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On the heels of his upcoming DC film The Suicide Squad, James Gunn is sharing how unimpressed he is with the current state of the superhero genre, calling the comic book adaptations “really dumb” and “mostly boring for me, right now.”
In a recent interview with The Irish Times, the Guardians of the Galaxy director shared that he thinks the genre needs to change things up and “bring in other elements” to avoid becoming stale. He points to the rise and fall of other movie genres, like war films and Westerns, as proof that the genre’s future is “going to get really, really boring” if things don’t change.
“We know about the way cowboy films went, and the way war films went,” he said. “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 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.”
Gunn explained that he hadn’t always felt this way about these adaptations, which he “loved at the beginning,” before noting that the advancement of visual effects was one of the main reasons he fell in love with the genre.
The 1978 Superman is a film he still loves, and that had him “really excited” about the genre, though the writer-director acknowledged it featured “a guy on wires and bluescreen with this sort of crappy visual effects.” He also pointed to Marvel’s Iron Man as yet another example of the ways superhero films have excitingly advanced movies.
“[W]hen 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,” Gunn continued.
The director then spoke about two of his personal creative inspirations, elaborating on how they’ve influenced his expectations for the genre. Gunn subtly calls out the role of things like costuming and how physically fit many onscreen heroes are, suggesting that body diversity and a more ragtag or distinctive style are what he enjoys most out of the genre.
“I was always influenced by Dave Gibbons art and Alan Moore’s Watchmen where the costumes didn’t fit the superheroes perfectly, and they had a little bit of a paunch,” Gunn said. “They weren’t all perfect bodies; they weren’t all beautiful. When they fought, they were kind of getting in the stupid Bartleby thing of getting into bar fights.”
Despite his somewhat generalized statement about the genre, Gunn did ultimately acknowledge that it isn’t a monolith. “There are people trying to do some different things with superheroes,” he said. “So it’s not 100 percent a rule that everybody isn’t, but a lot of superhero films are boring.”
Speaking about the stylistic elements of his own upcoming superhero film The Suicide Squad, Gunn shared that for filming the “big” and “broad” adventure he dubbed “a spectacle war film,” the studio built “the biggest set that was ever built before” and used “more practical special effects than we’ve ever used in any movie.”
“It just makes it more fun to shoot when I’m actually blowing things up as opposed to having silly-looking CGI explosions.”
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Robert De Niro