Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors behind Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing film of all-time, aren’t trying to get into a debate over the true meaning of the word "cinema" with Martin Scorsese. "But, at the end of the day, what do we know?" Joe jokingly told The Hollywood Reporter. "We're just two guys from Cleveland, Ohio, and 'cinema' is a New York word. In Cleveland, we call them movies."
Back in October, Scorsese created a monster when he expressed his belief that Marvel movies weren’t cinema. "I don’t see them," he said. "I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. 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."
Being the respected filmmaker that he is, Scorsese’s criticisms were especially biting for those involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe behind the camera. While the Russo Brothers try to come across as quite blasé about Marty’s remarks, their seemingly calculated response appears to show that much like their peers associated with the MCU, they took exception to Scorsese belittling their projects, and rightfully so.
"Ultimately, we define cinema as a film that can bring people together to have a shared, emotional experience," Joe said. His idea of a "shared, emotional experience" overlaps with Scorsese's understanding of "the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being." Joe's choice of words show that they are aware of what Scorsese has said about them, and it has stuck with them.
While Joe ultimately concedes in the cinema debate, it was Anthony who struck a more direct tone, saying, "The other way to think about it, too, is nobody owns cinema. We don't own cinema. You don't own cinema. Scorsese doesn't own cinema." The Russo Brothers are in a difficult position because, like every other filmmaker today, they admire Scorsese and his resume, but they also must feel obligated to defend their work, especially when someone is trying to disparage their accomplishments.
Scorsese has since attempted to clarify his misconstrued remarks in an op-ed for the New York Times where he said that his stance is merely based on "personal taste and temperament," while acknowledging that under different circumstances, he could find himself wanting to make a Marvel movie.
"The fact that the films themselves don’t interest me is a matter of personal taste and temperament," Scorsese wrote. "I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself."