James Gunn's Response to Superhero Smacktalk is Absolutely Perfect

Tuesday, 24 February 2015 11:10 Written by  iamrogue
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James Gunn's Response to Superhero Smacktalk is Absolutely Perfect

You've probably read thinkpieces asking "Are there too many superhero movies these days?"  Maybe you've even wondered if spandex-wearing neon gods are taking over cinema as we know it.

Never mind that there were only four theatrical superhero movies in 2014.  Four.  This year, there are only three.

Maybe it's just because superheroes have taken over the popular culture, but a lot of folks have a strange, sky-is-falling attitude about these movies, one usually defined by a distaste – if not outright disdain – for comic book derring-do.  Best Picture winner Birdman treats comic book fare like a cinematic scourge, and during awards season, plenty of folks seemed to be looking down their noses at superpowered characters.

Nightcrawler writer-director Dan Gilroy typified this attitude while accepting his totally-deserved Best First Feature trophy at the Independent Spirit Awards over the weekend when he told the crowd (which included some at least a few nominees who, you know, play superheroes), "Independent film, the foundation and everybody here today, I think are holdouts against a tsunami of superhero movies that have swept over this industry."

James Gunn, the writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy, has addressed both Gilroy's comments and the mindset behind them with a thoughtful response.

After brushing off a Jack Black-delivered superhero joke from the Oscars, Gunn points out that Gilroy's wife, the great Rene Russo, has actually appeared in two Thor movies.  He goes on to say he gives Gilroy the benefit of the doubt since "I know I just kind of make up stuff as I go along on these awards shows."

It's in tackling the greater attitude about superhero movies that Gunn really shines in his facebook update, saying,

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.

Superhero movies are ridiculously popular and there are certainly more of them than there have been in the past, but Gunn's right: every genre, every arena of filmmaking, has its hucksters and puffery, as well as its expert craftspeople.  To dismiss a genre outright because of its crowd-pleasing elements is reductive and unfair to both the movies and the people who make them.

Yes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy represent populist cinema, but to paint either movie with a lowbrow brush ignores that, in our nobrow culture, notions of high-and-lowbrow simply aren't relevant any more. 

And then there's the simple fact that it's hard to think of three movies in a year as a "tsunami."

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