The director of The Suicide Squad has clapped back at Martin Scorsese almost two years after the fact, but it’s understandable why he feels slighted.
Back in October 2019, the film world was all aflutter after one of its most distinguished elder statesmen, Martin Scorsese, decried the Marvel comic book movies as “not cinema”, instead likening them to “theme parks”.
Much ink was shed on this battlefield, with hostile partisans of both sides attacking the other, either for snobbery or for lack of taste. Now that the debate has finally calmed down, the Director of The Suicide Squad, James Gunn, seems to have blown on his bugle to declare war once again.
Speaking on a podcast, Gunn said “I just think it seems awful cynical that he would keep coming out against Marvel and then that is the only thing that would get him press for his movie. He’s creating his movie in the shadow of the Marvel films, and so he uses that to get attention for something he wasn’t getting as much attention as he wanted for it.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say that there’s even more wrong with these statements than there was with the original Suicide Squad movie.
Firstly, Martin Scorsese does not need to slag off superhero films to attract attention to his own. He’s Martin Scorsese, for God’s sake; I’d watch him direct a 30-second advert for dishwasher tablets. It seems rather unlikely that The Irishman garnered 10 Oscar nominations and attracted over 26 million views in its first week on Netflix just because Marty didn’t like Ant-Man.
Secondly, for James Gunn to level the charge of attention seeking at anyone else would be to reach levels of irony hitherto unplumbed. This is the director who (temporarily) lost his job when reams of his sick tweets on taboo subjects were discovered on his Twitter timeline; the only admissible excuse for these less than juvenile jokes was to attract attention, even if just of disapproval and disgust.
Keeping the criticism on subject, you can even say that Gunn dredging up this hot feud almost two whole years too late, while his new film just coincidentally happens to be in cinemas, is also a classic case of headline hunting.
That said, however, James Gunn did hit the mark with some of his other comments on the subject, above all when he resents Scorsese airing his disapproval of films he hasn’t even seen. The veteran director has admitted to not seeing the Guardians of the Galaxy films (and I’m guessing he wasn’t waiting in line for The Suicide Squad‘s first weekend in cinemas), so it’s unfair to lump these offbeat movies in with the rest of Marvel’s fare before giving them a chance.
Secondly, it is fair to say that Gunn does have somewhat more verve and individuality to his movies than most other comic book flicks, which are increasingly coming across as painting-by-numbers exercises. Both he and Zack Snyder, while certainly not to everyone’s taste, have a distinctive style of film-making that may well fall short of deserving the “auteur” moniker, but nonetheless possess an identifiable style and have clearly resonated with a significant number of people. Actors and fans passionately rallied around Gunn and even saved his career after he was fired for the Twitter controversy, while the efforts of Snyder’s devotees saw him given wads of studio cash for reshoots to make Zack Snyder’s Justice League a reality.
So while James Gunn may have kicked off his comments with less self-awareness than the proverbial emperor showing off his new clothes, it’s fair to say that in a genre where he stands out for having delivered some much-needed creativity, he at least deserves to be judged by his own work and not by the reputation of his peers.