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James Gunn posts thoughtful response to Jodie Foster's comments about blockbusters: 'Spectacle films need a vision and heart'

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Jan 2, 2018, 4:40 PM EST (Updated)

Sometimes it's very easy to feel like the state of cinema has been reduced to nothing but megafranchises. The marketing is omnipresent. You can't go to the grocery store without seeing Star Wars-branded cereal or Marvel-branded Doritos. When a major blockbuster is about to come out, the marketing can feel like an all-out assault on the senses, even as indie filmmakers and mid-budget films are trying to get as much exposure as they can. Even if you love superhero films and space operas (and we here at SYFY WIRE certainly do), it can make you a little weary sometimes.

If that's true for you, you're not alone. Oscar-winning actress and accomplished director Jodie Foster is with you. Foster has nothing against genre stories — she's making the rounds right now to promote the episode of Black Mirror she directed — but she is concerned about the continued prominence of massive blockbusters, calling them "bad content" made purely so the studios and their shareholders can make money. 

"I don’t want to make $200 million movies about superheroes," she reportedly said in a recent interview

Now, one director who's in the business of making $200 million movies about superheroes — Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn — has responded to Foster in a very thoughtful and respectful way. When asked about her comments via Twitter, Gunn responded with a short thread acknowledging that, while many blockbusters can just be about commodification of a franchise, you can still make superhero movies with heart.

You can click through to read the whole thread, but in case you don't want to, here's Gunn's full statement:

“I think Foster looks at film in an old-fashioned way where spectacle film can’t be thought-provoking. It’s often true but not always. Her belief system is pretty common and isn’t totally without basis. I say not without basis because most studio franchise films are quite soulless – and that is a real danger to the future of movies. But there are also quite a few exceptions.

"For cinema to survive I believe spectacle films NEED to have a vision and heart they traditionally haven’t. And some of us are doing our best to move in that direction. Creating spectacle films that are innovative, humane, and thoughtful is what excites me about this job.

"But, to be fair, at least from Foster’s quotes, she seems to see filmmaking as something that’s primarily about her own personal growth. For me, that may be part of why I do this, but spending many millions of dollars on a film has to be about more than that – it’s communication – so my experience is merely one spoke on that wheel. But I respect Foster and what she’s done for films and I appreciate her different way of looking at Hollywood’s landscape.”

What's interesting about this is both Foster and Gunn make good points from different perspectives. Foster sees a world in which massive amounts of money are spent so people can look at giant robots for two hours and guzzle popcorn and soda so a corporate entity can collect its money. Gunn sees a world in which, while that definitely happens, you can also give the giant robots heart. Both things are true, but even if you're sick of watching Transformers movies at this point, spectacle films can still mean something. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gunn gave us a massive action spectacle full of spaceships and creatures and a talking raccoon, but he also gave us a touching story about fathers and sons and finding your true family.

It's also worth noting that Hollywood has a long history of using spectacle to tell classic stories — while they don't have any spaceships in them — from Gone With the Wind to Lawrence of Arabia.

Again, there's room for both arguments in this debate, and Foster and Gunn each make good points. Whose argument do you prefer? Let us know in the comments.