Scorsese vs Marvel: Japan is Watching, But Local Directors are not Joining the Fray 

Martin Scorsese Avengers

The social media skirmish that broke out after Martin Scorsese called Marvel movies “not cinema” and compared them to “theme parks” has reached Japan. There has been heavy local coverage of the back-and-forth between Scorsese and allies such as Francis Ford Coppola, and Marvel defenders, including Marvel Comics Universe directors James Gunn (“Guardian of the Galaxy”) and Joss Whedon (“Avengers”).

Scorsese will undoubtedly be quizzed about his comments when he comes to Tokyo International Film Festival for a screening of “The Irishman” in the festival’s special screenings section.

But no Japanese filmmaker has yet to publically take sides on the controversy – and a look at tweets by Japanese fans under the #Scorsese hashtag gives some indication why.

Most comments are critical of either the Scorsese camp or both sides equally. “Scorsese and Coppola, together with some MCU supporters, are being immature,” says one. “Scorsese and Coppola have an ideal of what they think films should be, but it feels like they have become stubborn, out-of-touch old guys,” says another.

And there are those who try to find a middle ground. “It’s not about inferiority or superiority,” opines one fan. “Marvel films are ‘movies,’ while Scorsese is talking about ‘cinema.’ It looks to me as though the difference in the debate between the two sides is on the level of values.”

Given weak sales of Marvel and other U.S. comics in Japan, where the local manga genre is overwhelmingly dominant, MCU films have generally underperformed in the Japanese market. Last year the highest-scoring Marvel movie in Japan was “Avengers: Infinity War” with $34 million, good enough only for 12th position at the Japanese box office. Worldwide the film the was biggest of 2018 and made $2.05 billion.