Superhero movies got raked over the coals this past weekend at two awards shows, and James Gunn had something to say about it.
First Nightcrawler writer/director Dan Gilroy said at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday (Feb. 21) that the indie filmmakers in the room at that event had survived a "tsunami of superhero films." Then, Jack Black did a bit during the opening number of the Oscars on Sunday night (Feb. 22) in which he blasted the major studios for their over-reliance on comic book-based movies.
Enter Gunn. In a post on Facebook, the Guardians of the Galaxy director and co-writer said he "didn't really find the Jack Black superhero jokes offensive" but thought that Gilroy's comments were "a bit weird" considering that his wife, Rene Russo, played Thor's mother, Frigga, in Marvel's two movies about the God of Thunder -- and probably brought home a decent salary for doing so.
Then Gunn continued:
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.
We're squarely with Gunn here. Your mileage may vary, but anyone really argue that Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers and Guardians are not quality films? They may all have shortcomings or not appeal to everyone, but these are well-crafted movies starring A-list actors and utilizing the best production values Hollywood has to offer. And yes, in their own way, each tries to say something about the world we live in or the human condition.
It's easy to pick on superhero movies: They are dominating the marketplace and, to be sure, there can be a certain sameness to them if you take them at face value. But as The Wrap pointed out, nine of the acting nominees at last night's Oscars have appeared, or will soon star, in superhero movies -- from Michael Keaton to Benedict Cumberbatch to Marion Cotillard -- which speaks volumes about the draw for actors to take on these roles. That's not even counting past Oscar winners like Christian Bale or nominees like Amy Adams.
Plus, starring in or directing a hit superhero movie can give actors and directors the kind of leverage they need to go out and get the money to make different kinds of movies -- which talents like Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon and Jeremy Renner have all done or will be doing. Dan Gilroy is a very talented filmmaker (Nightcrawler was outstanding) and while we'd love to see what he does next, we would be just as interested if he accepted an assignment from Marvel or D.C. as well.
What did you think of Gilroy and Black's comments? What about Gunn's response? Do superhero movies get a raw deal from "serious" filmmakers?