James Gunn Favorite Movies of 2014

While indies like Birdman and Whiplash were being feted this weekend, superhero movies were taking a verbal drubbing. On Saturday, Dan Gilroy blasted the “tsunami of superhero movies” while accepting an Independent Spirit Award for Nightcrawler. One day later, Jack Black ranted about “Superman, Spider-man, Batman, Jediman, Sequelman, Prequelman — formulaic scripts!” in the opening number at the Oscars.

Now one of the people behind those superhero movies is talking back. James Gunn has penned an eloquent defense of films like his own Guardians of the Galaxy, pointing out that superhero filmmakers put just as much “love, care, and thought” into their project as indie and elite filmmakers do. Read the James Gunn superhero movie defense after the jump. 

Gunn responded to the awards-season superhero zingers on Facebook. While he insists he wasn’t offended by Black’s joke or angry about Gilroy’s speech, he nevertheless felt compelled to defend himself and his big-budget-movie-making colleagues:

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.

In fairness, it doesn’t sound like Gilroy’s speech and Black’s Oscar skit were railing against the directors or stars of superhero films so much as the genre’s general ubiquity. And on that front, “tsunami” seems pretty accurate. There are something like 30 Marvel and DC adaptations coming in the next five years. Meanwhile, as so many have complained, studios can’t or won’t scrounge together $40 million for an adult-oriented original drama.

Still, there’s no arguing that the industry seems to look down on superhero movies. The Academy regularly overlooks them in favor of middling historical dramas. Superhero stars and filmmakers who crave awards or prestige have to slip low-budget indies in between big-budget sequels.

As many have pointed out, it’s especially odd that the Hollywood elite are bashing superhero movies when so many of them are making money off of superhero movies. About half of the acting nominees have also appeared in superhero films. Gilroy’s own wife Rene Russo co-starred in two Thor pictures. Even Birdman capitalized on the popularity of superhero movies in a twisted way — it rode the industry’s ambivalence about the genre all the way to a Best Picture win.

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