What would it be like for a director who was fired by Marvel and went to direct the DC Universe next door?
The answer is "Welcome often" from the president of DC Films.
James Gunn’s "Task Force X: All Assembling" currently has a Douban score of 8.1, and the freshness of Rotten Tomatoes is 91%. Compared with the 2016 version, this "new version of Suicide Squad" has a much better reputation.
However, more interesting than the movie itself is an episode during the movie's promotion. James Gunn once again responded to Martin Scorsese's view that "Marvel movies are a theme park, not a movie." He believes that the famous Hollywood director stood up against Marvel to gain attention.
▲ James Gunn (left) and Martin Scorsese (right).
A big director who started making movies in the 1960s needs Marvel heat, which seems a little absurd.
But the clash of views between the serious old filmmakers and the cynical mature filmmakers somewhat reflects the state of the Hollywood film industry today.
"Task Force X: All Assembled", a qualified popcorn piece
Let’s take a look at what James Gunn’s movie is like. It roughly tells a story like this:
The Suicide Squad or Task Force X members are anti-heroes detained in prison and assigned to do dirty work for the U.S. government.
The task of the task force this time is to rush to a small island controlled by radical anti-American forces to eliminate the “Plane Starfish” of the scientific research institution “Jotonheim” and prevent it from falling into the hands of anti-American factions and harming the United States. The whole world poses a threat.
In fact, all disasters are caused by the United States. Their dirty secrets are hidden on the small island. What the task force participates in is a completely absurd game led by the US government.
This story is a typical play of political correctness between the palms of the hand. It is closely tied to the motif "The only thing wrong is the U.S. government." The specific manifestations include but are not limited to: the task force leader is black, and the "children" are used as actions. The key motivation for defeating the star is the "lowest creature in the city", the mouse, and the unscrupulous "peace messenger" for peace is the government's internal response.
This does not prevent the "anti-hero" from manifesting personal heroism in the process of saving the world. Obviously he is a villain of all members, but at the last moment he decided to risk his life and take the initiative to fight against the big boss.
Does this add to the character arc, or subvert the character design that the "Suicide Squad" should have? In this movie, I think it is the latter. In a series of literary dramas, the characters are interesting but not full.
In the style of the film, James Gunn insisted on the "anti-routine", cutting melons and vegetables and exploding blood plasma everywhere, nonsensical and evil tastes are readily available, colored waves, crowded mice, and starfish tentacles challenge the ability of the fearful person to bear, and occasionally engage in it. The violent aesthetics of a handful of flowers and butterflies. For viewers who like this type of film, the sensory experience is good.
Some people say that it is "very non-DC", but the original comic book of "Suicide Squad" is black humor, violent aesthetics, and strange ways of death. Compared with live-action movies, DC animations such as "Assault Arkham" can better reflect the "team spirit" of the suicide squad.
On the other hand, it is not surprising that non-DC fans have such an impression. Nolan's "Dark Knight" and Zach Schneider's "Watchmen" represent the height of DC movies and carry the audience's expectations for DC movies.
▲The Dark Knight.
James Gunn has a completely different dark style from Zach and Nolan. He was originally a director of Marvel and was fired by Disney for alleged inappropriate remarks such as pedophilia. Perhaps the personal style is too strong, "Task Force X: All Assembled" is easily reminiscent of his previous "Guardians of the Galaxy" filmed for Marvel. Both have "cute pets", interstellar creatures, and golden tunes. Burning, nonsensical jokes and marginalized anti-heroes.
▲ "Guardians of the Galaxy".
Going back to the beginning of the controversy between James Gunn and Scorsese, I think that although this movie has a good reputation, it is a "theme park-style" popcorn movie.
The era belongs to the "theme park"?
Scorsese, who proposed "Marvel movies as a theme park," is a famous Hollywood director and film sociologist. In fact, he was wronged again in 2021. He has not been opposed to Marvel all the time. It was already in October 2019.
▲ Scorsese interview record. Picture from: Reddit
In November 2019, Scorsese wrote a column in the "New York Times" specifically to respond to doubts. He has two core views.
The first is his definition of film art:
Many of the elements that define movies that I know are in the Marvel series. What it does not have is revelation, mystery, or real danger. These films are made to meet a specific set of needs and express a limited number of themes.
The second is his concern about the high proportion of Marvel movies in theaters:
One is global audiovisual entertainment, and the other is film art. They still overlap from time to time, but this is becoming rarer. I am worried that the economic advantage of one side will marginalize the other side and even reduce the living space of the other side.
▲ Scorsese, “The Confinement Island''.
Some fans think that Scorsese is stubborn, but based on the background of the times and his personal experience, this is not the case.
In the last century, Scorsese and "The Godfather" director Coppola, "Star Wars" director George Lucas, and "Jaws" director Spielberg were called the "Hollywood Four". They are American movies. The standard bearer of the new wave.
The popularity of television in the 1950s, the turmoil and political crisis in American society, and the decline of Hollywood's own commercial film production made the Hollywood industry difficult in the late 1960s.
In the 1970s, these young film directors, influenced by the French "New Wave" films, launched the "New Hollywood" movement, bringing European authorism into the production of Hollywood films.
Scorsese made a large number of films focusing on the real problems of American society, and created a moral gangster world with personal feelings and national sentiments, enabling Hollywood to regain the young audience of that era.
Coppola made a traditional gangster movie into an epic about honor and family emotions.
Spielberg's "Jaws" and Lucas's "Star Wars" saved the Hollywood genre film market, found a way for commercial and artistic coexistence, and the possibility of making money outside the box office.
However, in the minds of Hollywood producers, Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" is a compromise that Hollywood had to make in the face of young audiences and competition from the television industry, Spielberg and the "most-grossing film in history" at the time. "Jaws" is the most commercially valuable.
The glory of "New Hollywood" has only lasted for a while, and new media will continue to flow beyond television. The response of film production companies is to quickly carve up the chain theater market, control the distribution department, and invest heavily in the production of large-scale films. The box office is no longer even the main income, and the income from copyright (video tapes, TV broadcasts, etc.) and peripheral products continues to flow.
This is the most conservative and safe production strategy, and it is Spielberg's "Jaws" that inspired this strategy.
▲ Spielberg's “Number One Player''.
But the producers misunderstood Spielberg. Spielberg's personal touch in the film must not be ignored. His films have a deep reflection of childhood. He creates dreams in reality and builds the connection between the film and the real world.
In many Hollywood blockbusters, the movie is just an illusion created by funding, it only needs to create a sensation, and it doesn't even matter who is shooting.
▲ Hollywood. Picture from: Visual China
The blockbuster system has developed to the present, and Hollywood has used an industrial system or product idea to plan MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). At this level, it is not wrong to use "theme park" to describe Marvel movies.
Starting from "Thor", there is one and only one at the helm of the MCU-Kevin Fitch. He formulates general plots and styles for all movies, and finds suitable directors to produce movies in a pipeline. According to the "Poison Eye" report, with the exception of special works such as "Avengers 4", the cost of almost all Marvel movies is strictly controlled between US$150 million and US$250 million, and the scale is highly uniform.
▲ Kevin Fitch.
Under the producer-centered system, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy seem to be in full bloom in style, but they are essentially products of assembly line standards or above. They are reasonable adaptations within the framework of the Marvel formula, and the box office risk is relatively high. Controllable, there can be a steady stream of derived income outside the theater.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe can be regarded as capturing a bit of the lifeblood of contemporary entertainment: no movie can continuously exert constant energy like a perpetual motion machine in business, and a stable production of typed movies is like an ever-expanding theme park. DC also wants to develop the movie universe, but they do not have a mature "product manager."
Therefore, Scorsese is not just talking about Marvel movies. What he is really worried about is: fast-moving consumer goods represented by Marvel movies occupy most of the screen. These series of blockbusters are repeated in spirit, and the ultimate goal is "available for real-time "Consumption" will cause the "creative tension" of the film industry to disappear.
Streaming media is the way out for serious movies?
In the New York Times column, Scorsese explained why the Marvel movie is a theme park, and also expressed his gratitude to Netflix.
Scorsese has too much uncompromising content for commercial films. He budgeted more than $100 million for the film at the beginning, but because the price was too high and no equivalent revenue return was seen, no one in Hollywood was willing to invest. Netflix not only met the budget, but also invested nearly 100 million in marketing for the movie. He thanked Netflix for allowing him to shoot "The Irishman" in the way he wanted.
The Atlantic Monthly commented on the matter at the time:
A Scorsese movie-so expensive, with such a large cast-chooses to go to Netflix instead of a traditional distribution company, which shows that some "earthquakes" have occurred in the industry. Big directors often avoid Netflix, but with the addition of Scorsese, this situation may begin to change.
Streaming media represented by Netflix seems to be becoming a safe haven for big-budget movies.
Spielberg was also a clear-cut opponent of streaming media. He believes that a movie presented in a TV format can only be called a TV movie and should compete for an Emmy instead of an Oscar. But in June of this year, Spielberg's production company Amblin Entertainment (Amblin Entertainment) reached a cooperation agreement with Netflix, and will produce multiple feature films for Netflix every year in the future.
▲ Netflix “The Trial of Seven Gentlemen in Chicago''.
But Scorsese still prefer to choose theater movies:
In the United States and around the world, if you want to see something on the big screen, a series of blockbusters is your first choice… The rules have been subverted and streaming media has become the main dissemination system. However, among the filmmakers I know, no one does not want to make a movie for the big screen, and no one does not want to show a movie to the audience in a theater.
Decision makers in the traditional film industry have begun to realize that streaming media is not just a new channel for distribution and screening.
In January this year, the number of Netflix global subscribers has exceeded 200 million; as of the end of June this year, the number of subscribers of HBO MAX reached 67.5 million; Disney released financial reports showing that the number of global users of Disney+ has reached 116 million.
Streaming media's comprehensive control of online traffic indicates that the dominant power in the distribution and screening links may shift. Streaming media and the high-tech companies behind it can use big data and algorithms to determine which movies are seen and which movies audiences are more likely to watch.
"The X Dispatch Team: All Assembled", released on August 6th, was released simultaneously on the hospital network due to the epidemic. In the future, there may be more Marvel-like blockbusters occupying the screen and creative resources. At the same time, neither serious movies nor fast food movies will give up streaming media positions. Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar said that Warner Bros. will exclusively provide more than 10 new movies to the streaming service HBO Max next year.
This is enough to show that the income that the Internet can provide is an indispensable part of the business of large studios.
▲ Scorsese “Taxi Driver''.
The times and Hollywood's choice of cinema movies, streaming media that cannot be said to be good or bad, and the accidental factors of the epidemic have caused the Scorsese to encounter a more severe test than the television era. The voice of studios, theaters, and streaming media are changing.
Regarding the status quo of theater-line movies, Scorsese is sad:
Some people in the film industry are totally indifferent to art issues, and their attitude towards film history is contemptuous and arrogant-the two add up really terribly… For those who dream of making movies, or those who are just starting out, the current situation is very different. Cruel and unfriendly to art. Just writing these words has filled my heart with sadness.
Scorsese's "The Irishman" uses age reduction techniques on a large scale, bringing together three veterans, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.
▲ A short review of “The Irishman'' by Douban netizens.
But time is inevitable, and aging cannot be concealed. This gangster film washes away the arrogance and powder of the past, and calmly tells the golden age of the past in the face of this world where the rules have changed.
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