood Film Awards in Los Angeles earlier this month, where the issue also surfaced.
“As fewer and fewer movies make it to the screen, we all start squabbling with each other about who is making better and more important films,” said director James Mangold.
“I think the reality is we’re all making important films. We just wish there was more real estate for them all to get up on a screen.”
Mark Ruffalo – who acted in Scorsese’s 2010 film Shutter Island – also alluded to the row by pointedly referring to Avengers: Endgame as “cinema” at the event.