James Gunn has jumped to the defense of the movie blockbuster in the face of some blistering criticism from Jodie Foster. Foster had some blunt and critical words to share on the subject of movie blockbusters recently. The acting and directing legend was highly critical of big Hollywood movies and the comic book genre in particular. Although she is probably best known for her role as an actress, Foster has carved a role for herself and much acclaim in directing film and TV projects. Her latest credits include the shows Orange is The New Black, House of Cards and the controversial TV series Black Mirror. Foster’s recent comments however suggest that she’s not going to be taking on a blockbuster project anytime soon.
Essentially Foster feels that the big budget comic book projects have conditioned audiences in a negative way. She equated this kind of film making with fracking. While there may be immediate profits in the long-term both fracking and big budget blockbusters end up destroying their environments according to Foster. In the interview with the Radio Times Foster said “It’s ruining the viewing habits of the American population and then ultimately the rest of the world.” And that she didn’t have any interest in a lavish budget production which she lambasted as being like going to a theme park. She suggested that studios were interested only in the quick return for their shareholders.
James Gunn, Director of Guardians of the Galaxy took to Twitter to weigh in on the subject. In a series of thoughtful tweets, Gunn attempted to address her points. He suggested that her thinking represented an old-fashioned way of regarding cinema where “spectacle film can’t be thought provoking”. While he conceded that this could of course be true sometimes it was not always true. He also posited that the argument had some basis and was very commonly held view. Indeed it is a widely held belief that only small budget films are worthy and thought provoking while higher budget films sacrifice artistry to appeal to wider audiences. A recent spate of comic book films would fiercely challenge those assumptions including the recent Logan, from the X-Men franchise and the Dark Knight movies.
Gunn respectfully suggested that there are some filmmakers involved in spectacle film who are trying to give the big blockbusters the vision and the heart with which they are not normally associated. He asserted that making humane and thought provoking films was the thing that excited him about his job as a director. Gunn also turned the actress’s comments that she makes “movies because there are things I have to say in order to figure out who I am or my place in the world, or for me to evolve as a person” on their head. He responded that he did not view making films as primarily about his personal growth as she claimed to believe. Gunn added that when he spends millions of dollars on the movie it is about more than him, it’s about communication. The Director of Guardians of the Galaxy ended his series of tweets respectfully stating that he had great respect for Jodie Foster and her perspective. That ended a very polite spat on Twitter.
Regardless of Foster’s concerns, big budget superhero movies are here to stay. It seems to me that Foster might be better to watch some of these movies to see that many are not just simple action packed set pieces but are peopled with extremely complex and intriguing characters. Directors like James Gunn and Christopher Nolan are developing and evolving to re-imagine the genre.