With 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn marked himself out as one of the most original superhero filmmakers in the industry, helping to change the shape of the MCU as the franchise thereafter veered towards more off-beat, heavily comedic projects. Now that he’s working over at DC, Gunn’s doing much the same for the DCEU. His wacky war movie The Suicide Squad is about to hit theaters in a couple of weeks.
It’s no surprise, then, that Gunn has a warning to impart to his fellow directors working in this genre – and it’s to make sure to change things up and keep the material fresh or else the superhero craze will fizzle out. Speaking to The Irish times, Gunn came clean about his thoughts about contemporary comic book films, labelling most of them as “boring”, and pointing to the need to recapture the kind of freshness of 1978’s Superman or 2008’s Iron Man.
“We know about the way cowboy films went, and the way war films went. I don’t know, I think you don’t have to be a genius to put two and two together and see that there’s a cycle to those sorts of films, you know and that the only hope for the future of the comic book and superhero films is to change them up. They’re really dumb. And they’re mostly boring for me right now. I loved them at the beginning. I was really excited when they first started making those movies. It was about the visual effects when I saw Superman as a kid. I still love that movie. Okay, I know, that’s a guy on wires and bluescreen with this sort of crappy visual effects. And then when Iron Man came out, I was in. You’re able to make a guy fly around who looks like a guy flying around. And that was a beautiful thing to be able to do. But if the movies don’t change, it’s gonna get really, really boring.”
In many ways, Gunn is echoing the controversial comments that Steven Spielberg made a few years ago, when the legendary director said that superhero movies would “go the way of the western” and eventually dry up. With the comic book content boom we’re currently in, it’s hard to imagine that happening anytime soon, but Gunn’s right that the genre needs to keep evolving to put that point off for as long as possible.
Thankfully, it looks like most creatives have already got that message. In particular, superhero TV shows are a hotbed of originality right now, with 2021 delivering a range of subversive, acclaimed series. e.g. WandaVision, Invincible and Loki. As long as the movies learn the right lessons from these successes, the genre should remain in a healthy state for years to come.
James Gunn‘s The Suicide Squad opens in cinemas and on HBO Max from August 5th in the US, or July 30th in the UK.