For an audience that scrutinizes, pores over, and is highly critical of every scrap of information regarding superhero movies (recent example: the first look at Aquaman), comic book fans can be remarkably sensitive, or in the case of this latest “controversy,” miss the point completely.
This weekend, at both The Oscars and the Indie Spirit Awards, superhero and blockbuster films were taken to task. In a playful music number at the Oscars, Jack Black sang, “Opening with lots of zeroes, all we get are superheroes: Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Jedi Man, Sequel Man, Prequel Man, formulaic scripts!” Dan Gilroy, accepting his award for “Nightcrawler” at the Indie Spirits, noted with a bit more gravity: “Independent film, the foundation and everybody here today, I think are holdouts against a tsunami of superhero movies that have swept over this industry. We have survived and we have thrived and I think that’s true spirit.”
Both comments rankled comic book movie devotees, and “Guardians Of The Galaxy” director James Gunn took to Facebook to make a vigorous defense in favor of superhero flicks. While he says he wasn’t offended by Black’s verse at the Oscars, he thinks that “the truth is, popular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite.” That’s a fairly empty statement and sort of ignores the fact that companies like Disney and Marvel — who bequeath movies like “Guardians Of The Galaxy” with hundred million dollar plus budgets — are “the elite.” He then closes by saying: “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.”
No one is denying the craft that goes into making blockbuster movies. In fact, this year’s Oscars saw “Guardians,” “Interstellar,” “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes,” “X-Men: Days Of Future Past,” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” all nominated. Yes, it was largely in technical categories, but even then, this isn’t an argument about whether or not ‘Guardians’ or films like it deserve slots in categories like Best Screenplay or Best Picture.
This is about the industry, and the point that Black (musically) and Gilroy (seriously) are making, is that studios don’t invest in independent, original dramas and stories in the same way they throw truckloads of cash at blockbusters, board game movies, video game flicks, and superhero tales. And when you’re talking about the long term viability of an industry and an art form, these are worrying concerns, because if Hollywood continues to put all their financial and creative eggs in a single basket, there will be a bottoming out. And that’s not elitism, it’s a fact.
Read Gunn’s full statement below.