News & Politics

Does James Gunn Deserve Another Chance?

James Gunn arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "Ant-Man and the Wasp" at El Capitan Theatre on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Remember James Gunn? He made a couple of funny, silly, strangely heartwarming sci-fi/superhero flicks, full of space aliens and talking trees and ’70s AM radio pop, and those movies made a ton of money. Then he got fired by Marvel Studios for…

Let me double check here. Social media has destroyed my memory, and these events happened in the ancient days of over a week ago

Ah, yes: Gunn got fired for stuff he tweeted 10 years ago, which was recently dug up because he acted like kind of a jerk while defending a fellow Hollywood director who made the career-endangering mistake of being civil to Ben Shapiro.

If the previous sentence makes sense to you, I’ll take your word for it. I’m still not sure how it all happened so fast, or why.

I was mildly amused by Gunn’s excuse for his Bad Tweets™ — “I’ve evolved and grown as a person since I said those terrible things,” etc. — considering he was in his early forties when he said the stuff that got him fired a decade later. And I couldn’t help but note that just a few months ago, Gunn fully supported Disney’s decision to fire somebody else over tweets that made people angry:

Disney found his words abhorrent as well, so they stopped funding him.

In the 10 days since the outrage mob scored that victory, they’ve gone after others in Hollywood who’ve made bad jokes about taboo subjects, including Dan Harmon, Patton Oswalt, and Sarah Silverman.

All of which has me feeling… ambivalent. I’ve got a little angel standing on my shoulder, saying: “Are we really doing this, guys? Is this who we are now? Seriously?” And I’ve also got a little devil on my other shoulder, saying: “Oh well. This is what happens. Their rules, their turn.” I honestly don’t know which one I side with. The whole thing doesn’t seem fair, but then, very little in life does. It makes me vaguely depressed, but then, so does everything else.

So when I see something like the following statement from actress Zoe Saldana and the rest of the GotG cast, I’m both receptive and skeptical:

As Jonathan Last and others have noted, this statement isn’t full support of James Gunn. Full support would mean that they all refuse to make another GotG movie without him. But I do believe that they’re being sincere. He’s their friend and they love him. They see him as a victim of a “weaponized mob mentality,” and I think they’re right.

This is the part where the devil on my shoulder reminds me: “This is the world they’ve made. They won’t learn until they start suffering the consequences, same as the rest of us. Tough luck.”

And then the angel on my other shoulder says: “But if we can’t forgive them when they make mistakes, why will they have any reason to forgive us when we do?”

And then both shoulders do this: ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Can other Hollywood writers and/or directors make a good Guardians of the Galaxy movie? Sure, in theory. After all, it’s not as if Gunn invented those characters in the first place. They were created by people like Jack Kirby and Steve Englehart and Bill Mantlo and Jim Starlin and other nerds you’ve never heard of because they’re not Stan Lee. Gunn picked up the work of all those guys and put his own stamp on it, and Marvel let him do as he pleased, and for whatever reason, it worked. An assembly-line product ended up being more than the sum of its parts.

It could happen again, but that seems doubtful. Marvel is in a no-win situation. If they bring in a ringer to do faux-James Gunn schtick in a third movie, the odds are that it will suck. If they reverse their decision and bring Gunn back, it’ll indicate that they panicked in the face of an outrage mob and they’re only undoing it because they’re worried about making slightly less money this time.

Sheesh. It’s all so needlessly, stupidly complicated. You know what would really simplify things? You know what would fix all this in the space of an instant?