“Guardians” Director James Gunn Is On Point About The Value Of Action Movies
“Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn is pushing back against the recent spate of criticism of action movies, now that “Birdman” has taken home the Oscar for Best Picture. In a Facebook post, he wrote:
Whatever the case, the truth is, popular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite. […] 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 not find a strikingly different percentage of those with integrity and those without working within any of these fields of film.
Oh, man, preach, James Gunn. I’d argue that the stories people tell through films are all more or less the same, regardless of genre, and genre just provides the environments and character archetypes through which those stories are told. Some people really, really love the visuals, really love environments and characters that are aesthetically or functionally imaginary. Some people are really, truly, deep-down moved and inspired by fantastic scenery. To some of us, seeing impossible things onscreen makes us believe that there is a wider world of possibility than we originally imagined offscreen.
Besides, the boo-hooing about action movies implies that, for some reason, it’s impossible to write good films in the action genre. You’d be hard-pressed to tell me that “The Dark Knight” is a cinematically bad movie, or any of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, or “Seven Samurai” (you’d also be hard-pressed to convince me that that isn’t an action movie). You’d be hard-pressed to tell me that the best, most critically-acclaimed war movies are substantially different than most action movies in terms of plot. There are writers in every genre who are capable of composing their storytelling with nuance and beauty.
So you’d also be hard-pressed to tell me that “Gigli” even approaches being a good film despite being a drama, or that “I Heart Huckabees” is anything more than mediocre despite being think-y in a way that appealed to a lot of intellectual film-type people. I mean, in any art form, most of what’s produced is going to be OK at best. The difference between a just-OK drama and a just-OK action movie is that a just-OK action movie will keep your eyes occupied even if your brain isn’t, while a just-OK drama will fail to hold interest through either plot or visuals. The action genre has a built-in advantage.
So, sure, there are a lot of schlock action films, just as there are a lot of schlock dramas and comedies and war and romance movies. The success of comic book movies has been accompanied by an increase in the quality of those movies — compare “Electra” to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” if you would. The more we make action movies, and the more we make comic book movies in particular, the more we can identify the best talent in the genre and perfect action as a vehicle for great storytelling.
So buck up, y’all — instead of just dismissing them right off the bat, let’s watch the next 40 upcoming comic book movies with the same critical eye that we use to evaluate conventional dramas and comedies, and just like we do with every other genre, award the best of them. That’s a moderate enough suggestion, isn’t it?
[Image via Getty]
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