James Gunn 'saddened' over Martin Scorsese's critique of superhero movies

Martin Scorsese told fans of superhero movies to get off his lawn, and James Gunn is feeling the burn.

"I don't see them," the 76-year-old director told Empire magazine in a recent interview when asked his opinion on films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. "I tried, you know? But that's not cinema."

Gunn, one of the most prominent voices in the world of comic book movies given his work as a writer-director on Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy series and producer on Avengers films and recent crossover into the DC Extended Universe with The Suicide Squadtook to Twitter Friday to voice his disappointment in Scorsese's comments.

"Martin Scorsese is one of my 5 favorite living filmmakers," Gunn wrote. "I was outraged when people picketed The Last Temptation of Christ without having seen the film. I’m saddened that he’s now judging my films in the same way."

Despite the fact that the Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980) filmmaker had well established himself as an auteur by the time 1988's The Last Temptation of Christ was set to hit theaters, Scorsese drew the ire of religious groups in the lead-up to that film's release for its portrayal of Jesus Christ (Willem Dafoe) and supposed deviations from biblical text.

Joss Whedon, who has also worked across the party aisle as the director of Marvel’s The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron as well as writer/replacement director on DC’s Justice League, responded to Scorsese’s comments as well. “I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but... Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry,’” Whedon wrote on Twitter, quoting one of his favorite Avengers.

It's easy to understand why the legendary Oscar-winning director is salty about the dominance of superhero fare. Scorsese has lamented how difficult it was to convince a major movie studio to back his $160 million mob drama The Irishman, thus his decision to ultimately partner with streaming giant Netflix on the release. In the current landscape, distributors are far more willing to drop that kind of green on tried-and-true IP — like, ahem, superhero movies — than original adult dramas.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 28: Martin Scorsese attends the 57th New York Film Festival - On Cinema: Martin Scorsesee at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on September 28, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Film at Lincoln Center)

As Scorsese, who debuted The Irishman last week to raves and Oscar buzz at the New York Film Festival, explained to Empire: "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."

Still, Scorsese's comments are also surprising given their timing, and how close he came to a major credit on his own comic book movie.

Scorsese was at one point reportedly on board the new DCEU film Joker, which opened Thursday night, as a producer. Though he ultimately bowed out to work on The Irishman, Scorsese has been credited by director Todd Phillips for offering counsel and referring his longtime producer Emma Tilling. Phillips paid back the favors by including several Scorsese homages in Joker — which costars Scorsese staple Robert De Niro, with nods to Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy and Cape Fear.

Of course, Scorsese was asked specifically about Marvel movies. Maybe he's just more of a DC fan.

Original story updated with Joss Whedon’s comments.

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