James Gunn Knocks Award Season Digs at Superhero Films and Filmmakers

Feb 24, 2015

Over the last few days of the award season, Hollywood seemed to take some swipes at superhero films. During the Spirit awards, Dan Gilroy took a jab at them, saying:

“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.”

Ironic, coming from the guy who wrote Real Steel, is working on Stan Lee’s Annihilators, and whose Wife is Renee Russo, who plays Thor’s mother Frigga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The jab isn’t the first time some have spoken out against the superhero films, sequels, and reboots that are a part of the film landscape. But it wouldn’t be the end of it. Last night’s Academy Award show had an opening number which saw Jack Black going on a tirade about superhero films, sequels, reboots, and more as well. It was one that was maybe supposed to be tongue and cheek, but came off more bitter and annoyed, which I brought up in our Academy Awardwrite up this morning.

Well, it seems it wasn’t just film fans who weren’t pleased with the digs either, as Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has now come back with a rather elegant response, via his Facebook. Check it out below:

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 no 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.

Gunn, who has been one of my favorite filmmakers for sometime, absolutely nails his point home. There’s a weird air of snobbiness against superhero films lately. Not just superhero films though, but sequels, remakes, reboots, or reimaginings. Anything that isn’t completely new and original is starting to get looked down on by an elite group of film fans, and now apparently those in the business as well. It’s too bad, because Gunn is right on the money here. Just because a film isn’t completely original doesn’t mean the same love, time, and devotion isn’t put into it as an indie film, or a big budget original film. Just because a film is original also doesn’t make it better than everything around it. The Wachowskis were probably very proud of Jupiter Ascending, but it didn’t stop the film from being one of bigger disappointments of the last few years, and being original didn’t make the movie better.

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The heart and soul that guys like Gunn, Whedon, the Russo Bros., Snyder, and even Nolan put into their superhero films shows, because they love the characters and the source material. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t original, it matters that they have a voice, and want to share their story with the world. Does it make them an less of an auteur than the likes of Steve Spielberg? Spielberg’s filmography is filled with great, fun, blockbuster films, while also being home to some of the best dramas of the past four decades. A film is only as good as its filmmaker, and it doesn’t matter where the filmmaker is coming from, or what they’re making. No one says there’s too many book adaptations, or makes fun of a filmmaker for trying to turn a book into a film, so why should we knock the filmmakers who adapt comic material. Peter Jackson’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings is beloved by audiences around the world, and is a sweeping fantasy epic based on a book. How is that different than basing things off a comic?

Then we have the likes of Guillermo del Toro who has made a balance of making adapted material, as well as his own. He’s a filmmaker who pours his love and care into a project, no matter where the idea has come from. Anyone who watched Pacific Rim come to fruition, or watched the special features, knows how much of himself he poured into the film. He crafted so many different Jaeger variants, most of which never made it to screen, just to make sure he nailed it down. This is the same man who brought us Pan’s Labyrinth, one of the most original, dark, adult fairytales that took the world by storm. Its’ a movie I revisit frequently. On top of that, del Toro has also done three separate comic book adaptations, one in Blade 2, and two Hellboy films. Those last three are no lesser films because they’re based on comics, and his Hellboy films have more love and devotion put into them than most films you’ll ever see, original or not.

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I live in a world where I get to see my favorite comic book characters get to be on the big screen, while also enjoying the brilliant original films like Whiplash, enjoy the strange curiosities of Wes Anderson, the grand ambition of Christopher Nolan, and the dark and noire centric David Fincher. There is not a better time to be a film fan, so it’s a little weird that anyone would want to draw a line down in the sand and force people to pick between indie and smaller films versus blockbusters, like Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Why do so many act like we can’t like both?

This is a time where it has never been easier to access film on a global scale. We can watch hundreds of new films in a year, from all over the world, by people from all walks of life. We all have access to iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon, as well as a megaplex that plays all sorts of films. There has never been a time where you could find films from anywhere, about anything, at any time. So instead of harping on the comic book films, the sequels, and the reboots, maybe take the time you’d use to complain to look into something you’d want to see. These filmmakers are pouring themselves into these movies for your enjoyment, regardless of where the ideas are coming from.

So if you think these films are bad, and the filmmakers are dumb, much like Gunn said, just say. But don’t for one second think these filmmakers don’t love what they’re making, and are just coasting along. If beloved filmmakers like Gunn, del Toro, Nolan, and many others can walk between big budget fair and smaller films, this shouldn’t even be a discussion. If they can tell the story they want to tell, regardless of how big or small, regardless of what it’s based on, and people enjoy the films, then these guys and gals of Hollywood have done their job. I’m glad that James Gunn could put this out there, putting his feels on the situation on the line, and stands up for those filmmakers out there. This isn’t about what’s better, it’s about respecting the filmmakers and what they’re making, regardless of what it is. Enjoy cinema as it is, and take in the big and small films. You might be surprised that you can like both.

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