James Gunn Defends Comic Book Movies After a Few Awards Jabs
by Ethan Anderton
February 23, 2015
Director James Gunn has quickly become an idol behind the camera after bringing Guardians of the Galaxy to the big screen for Marvel Studios. It was a refreshing sci-fi adventure that defied the expectations of everyone, and it was one of my own favorite movies of 2014. However, there's always those who are perpetually against blockbuster films like that, whether it's The Avengers or Star Wars or The Dark Knight or any big budget movie that rakes in the dough. And after a couple jokes and remarks from this past weekend's awards shows, Gunn took to Facebook to talk about genre elitism from the "serious" filmmakers.
First of all, here's a little context, since it seems this was inspired by two specific instances of superhero movie bashing at the this past weekend. First of all, during the opening musical number, Jack Black had a solo which included these lyrics:
“This industry’s in flux; it’s run by mucky-mucks, pitching tents for tentpoles and chasing Chinese bucks.
Opening with lots of zeroes, all we get is superheroes.
Superman, Spider Man, Batman,
Jedi man, sequel man, prequel man.
Formulaic scripts and after 50 Shade of Grey, they’ll all have leather whips.”
In addition, Nightcrawler director Dan Gilory made this remark at the Independent Spirit Awards when he accepted the award fr Best First Feature:
“Independent film, the foundation and everybody here today, I think are holdouts against a tsunami of superhero movies that have swept over this industry. We have survived and we have thrived and I think that’s true spirit.”
Neither of those are necessarily scathing or even rude, but they do have a tinge of a snobbish attitude. And it sounds like Gunn was specifically asked about these two remarks in general as he wrote a Facebook post addressing them before speaking to the larger issue:
I didn’t really find the Jack Black superhero jokes offensive, did you guys? It was, like, a joke. I’m not sure if you guys noticed, but the writing on the Oscars didn’t seem to be all that well thought out.
As far as Dan Gilroy saying that attendees of the Independent Spirit Awards have survived against a “tsunami of superhero films” – well it seems a bit weird coming from a guy whose wife has acted in two Thor films – really, that seems like you’ve drowned horribly in that tsunami. But I know I just kind of make up stuff as I go along on these awards shows, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Whatever the case, the truth is, popular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite. I’ve already won more awards than I ever expected for Guardians. What bothers me slightly is that many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them then people do who make independent films or who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films.
I’ve made B-movies, independent films, children’s movies, horror films, and gigantic spectacles. I find there are plenty of people everywhere making movies for a buck or to feed their own vanity. And then there are people who do what they do because they love story-telling, they love cinema, and they want to add back to the world some of the same magic they’ve taken from the works of others. In all honesty, I do not find a strikingly different percentage of those with integrity and those without working within any of these fields of film.
If you think people who make superhero movies are dumb, come out and say we’re dumb. But if you, as an independent filmmaker or a “serious” filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken.
We couldn't have said it any better ourselves. There seems to be this line drawn in the sand as to what kind of movie you have to make in order for it to be significant or meaningful. But movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, The Avengers and more all move some people just as much as a film like Boyhood, Whiplash or Birdman. More importantly, to completely disregard an entire genre of films simply because they're not "serious" is just disrespectful. Obviously we can speak to the quality of those films as cinema, but to say that they're worth less and not as important as these awards contenders is just silly. And let's not forget that there were plenty of people in attendance there, several nominees included, in addition to Gilroy's wife Rene Russo, who star in these movies
There are just as many bad movies seeking awards attention, whether it's from studios or in the indie world on the film festival circuit, as there are blockbuster movies that feel like they're churned out of a marketing machine. But any movie has the potential to have substance, great characters, a compelling story and quality filmmaking. If The Academy started recognizing comedies and blockbuster films that stand just as tall as traditional awards contenders then they might not be facing such low ratings for the Academy Awards telecast this year. At the end of the day, it's all subjective, but James Gunn is right in this case. Thoughts?