James Gunn just took to his Facebook page to defend comic book movies. As you’d expect from the man who made Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s kind of awesome. But, first, the set-up:
Look, comic book movies are doing just fine for themselves at the moment, even with Sony’s on-going drama with Spider-Man. The bubble hasn’t actually burst yet, although it most definitely will at some point. Hugh Jackman apparently wants to keep playing Wolverine until he dies. So, no one really needs to defend the comic book movie right now. However, after what happened over the weekend at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday and the Academy Awards on Sunday it does kind of feel like comic book movies are under attack.
First, Nightcrawler writer-director Dan Gilroy praised the Independent Spirit Awards crowd for holding out “against the tsunami of superhero movies that have swept over this industry.” Then, Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s about a former comic book movie actor (Michael Keaton) suffering a mental breakdown while attempting to stage a Raymond Carver play on Broadway, but at various points the film practically shakes its finger at the audience for embracing mindless comic book drudgery instead of true art. Its director, Alejandro Inarritu, is on record as thinking that the superhero movie in particular is bad for society, telling Deadline, “[Superhero movies] have been poison, this cultural genocide, because the audience is so overexposed to plot and explosions and shit that doesn’t mean nothing about the experience of being human […] It’s a false, misleading conception, the superhero.”
As such, it seemed pretty fitting that The Hollywood Reporter titled its Oscars recap “Birdman Wins, As Hollywood Atones for Its Superhero Movies,” joking the film is like a roast of Hollywood which everyone laughed about and applauded even though they’re just heading right back to work the next day to continue planning out the next decade of superhero movies. However, there are those who reject the very idea that Hollywood actually has anything to atone for, seeing this recent run of attacks as another example of how there are those who claim to love film (like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences) but do not, in fact, take every genre seriously. There are also those who might watch Birdman and still walk away thinking, “I don’t care what that movie says. My favorite film last year is still Guardians of the Galaxy.” Collider even took a crack at Birdman, arguing that Rocket the Raccoon is possibly a more nuanced character than anyone in Birdman‘s cliche-ridden, yet now Oscar-winning script. It’s also possible to simply like both Birdman and Guardians of the Galaxy just as it’s also possible to dislike Birdman for many reasons which have nothing to do with its commentary on the state of superhero cinema.
James Gunn looked at all of this and said:
“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.”
If you’re unfamiliar with his background, James Gunn truly has run the spectrum of Hollywood, working on the lowest of low-budget movies during his early days with Troma Entertainment and acting as the general of the small army responsible for Guardians of the Galaxy, the second highest-grossing film of 2014. In-between those two extremes, he wrote indie films like The Specials (a superhero comedy, appropriate enough), major studio films like Scooby-Doo, Dawn of the Dead, and Scooby Doo 2, dabbled with online-only content like the web-series James Gunn’s PG Porn and the XBox Live-exclusive short Sparky and Mikaela, and he was even a judge on a VH1 reality TV show. He was also married to Jenna Fischer from The Office from 2000 to 2008. That actually doesn’t have anything to do with any of this. I just wanted to share it because I didn’t know about it until like two minutes ago.
So, considering that great variety in Gunn’s experience the major takeaway I have from his Facebook commentary is his conclusion that, “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.” In other word, just because someone is working on one type of film doesn’t automatically make them an artist to be admired or a hack to be derided.
That all being said, I don’t actually disagree with Dan Gilroy. Even if I personally like them, superheroes have unquestionably taken over Hollywood like a tsunami, but I love that James Gunn is out there standing up for himself and the Russo Brothers and Joss Whedon.
What about you? Where do you stand on all of this? Or do you just wish James Gunn would post more pictures of his adorable dog on Facebook? Let me know in the comments.