For over a decade now Marvel movies have dominated cinemas and smashed box office records. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest grossing franchise of all time, having grossed over $22.5 billion at the global box office. This includes ‘Avengers: Endgame’, which is currently the highest grossing film of all time. Despite all of this success however, there are those who argue that these films are not real cinema. Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Ken Loach, have all recently expressed their distaste at the dominance of superhero films, with Scorsese stating that they are “not cinema” and labelling them as “theme parks”. Scorsese may himself be a master of cinema and one of the most highly influential film makers of all time, but is he right about this?
In spite of their role to be engaging entertainment, it is hard to deny that a large function of Marvel movies is to be advertisements. This is not just for the countless prequels and sequels, but also for merchandising. The Marvel brand sells everything from toys, clothing and games to cologne, breakfast cereal and slow cookers. It is easy for this reason to write marvel off as simply another corporate enterprise designed to take our money.
However, there are also many reasons not to think like this. Whilst of course not every Marvel film is a cinematic masterpiece, many of them do manage to balance engaging action with stories grounded in the characters’ growth. This is not only done across individual films, but also across the entire franchise through different directors, screenwriters and actors, demonstrating great and carefully planned storytelling. Most importantly though, audiences everywhere genuinely care about and love the characters from the films. Although you could argue against the corporate side of the franchise, you can’t argue with people’s emotional response to a film, and it is undeniable that fans of the films are emotionally invested.
In a time where streaming movies has become the most common way to view them, Marvel movies are bringing more people than ever into cinemas and a shared communal experience. With this immense viewership and influence, it seems that in recent years the Marvel Cinematic Universe has striven for greater diversity and representation in their films. This can be seen in recent works such as 2018’s ‘Black Panther’ which became the first Oscar nominated superhero film of all time. Perhaps what it comes down to is the fact that cinema will never just be one thing. It should really be celebrated that we can live in a world where filmmaking from Scorsese and Marvel can coexist. The wealth of expression and storytelling within cinema means that at the end of the day, there is something for everyone.