“Mr Scorsese, you are a great filmmaker but you’re terribly wrong about the MCU”

First things first: regardless of what anyone says about your favourite film franchise, it will not diminish in value in your heart.

This was a necessary reminder to myself as I began to pen this article hoping to defend my unwavering love of MCU against comments made by the filmmakers of the most legendary films I know of including The Godfather and Taxi Driver.

When the likes of Scorsese and Coppola disparage everyone’s favourite superhero universe, it may sting at first but you can accept it, agree to disagree with it and leave it at that. But what might be worth exploring is the Hollywood cinema landscape, where it stands as of today, the role that Marvel plays in shaping its experience and what may have lead Oscar-winning filmmakers to make such comments.

Martin Scorsese: “That’s not cinema. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being,”

I remember watching Iron Man in 2008, the first time in the theatre. I loved every second of it and left enthralled. I was hooked from then onwards. This is the case for thousands of other fans but it is also true that Marvel fandom craze has increased exponentially with the never-ending release of one blockbuster film after another with captivating storylines, mature character developments and finally the integration and overlap of different superheroes’ lives and their ensuing character conflicts and chemistries in the Avengers films.

Since 2008, the MCU has seen award-winning actors and critically acclaimed filmmakers taking part in its films. Right from the very start with the likes of Robert Downey Jr. to Benedict Cumberbatch of more recent years. The franchise has also seen Hollywood giants such as Cate Blanchett and Jake Gyllenhaal take leading one-off roles in their films.

I say this because the kind of mainstream, general mass adoration that the MCU enjoys, objectively one wouldn’t think that it would attract a certain brand of “serious” actors. At the same time, when Marvel manages to secure established artists, it is a validation of the quality of content being produced by the studios we love to love. Not to mention that nearly all Marvel films have received favourable critic reviews.

Understanding the MCU effect

To put into context the cultural significance of MCU, Todd Phillips has been quoted saying “You can’t beat Marvel — it’s a giant behemoth. Let’s do something they can’t do.” To his immense credit, he has managed to make a film that is critical of many aspects of society, including its treatment of the poor and mentally ill and subsequently displays the horrifying reality that might in. Aided by Joaquin Pheonix’s soul-crushing performance, many have been compelled to called Joker a masterpiece.

Read more: Joker Review: Joaquin Phoenix gets the last laugh!

It is not just nagging children and their parents who are forced to pay attention to Marvel’s latest releases. Instead, the franchise has been successful in making people from all backgrounds heavily, emotionally invested. As a result, the effects have forced players in the surrounding film industry to put MCU at the forefront of their minds.

Where does the cinematic value lie?

There are are a  few things to consider here. One that there is truth to Scorsese’s words about Marvel movies having a “theme park” like quality to them. It is every bit a larger than life experience that all but immerses the viewer into the superhero worlds themselves.

However, the fact that it is all these things neither necessarily diminishes the cinematic value of these films nor its effectiveness in storytelling. Captain America: Civil War struck a chord with the public in terms of the push and pull countries across the world experience with authorities and governing bodies. Most people will tell you that Thanos’ reasoning in the last two Avengers movies made sense to them.

At the end of the day, yes, the films are black and white.

You have the heroes to support and you have the monsters to be defeated. But through them, nothing prevents the authenticity of stories and the connection people feel to them from emerging.

Being somewhat of a film nerd, I have spent hours reading and watching interviews of various actors, directors and writers. If there is one thing I have learnt, it is that those who make the films which might make you laugh at their nonsensical premises, maybe some of the most intuitive and intelligent people you come across who are also more attuned with their audience. There is a particular kind of skill, intelligence and art to creating something that has the possibility of resonating with the majority and this is something that gets wildly ignored.

Even a movie that is filled with what may seem like pointless action and romance that doesn’t fit into the storyline can still manage to dole out a message to the public that is incredibly timely and important.

Bollywood director Rohit Shetty’s (known for films such as Golmaal and Dilwale) latest film Simmba is a perfect example of that. In the movie, a corrupt police officer played by Ranveer Singh goes through a change of heart and is compelled to fulfil his responsibilities when he learns of a rape case. Ultimately, the movie delivers some powerful dialogue in favour of women’s rights and harsh steps needed to be taken against sexual harassers.

Read more: Everything that’s wrong with Kabir Singh and why you should not enjoy it

Coppola: “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.”

I find it ironic that these stalwarts make such comments about films which are supposed to be a public service completely oblivious to how they come off as gatekeepers to a community of storytelling. It is unnecessary to mention it, but I will get the fact out of the way that they are entitled to their own opinions.

Historically we have seen established greats in any field be critical of the things that manage to garner mainstream attention. It has happened in literature, it continually occurs in visual art and so it shouldn’t be surprising that MCU is now facing this backlash. However, I would normally expect such filmmakers to completely ignore the existence of movies which they do not believe qualify as cinema.

The fact that Avengers: Endgame stands as the highest-grossing film of all time cannot be ignored in this scenario. The previous record-holder, Avatar, did not have 14 films to its franchise to garner this kind of response. Additionally, it has been said Scorsese had to fight his way through to get funding for his latest film, The Irishman starring Robert De Niro.

By the people, for the people?

I will make another case for this line of criticism. It is glaringly true that quality art is not necessarily rewarded with money in our world. This is an issue we find ourselves grappling with on the daily and will especially resonate with those who want to see better films being produced in our very own Bangladeshi industry. At the end of the day, the content that gets mass-circulated are the ones that the public wants to see.

When Coppola says that we expect to be inspired and learn something from the movies we watch, he is a hundred per cent correct.

What is incorrect is his implication that Marvel films fail to do any of that.

I can understand how it may seem that way to someone like him, but the reality is that he falls in an incredibly tight minority. Many people will agree that you require a certain level of education, awareness of films and literature and mental acuity to truly enjoy “high-thought” films. As sad as it may make you, there are too many people today who are not the correct audience for those films. Does that mean what does cater to an audience that is merely different, should be stopped from being produced? Surely not.

MCU will endure and so will cinema

The fact remains that Marvel films continue to touch hearts and inspire millions of people. Equally, there are those who are unaffected by them and expect movies to tell more nuanced stories with less definitive takeaways. While constructive criticism can guide actors, writers and directors to improve upon their work should they choose to, mere disqualification of a certain brand of movies can serve no purpose other than being a voice of one’s personal opinion. In any case, Marvel fans will look forward to Marvel continuing with what they do best.

Read more: What the future of Marvel looks like with Kevin Feige in control

As for those who see the truth in Scorsese and Coppola’s words, Marvel films alone cannot be the sole object of their scrutiny. Rather, a much larger and explorative discussion must be had on the structure of the Hollywood industry and how it can be equally rewarding to diverse forms of storytelling.

What the future of Marvel looks like with Kevin Feige in control

Marvel has gone through several changes throughout its history; with the film rights of many characters sold back and forth between different companies. The Marvel that once was has since evolved into a giant decade-defining cultural phenomenon, not least of which is due to Iron Man which came out in 2008, setting the tone for an unprecedented number of commercially successful movies with favourable critic reviews. A large part of this success is attributed to the late legend Stan Lee. The other part is said to be due to Kevin Feige, then President of Marvel Studios.

On October 15 it was announced that Kevin Feige has been newly assigned as the Chief Creative Officer of Marvel.

This means not only will he continue to be the creative head of Marvel Studios but he is also at the top of the chain of Marvel Entertainment and Marvel Comics. It can be seen as Marvel highlighting Feige’s importance in the company following his near-flawless run with the MCU movies since 2008. Now, Feige will directly answer to the co-chairmen of Disney, Marvel’s parent company.

Avengers: Endgame which went on to be the highest-grossing film worldwide, ever, surpassing Avatar, was a conclusion to many die-hard fans’ journey in the MCU through the lives of its different superheroes, all almost equally lovable, inspiring and somehow believable. Yet as announced in the comic con a few months ago, there remains a lot to look forward to in Marvel’s future.

It is reasonable and perhaps rightly ambitious for the decision-makers at Disney and Marvel to try and convert their success from blockbuster films to other avenues of entertainment and media.

Read more: The DCEU: Does it exist? How the Joker’s success influences it.

Marvel Television

Previously, Marvel television reported to Marvel Entertainment while Marvel Studios reported directly to Disney. For these corporate divides, there has been a lack of continuity among the storylines and the universe in the television shows and the films. For example, Agents of SHIELD Season 6 was released after Avengers: Infinity War, in which half the population of Earth was reduced to dust. However, none of this was referenced in season 6 of the TV show.

Given that now, Feige will be overseeing all aspects of Marvel creative output, there is likely to be overlaps between the characters from films and TV shows along with more streamlining of content.

It has not been long since streaming services have become a cultural need globally. With the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime, television content has seen a revolutionary change in its development, quality and structure. Even five years ago, it would be difficult to imagine 21 time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep to be acting on television.

It makes sense for Marvel to shift resources and invest in web series and television shows.

Shows such as Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Daredevil though have received love from fans and critical praise, none of it amounted to the level as can be expected and hoped for the studios responsible for MCU. Now that Kevin Feige will be in control of Marvel Entertainment instead of making any accommodations for external studios such as ABC, it can be assumed that a better future lies ahead for Marvel TV.

Wanda Vision, The Falcon and Winter Soldier and Hawkeye (pending confirmation) are some of the shows that have been announced to be in production. It will be interesting to see how these characters who seem larger than life on the big screen will translate their performances for shorter runtime episodes, but longer narratives and character arcs. Undoubtedly most fans will be excited to be treated with the increased screen-time to watch their favourite heroes act. At the same time, others will be cautious to see how some of these bold moves will actually follow up to the staggering stories and acting left by the MCU alums. For example, will McKee be able to win over everyone’s hearts as Chris Evans was able to? A large role behind setting Marvel apart from other superhero films has been the absorption of the characters’ essences by the actors into their off-screen lives. In whatever moments we did get to see the likes of RDJ, Evans, Holland, Cumberbatch, Ruffalo, Hiddleston and Hemsworth in their own skin, they seemed every bit as we imagined them as their superhero characters.

Upcoming Marvel films

In case you missed it, here’s the list of upcoming movies for phase 4 in MCU:

  • Black Widow (2020)
  • Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2021)
  • The Eternals (2020)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2021)
  • Black Panther 2 (2022)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3
  • Blade

Blade reboot

For fans who have been following MCU since the early days, the announcement of the rebooting of the film “Blade” is an iconic one.  This time it will be played by Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali. This has given rise to some speculation and surprise as he has already played a different character in the MCU. In Luke Cage, he appears as Cornell Smith or otherwise known as Cottonmouth, a rival to the show’s protagonist. While there have been other instances of actors playing different roles in MCU, they have been minor roles such as Alfre Woodard who played a sorrowful mother Captain America: Civil War, and also a gangster in Luke Cage.

Fans will also wonder whether this creates an opportunity for other actors who have played different characters in the past to come back in new roles. But if Marvel has made one thing clear in the past, it is that it takes the job of casting very seriously.

While some have expressed concerns over the lack of continuity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since this is the first time an actor who has played the role of a major antagonist will star as the superhero in a film, it has already been decided that the current shows in production for Marvel will not be continued for long in the future. They have either been cancelled or are set to wrap up in the upcoming months. Instead, these changes and announcements made at San Diego Comic-Con all point to the fact that the upcoming phase of Marvel films and TV shows signify a new beginning for MCU with more streamlined content and continuity extending between the different storylines.

The launch of Disney+, Disney’s own streaming service is being combined with the release of these new shows which are bound to see greater reach and impact than previous Marvel shows. One of the astounding aspects of Marvel has been its sheer bravery in tackling the character developments and stories of a wide range of superheroes. It is indeed something to look forward to if it means we will catch a glimpse of the same ambitions in the TV shows.

Diversity in the MCU

Thor

Natalie Portman as Thor alongside Tessa Thompson as King of Asgard will be a force to reckoned with. Additionally, Thompson will be the first Marvel LGBTQ superhero. As of March 2019, Captain Marvel is the one and only female superhero centric film made by Marvel which followed the massively successful DC’s Wonder Woman in 2017. It can now be hoped that more Marvel films will be made focusing on the strengths, eccentricities and uniqueness of women. Given the fact that there is no scarcity of superhero men for children to look up to and emulate, it is high time that young girls are offered the same possibility.

Black Widow

Black Widow who is already a character that has won and broken millions of hearts is finally, deservedly getting her own origins film. Set to release in 2020, fans who remember the fleeting moments of her past we were shown in Avengers: Age of Ultron, will look forward to discovering more about her real life, back story and how she came about to get the name “Black Widow”.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be the first Asian American superhero film played by Simu Liu, known for playing in the Canadian sitcom, Kim’s Convenience. Shang-Chi is said to be produced with a similar motive behind that which made Black Panther a cultural phenomenon in terms of representation for minorities. Shang-Chi is a superhero originally created in 1972 when kung-fu films were made immensely popular in America by actors such as Bruce Lee.

Eternals

The ensemble cast of The Eternals, yet another Marvel movie in production, includes Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani-American actor which may be the first time we a see a Brown actor as a major superhero character. Aside from that, Marvel has been pushing them hard as the big supergroup next to the Avengers. While most of that was due in part to make up for the absence of X-men from their film universe; the purchase of Fox has landed X-Men back at Marvel. So it will be interesting to see where that takes the Eternals project.

Directors of the Upcoming Films

It is said that diversity will be promoted behind the screen as well for Marvel films as the directors of the upcoming announced movies feature women and people of colour. We hope the dedication to diversity is a dedication to quality as well.

Disney now has Fox and X men

While Fox has managed to produce some gems that will forever remain in fans’ minds, most people will be itching to see the complex X-men characters’ immense potential to be tapped into by Marvel studios. Though there have been no conclusive announcements as such for X-men movies in Marvel Studios yet, this will definitely be an arena to look into for Marvel’s future.

Marvel Comics

Things are looking up for Marvel comics since Feige is clearly a comic book fan. Ike Perlmutter who previously had more control does not share the same reputation. However, avid comic book readers share some concerns.

Some fear that in a bid to make comic book sales increase, Marvel might consider rebooting and reviving the comic book universe entirely. While this has happened before for certain storylines, most readers feel that it is worth continuing the previously written stories.

It is also feared that due to the massive success of MCU, certain changes are being reflected upon in the comics.

The style has been said to aesthetically resemble the MCU throughout the more recent issues. It is sad if the comics start imitating the films since the films in the first place owe their roots, stories and characters to the comic books.

It would be interesting to see how Marvel can attract the potential comic book readers among the MCU fans with the changes it could make, keeping in mind that the original, hard-core fans of Marvel comics are a completely different kind of audience.

Aside from being heartbroken by the ending of Avengers: Endgame, many fans were also fearing whether this was some sort of a goodbye to Marvel as a whole. But with all their new announcements in San Diego Comic-Con followed by the promotion of Kevin Feige, Marvel has made clear that not only will they continue their run of great storytelling, but they are about to diversify and branch out which is sure to bring forward a much-anticipated phase 4.

Marvel reveals its Phase four. Includes Loki, Blade and more!

MCU fans assemble! Earlier today at SDCC, Marvel Studios announced its phase four of films and tv shows. Phase four deals with the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame and several prequels that we surely are excited for. Some of these include the reprisal of fan favourite Blade and the possible reprisal of Fantastic Four and X-Men series.

Here are all the films and tv shows in chronological order as they will be coming out in phase four:

Black Widow (May 1st, 2020) 

Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Fall 2020)

The Eternals (November 6th, 2020)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (February 12, 2021)

WandaVision (Spring 2021)

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (May 7th, 2021)

Loki (Spring 2021)

What If (Summer 2021)

Hawkeye (Fall 2021) and 

Thor: Love and Thunder (November 5th, 2021)

Phase four has some really interesting stories in the box for us. We will see the origin of Black Widow and Hawkeye and the movies will most likely explore their infamous Budapest mission that they keep mentioning!

We will see Anthony Mackey don his Captain America suit and shield in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Shang Chi will introduce the real Mandarin. (Yeah, we want to forget Iron Man 3 too)

Thor: Love and Thunder will give us Jane Foster wielding the Mjolnir as the female Thor.

And What If will be a non-canon animated series that will be an alternate take on the MCU universe. Like, what would happen if Loki had found Thor’s Hammer!

Speaking of Loki, we are getting a Loki TV show! Yay.

We eagerly look forward to Disney’s D23 conference next month for more information!