Amid mounting chatter surrounding Martin Scorsese’s Marvel criticism that has baited the likes of Disney CEO Bob Iger and “Iron Man” himself Robert Downey Jr., one major player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has kept quiet — until now.
After more than a month of silence, Kevin Feige, Marvel’s chief creative officer, has finally addressed Scorsese’s now-infamous statement that the MCU “isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
In a recent podcast from the Hollywood Reporter, Feige defended his creations — past and future — against the “Irishman” filmmaker’s assertions that Marvel films are a disgrace to the medium.
“I think that’s not true,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. I think myself and everyone who works on these movies loves cinema, loves movies, loves going to the movies, loves to watch a communal experience in a movie theater full of people, and we’ve been very lucky that our movie theaters are often full of people when our movies play. ... I love all types of movies and always have, which is why we try to blend our films with different genres and take the success that we’ve had and do different things.”
His defense echoes previous reactions from fellow MCU architects, such as Iger, who last week vowed to “debate” Scorsese on the topic of cinema, right before Scorsese doubled down on his own comments in a widely circulated op-ed for the New York Times. His latest critique lamented the lack of “risk” taken in Marvel franchises void of “revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger.”
“Everybody has a different definition of cinema. Everybody has a different definition of art. Everybody has a different definition of risk, I guess,” Feige said. “Some people don’t think it’s cinema. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Everyone’s entitled to repeat that opinion. Everyone’s entitled to write op-eds about that opinion, and I look forward to what will happen next. But in the meantime, we’re going to keep making movies.”
Two more Marvel heavyweights, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans, also recently weighed in on the controversy while participating in Variety‘s “Actors on Actors.” During their conversation, the universe’s Black Widow and Captain America, respectively, mulled Scorsese’s concerns about the state of an industry inundated by blockbuster sagas like theirs.
“At first I thought that seems kind of old-fashioned, and somebody had to explain to me, because it seemed so disappointing and sad in a way,” Johansson said in response to accusations from Scorsese and other veteran filmmakers, such as Francis Ford Coppola, that tentpoles are edging out smaller films. “It made me think about how people consume content now, and how there’s been this huge sea change with their viewing experience.”
“I think original content inspires creative content,” Evans countered. “I think new stuff is what keeps the creative wheel rolling. I just believe there’s room at the table for all of it. It’s like saying a certain type of music isn’t music. Who are you to say that?”
Like any well-trained Disney exec, Feige later turned the podcast conversation about the eventual possibility of superhero fatigue into an opportunity to plug some of the brand’s forthcoming installments, including “WandaVision,” a spinoff based on Elizabeth Olsen’s and Paul Bettany’s familiar MCU heroes (Scarlet Witch and Vision), which is coming soon to Disney+.
“It’s unlike anything this genre has done before,” he said. “And, yes, if you are turned off by the notion of a human having extra abilities, and that means everything in which that happens is lumped into the same category, then they might not be for you. But the truth is, these are all — like all great science-fiction stories — parables.”
Feige also squeezed in an ad for “The Eternals,” a star-studded project featuring new characters played by Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Kit Harington, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek and Richard Madden.
“It is a very big movie. It is a very expensive movie,” Feige said of “The Eternals.” “We are making it because we believe in [director Chloe Zhao’s] vision, and we believe in what those characters can do and we believe we need to continue to grow and evolve and change and push our genre forward. That’s a risk if I’ve ever heard one.”
Other efforts set to join the studio’s rapidly growing slate include Johansson’s highly anticipated “Black Widow” and a sequel to 2018’s smash hit “Black Panther,” as well as “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Feb. 12, 2021), “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (May 7, 2021), “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Nov. 5, 2021) and a not-yet-announced project slated for Feb. 18, 2022.
Feige will next tackle another of Disney’s most lucrative properties: “Star Wars.” The exec is set to take over for the franchise’s post-Skywalker era that ends in December with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”