There’s a current trend of interviews happening where legendary directors are getting asked about Marvel movies. It’s a valid question because these are giants of cinemas who came up around the 1970s and, to be fair, kind of saw their Second Golden Age shunted aside by the Star Wars and Jaws of the world that paved the way for Marvel movies. Now that Marvel movies dominate the box office and cinemas, it’s fair to ask what these directors think of the current landscape. Martin Scorsese already voiced his displeasure, comparing Marvel movies to theme parks rather than cinema, and then Francis Ford Coppola weighed in, going so far as to call Marvel movies “despicable.”
James Gunn, who has been busy making superhero movies for the better part of this decade between the Guardians of the Galaxy films and the upcoming The Suicide Squad, responded to Coppola’s comments on Instagram, saying:
View this post on Instagram
Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful. Like westerns and gangster movies (and before that, just MOVIES), not everyone will be able to appreciate them, even some geniuses. And that’s okay.
While I think Marvel fans have gotten bent out of shape over these comments, Gunn, as a director who has poured his efforts into these movies, is well within his rights to respond to his fellow filmmakers. I admire that Gunn puts Marvel movies in a historical context, pointing out that genre cinema changes over time, but that doesn’t diminish great westerns or great gangster movies. Gunn doesn’t need Coppola’s approval because he notes that superhero movies aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t inherently make the entire genre “despicable” anymore than gangster movies or westerns were “despicable.”
The superhero genre doesn’t really need defending right now, but I can understand where Gunn is coming from because this isn’t just a genre he enjoys; it’s literally his work and I think he make a strong defense of it.