Comic book movies have come a long way. While there were plenty before Blade, X-Men, Spider-Man, those are the films that truly brought the genre into the public sphere (and the X-Men films, of course). Then came Warner Brother's Nolan Batman films—an all-around crowd favorite.
But something bigger was born from those early Marvel films: Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. His original work on those films is what led to his position at Marvel Studios, a place where the now world-famous producer would go on to create one of the biggest things to ever exist in cinematic history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Feige's creation has now expanded far, and within it houses 24 films and three streaming shows. No one would have ever guessed that such a thing would ever exist and certainly not to the scale at which the MCU has now achieved. With something so big, though, comes critics.
From Martin Scorses to Alejandro G. Iñárritu and even Francis Ford Coppola, there are plenty who don't find joy in what superheroes have to bring to the table.
Thankfully, the world has someone like Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn to defend the genre's honor.
JAMES GUNN THE DEFENDER
James Gunn recently made an appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast where host Josh Horowitz asked him if the director feels the responsibility to defend what he’s devoted so much of his life to: Comic book movies.
The particular example addressed was Martin Scorsese’s comments, where the famous filmmaker blasted Marvel Films by saying that they are “not cinema.” In response, Gunn said that he thinks “that it seems awful cynical that he would keep coming out against Marvel:”
“I don’t know… I just think that it seems awful cynical that he [Martin Scorsese] would keep coming out against Marvel, and then that’s the only thing that would get him press for his movie. So then he just kept coming out against Marvel, so that he could get press for his movies.”
Gunn then said he believes that because “he’s creating his movie in the shadow of the Marvel films,” he feels the need to keep touching upon the topic to get press attention he wouldn't otherwise get:
“So, he’s creating his movie in the shadow of the Marvel films, and so he uses that to get attention for something that he wasn’t getting as much attention as he wanted… and he’s one of the greatest filmmakers whose ever existed.”
Of course, Scorsese’s comments don’t hinder Gunn’s ability to enjoy his films. According to The Suicide Squad director, “[he] can watch his movies with no problem.”
Even more than that, though, Gunn agreed that “there are a lot of things that are true about what he said:”
“I love his movies, I can watch his movies with no problem. And, he said a lot of things that I agree with. There are a lot of things that are true about what he said. There are a lot of heartless soulless, spectacle films out there, that don’t reflect what should be happening. I mean, I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve talked to film directors before they went in to make a big movie, and said ‘hey we’re in this together, let's do something different with these big movies, let's make them something different than what’s come before ‘em.’ And then see just go and cater to every single studio whim or what’s thought of and just be grossed out frankly.”
It’s a double-edged sword, however, as Gunn pointed out that “he [Scorsese] hasn’t seen my movie.” While that quote is in relation to Gunn’s specific films, it also speaks to the notion that Scorsese is commenting on films that he hasn’t seen—one’s in a genre that has evolved immensely since their debut.
At the end of the day, Gunn admitted that Scorsese's comments “[were] irritating:”
“So a lot of what he said was good, and then also, he hasn’t seen my movie. He doesn’t know what my movie is. So, you know, it was irritating. My feelings were hurt! You know? And listen, more hurt by Copella comes out and… says they’re despicable. That was way worse than what Martin Scorcese said. ‘They’re despicable?’ I’m like… alright…”
GUNN, THE HERO OF COMIC BOOK MOVIES
It's not like James Gunn has had the cleanest history with Marvel Studios.
He was fired ahead of production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 only to then be picked up by Warner Bros. for the now-releasing film, The Suicide Squad. Just before the production of said film, Gunn was rehired by Disney and placed back on the project—a move that brought the emotional roller coaster to a halt.
So, the fact that Gunn is still able to defend the studios and genre, let alone still participate in it, is a feat. His defenses always seem genuine as does his continued involvement; something proved by how fantastic The Suicide Squad ended up being. One can only hope that, despite all the delays, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ends up the same way.
With how fast the genre continues to expand, especially given the future roster of the MCU, comic book films will definitely need to be constantly evolving in order to stay afloat. If something like the MCU has those harsh critics now, imagine what it will look like in just a few years.
The Suicide Squad debuts in theaters and on HBO Max on August 6, 2021, while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is slated to hit theaters on May 5, 2023.