Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn takes umbrage with some shots taken at superhero films during the last few days of awards season. First, at the Independent Spirit Awards, Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy—whose wife, Rene Russo, starred in two Thor films—decried the “tsunami of superhero films” that has hit the industry. Then, during the opening musical number of the Academy Awards, 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!” On Monday, Gunn responded to these comments via a Facebook post:
“What bothers me slightly is that many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them than people do who make independent films or who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films … 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.”
He might have a point about superhero films not being considered serious filmmaking: Although Guardians Of The Galaxy, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier all were heralded by critics and audiences alike, they were only nominated in technical categories at this year’s Academy Awards, and none of them won. The only superhero film to take home an Oscar on Sunday was Disney’s Big Hero 6 for Best Animated Film, but that’s probably just because Academy voters never watched their Lego Movie screeners.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about Gunn taking up the cause is that he somewhat recently complained about Hollywood’s growing fascination with shared universes, a trend that started at Marvel and that Gunn continued with Guardians (and will happily rejuvenate with Guardians Of The Galaxy 2). So, while Gunn probably does love his talking raccoon just as much as Richard Linklater adores his own protagonists, the comic enthusiast remains a crucial cog in the superhero machine that, sure, is kind of like a tsunami and, yeah, relies on somewhat formulaic scripts. (Compare the third acts of every Marvel film, and you’ll find more than a few similarities.)
Thus, this debate likely will continue. Either that, or Gunn, the Russo Brothers, and Whedon will simply accept widespread critical acclaim and towering box office receipts as confirmation of a job well done, instead of a measly gold statue.