The year-end rush of movies might prove me wrong, but the biggest cinematic clash of titans in 2019 isn’t the one between carmakers Ford and Ferrari dramatised by James Mangold, or the rematch between Rey and Kylo Ren in the forthcoming Rise of Skywalker.
Rather, it’s the brawl set off by director Martin Scorsese’s declaration that Marvel’s superhero movies are “theme parks” rather than cinema. Even in our era of pitched culture warfare, it’s rare for any argument to last this long. Scorsese fuelled the battle with an early November op-ed defending his position, prompting a response from Marvel chief Kevin Feige.
Scorsese’s contentions – that the Marvel movies are formulaic, don’t attempt to explore the full spectrum of human experience, and are crowding other movies out with all the relish of a world-devouring super-villain – are undeniably true. But it might not matter: Marvel’s takeover of popular culture is already too far under way.
As movies, the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are consistent, competent and rarely outstanding. It’s as a piece of public relations that the franchise’s diabolical brilliance really becomes apparent: The MCU isn’t built merely to entertain you, but to anticipate and blunt your objections.