Benedict Cumberbatch, star of the Marvel blockbuster Doctor Strange, has stepped into the ongoing discussion about superhero blockbusters, offering unexpected support to film-makers such as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola who have expressed their dislike for them.
Speaking on radio on The Jenny McCarthy Show, Cumberbatch – who also appeared as Doctor Strange in Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame – said: “I know there’s been a lot of debate recently with these very fine film-makers coming to the fore saying that these film franchises are taking over everything … And I agree, you know. We don’t want one king to rule it all and have a kind of monopoly.”
He added: “We should really look into continuing to support auteur film-makers at every level.”
Scorsese triggered the row with a magazine interview in which he described Marvel films as “not cinema” and likened them to “theme parks” instead. He was swiftly backed up by Coppola, who called superhero films “despicable”. Other auteurs have also voiced criticism: Ken Loach said the films are “boring” and “a cynical exercise [that] has nothing to do with the art of cinema”, while Pedro Almodóvar expressed disdain for their sexlessness.
Directors including James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Joss Whedon (The Avengers) have defended the genre, with Gunn writing on social media: “Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers.” Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of Disney (which owns Marvel), also defended its franchises, saying “I don’t get what [Coppola and Scorsese are] criticising us for when we’re making films that people are obviously enjoying going to and they’re doing so by the millions.”
However, Iger added: “If they want to bitch about movies it’s certainly their right.”