Let's be honest, regardless of how you feel about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's already an iconic pop-culture phenomenon that has brought millions of people to their screens. We believe that much of the success of this film universe has been thanks to the "Guardians of the Galaxy" dylogy and director James Gunn in particular. Plus, we've only recently seen the director's most recent film: "Suicide Squad"- and we wondered how Gunn's life and career unfolded before "Guardians of the Galaxy". Our thoughts will, of course, be shared with you. Today, let's talk about Jayme Gunn's directorial style and journey.
Art by @nadi_bulochka
What came before Guardians of the Galaxy?
As it turns out, Gunn's love of cinema began when he was a child. He grew up with very distinctive genre films of the time: he was particularly impressed by such classics as "Friday the 13th", "Night of the Living Dead" and the original "Dawn of the Dead". In short, Gunn was a fan of zombie films as well as B-movies, which shaped his style in the early years of his career.
Surprisingly enough, Gunn began his career in the industry in the '90s as the screenwriter of "Tromeo and Juliet". In fact, it's worth elaborating here not only on Gunn's first job, but also on the studio that produced "Tromeo and Juliet". Troma Entertainment is a film studio that is iconic in narrow circles and is known for being one of the oldest companies to produce auteur films. Just want to name the titles of the films they have released: "Surf Nazis Must Die", "Chopper Chicks In Zombie Town", "Zombie Island Massacre" and others. I think commentary is unnecessary because these are B-movies. So it was at Troma Entertainment that James Gunn started his career: he wrote the script for "Tromeo and Juliet" and rumour has it that he did it for a mere $150.
So, "Tromeo and Juliet". In general, Gunn's role in this project is much more than that of a screenwriter - in fact, he quite often substituted for the director, his friend, Lloyd Kaufman on the set. This film belongs to the ones that hardly anyone would want to see now because it is pure absurdity and deliberate counterculture: in the original version of the script, Tromeo was a drug dealer and Juliet was a stripper. However, in the film these same characters were shown as a punk neo-formal and a lesbian. In short, it is a crazy and funny movie that shows the classic Shakespearean plot in a very unexpected way and the process of filming itself sounds crazy: one of the actresses has a nervous breakdown, one of the stunts almost ends in death, riots, diarrhoea and all that.
What else is there to say about Tromeo and Juliet..? It's a bad movie. But like many B movies its main task is to be a bad movie, and Gunn and Kaufman handle it perfectly. They transferred the stereotypical image of the 90s to the screen, saturated the picture with ultra-violence, punk rock and debauchery and voila - a finished satire of the decaying society of the time.
Of further work, he was the screenwriter of "The Specials", "Thir13en Ghosts", "Scooby-Doo", "Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed", but all of these films are of little interest because they are just so bad. Their main problem is that Gunn has a specific humour and vision that is inseparable from his favourite Troma Entertainment studio films. So his scripts are made intentionally bad, as for a B-movie, but implemented by people who were trying to make a serious project. The end result is just a very bad movie.
Skipping all the junk, we move on to the picture that has now become iconic - "Dawn of the Dead". After the "Scooby-Doo" dylogy raised a lot of money, Gunn had the opportunity to work on the script for "Dawn of the Dead", which was not only the best of director Zack Snyder's career, but simply the brightest thing in the horror genre. Gunn has the advantage of creating many vivid characters that are predominantly revealed through dialogue. They are lively and very charismatic, so the film looks fresh. And in this film, Gunn didn't just express himself through the characters - he brought in such chips as the zombie child and the zombie baby. With this film, James Gunn had stripped himself of his stigma as a comedy writer and established himself as a talented horror film writer, which was fully in line with his dream of making his own horror film. So he began work on "Slither".
After becoming both a writer and a director, Gunn was finally able to develop his own directorial style which still echoes in his scripts from the past; one of Gunn's main hallmarks is the body horror: the emphasis on physical alterations and corporeal metamorphosis which are frighteningly ugly and alien. Generally "Slither" was particularly relevant, because by 2006 the horror genre was oversaturated with zombies and mockumentaries, and body horror and classic horror films such as "The Thing", "The Fly" etc. where the main horror is just that, people turning into scary monsters.
Now it's time to talk about the film that probably convinced the producers to approve Gunn as the director of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - "Super". What's most ironic about "Super" is its very sharp critique of the superhero movie genre. Firstly, the film lacks pathos - it is as down-to-earth as possible and tells the story of an ordinary man. Secondly, the protagonist is an obvious loser who has lost his mind and decided to take the path of the arbiter of justice. The film raises the classic themes of right and wrong, justice and whether one can take justice into his own hands. It's all framed in a realistic setting where the fights are functional and short: the fatal blows are lethal and the protagonist is not invulnerable. Plus, the camerawork is entirely in keeping with this, as almost the entire film is done in a documentary style. Super is a very funny and unusual film that is overflowing with ultra-violence, black humour and pop culture references - sounds more familiar already, doesn't it?
"Guardians of the Galaxy" and Beyond
This is a landmark project in James Gunn's career - and not just because it's a very big-budget film, but because Gunn was given maximum creative freedom, which is why the film turned out so great. The brisk action, the funny and local humour, and the family and friendship themes all present Guardians as a great movie. However, in "Guardians of the Galaxy", Gunn's talent for creating truly vivid characters is on full display, with absolutely every member of the team presenting a distinct and well-developed personality. Gunn put a lot of himself into them and that's why they're so compelling to watch. Also, the film has a bombastic soundtrack, which coupled with Gunn's characteristically dorky direction gives it a unique style.
In general, we think that James Gunn is a phenomenal director. He began by writing screenplays for B-movies, then found success as a writer of dumb comedies, and even later he revealed himself as a master of horror and a film buff. His career is probably the clearest example that success is possible no matter how you start your career. After all, it was Gunn who Marvel and DC fought for. It was Gunn who was given full creative freedom to work on the new Suicide Squad, which turned out to be colourful, bloody, dynamic, in a word, Gunnian. Even Zack Snyder and David Eyre didn't get this kind of creative freedom, which tells us that Hollywood's important uncles finally got a hold of his talent. We can only hope and wait for his next masterpiece.
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