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James Gunn defends superhero genre movies

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James Gunn Guardians Poster

Genres rise and fall in popularity across all art and entertainment forms, from artwork to literature to music to movies; the latter being most relevant to us here at The Movies for obvious reasons. The one movie genre that’s clearly riding that wave of popularity is the superhero, raking in billions of box office dollars not just from comic book fans, but all movie-goers, and with critical acclaim in many instances. While we passionately argue the merits of our favourite Marvel or DC movies, or TV series for that matter, many of us enjoy the genre. However it’s also not uncommon to see genre work, again in all art and entertainment forms, referred to as lesser works in comparison to more true-to-life works; by people uncharitably referred to by me as pretentious, bohemian snobs.

And the superhero genre is a very big target for that kind of criticism at the moment. So much so that in the wake of the Oscars, which had a number of snide comments for the genre, James Gunn, director of last years incredibly entertaining (and successful) Guardians of the Galaxy, made a fairly lengthy Facebook post (via JoBlo) defending the genre:

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.

Ouch. Take that you pretentious, bohemian snobs. I have no problem admitting that a talking raccoon and tree brought tears to my cynical old eyes, in much the same way a scene from a more reality-based movie with genuine emotion would if that emotion has meaning to me. The experience is not lessened because of a fantastical setting or participants.

For reference this was the lyric from the song Jack Black performed that referred to superheros:

This industry’s in flux; it’s run by mucky-mucks, pitching tents for tent poles and chasing Chinese bucks.
Opening with lots of zeroes, all we get is superheroes.
Superman, Spider-Man, Batman,
Jedi man, sequel man, prequel man.
Formulaic scripts and after 50 Shade of Grey, they’ll all have leather whips.

It’s funny because it’s true. The more I read that the more I see how Black has accurately described the movie industry at the moment.

When it comes to genre work it’s all, quite simply, a matter of taste. And that taste is personal for every one of us, and can be as broad or narrow as you choose. I generally can’t stand horror movies. One of the best things about movies is that you can find something to suit any taste, and while you may not enjoy movies in a particular genre please don’t turn around and say they’re “not real movies”; because they are. So can’t we all just get along, world peace and all that? Oh, and Star Wars is silly.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: February 24, 2015

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