Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr., not surprisingly, isn’t onboard with Martin Scorsese’s dismissal of Marvel movies as “not cinema.” But he also recognizes that to many cinephiles, comic-book and genre fare has become a “stomping beast” tearing through megaplexes.
“According to Scorsese, it’s not cinema. I gotta take a look at that,” Downey deadpanned in an appearance Monday on Howard Stern’s satellite radio show. (See video above.)
Once the Iron Man star had raised the issue, Stern was more than happy to follow up, asking Downey if he thought a movie like Iron Man qualified as “cinema.”
“I mean, it plays in theaters,” he demurred. “I appreciate his opinion. I think it’s like anything where we need all of the different perspectives so we can come to center and move on.”
In an interview with Empire to promote his film, The Irishman, Scorsese said he has tried unsuccessfully to watch Marvel movies. “But that’s not cinema,” he told the magazine, starting a days-long Twitter uproar. “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
Since the comments surfaced late last week, Marvel partisans like Joss Whedon, James Gunn and Samuel L. Jackson have all indicated respect for Scorsese but registered their objections to his remarks.
Downey told Stern he found the comments more baffling than insulting. “It’d be like saying Howard Stern isn’t radio,” he said. “It makes no sense to say it.”
Neither does Downey think the comments arose from a place of envy.
“Of course he’s not jealous of the success,” Downey said. “He’s Martin Scorsese.”
Downey did make some allowance for the point of view that comic-book and genre movies have taken up a remarkable share of the overall movie experience. “There is a lot to be said for how these genre movies — and I was happy to be part of the ‘problem,’ if there is one — but how they have denigrated the era, the art form of cinema,” he said. “When you come in like a stomping beast and you eliminate the competition in such a demonstrative way, it’s phenomenal.”