One of the stranger things about the world of superhero cinema is undoubtedly the fact that, for some reason, a large, often-vicious gulf has emerged between partisan supporters of the "big two" — Marvel and DC. Rather than reveling in the presence of more superhero movies than we can shake a collective stick at, some of us have instead become drawn into a makeshift war of sorts, and been forced to decide whether or not we're "Marvel," or "DC." That feud can at times seem to dominate the internet zeitgeist — in much the same way that, say, that between Star Wars and Star Trek can.
And, intriguingly, one of the internet's most influential geek figures just spoke out on the subject. Y'see:
James Gunn Just Argued That There's No Room For The Marvel And DC Feud
Indeed, as he argued during a recent interview with Variety, James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy, and its upcoming sequel) is very much of the opinion that it's a "waste of brain space" to think about whether or not his movies "are superior or inferior to someone else's." As he put it:
"I just don’t find any room in my headspace for thinking my movies are superior or inferior to someone else’s. It seems like such a waste of my brain space to be thinking like that. I really just think about how can I make, for instance right now, how can I make ‘Guardians Vol. 2’ the greatest spectacle film of all time? That’s all I care about so that’s what I concentrate on. I don’t really think about Marvel versus DC. And also any time a Marvel movie comes out that isn’t as good as I wished it was or anytime a DC movie comes out that isn’t as I wished it was, I’m disappointed because I love these characters. I grew up reading Marvel and DC comics. I want them all to be good."
All of which is an incredibly noble position to take, and so far as it extends only to Gunn's personal position — a perfectly reasonable one. Here's the thing, though:
James Gunn Is Actually Wrong About The Whole DC/Marvel Rivalry
Or, at least, his above argument misses out something incredibly important about the whole Marvel and DC "feud." Y'see, his argument is essentially that he doesn't think it's worth thinking about whether or not Marvel or DC's movies are superior (even on a case by case basis), which is on the surface a completely fair approach to take. Heck, I go into every superhero movie — regardless of studio — hoping it'll be great too, and I'd be the last person to argue that you shouldn't be able to love both Marvel and DC movies.
The problem, though, arises with the inevitable implication of that position. After all, Gunn suggests both that he doesn't have time for thinking about which movies are superior to others, and that he's simply trying to make Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 the "greatest spectacle movie of all time." The problem there? Those two things may well be mutually exclusive. Y'see...
Rivalry Is Often The Greatest Source Of Creativity Out There
Take The Beatles, for instance. Had John Lennon and Paul McCartney not spent the whole 1960s trying to outdo one another, they might not have wound up creating some of the greatest pop music of all time. Without the (admittedly otherwise hugely damaging) Cold War, Russia and the USA wouldn't have made it into orbit, or to the moon, anywhere near as quickly. Without two teams — or even two athletes — hating one another, many of the greatest sporting moments of all time would simply not have happened.
Now, that's not in any way to argue in favor of hatred: In a divisive election cycle dominated by fear mongering and lies, the world has arguably never been more in need of healthy, reasonable debate. That debate, though, can (and arguably must) be grounded in legitimate disagreement. For one thing, we need to hear other viewpoints (and, often, to disagree with them) in order to better understand our own opinions, and sometimes to challenge them. What's more, it sure is difficult to improve something — be it pop music, spaceship-building, team sports or superhero movie-making — without both direct competition to drive us, and others being out there in the same field to inspire us with what they're doing differently. In other words?
It's A Good Thing That Marvel And DC Are Rivals
After all, it's that same rivalry — both for sales and creative credibility — that has led to the two companies producing so many incredible comic books over the years. Without Superman, there'd be no Captain America, but without competition from Cap, the Man of Steel would likely never have become the developed hero he is today. Without DC's sterling work during the "silver age," we would never have seen Marvel's modern heroes (i.e. The Fantastic Four, X-Men and Avengers) arise, and without Marvel subsequently pushing the boundaries of what a superhero comic book could be, we'd never have seen DC's genre-expanding '80s output. Today, both Marvel and DC are pushing one another towards greater levels of diversity, both knowing full well that the other will tap into the "actually representative of the country as a whole" market if they don't.
That same pressure applies to the movies. Without Marvel Studios creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we likely wouldn't have ever seen the DCEU — much as we wouldn't have seen Iron Man in the first place if Batman Begins hadn't re-popularized the superhero genre — and offered a template for the modern superhero origin movie. On the flip side, the lack of competition would likely have meant that we'd now be seeing far more movies like Batman & Robin: exercises in corporate, toy-sales-oriented cynicism, and fewer films like Captain America: Civil War, a conscious attempt at "one-upping" DC's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that turned out to be something truly special. And, so...
It's Actually OK To Think That Marvel Or DC Movies Suck
Which isn't of course to say that it's OK to be mean to people who disagree with us — a little more kindness within debate wouldn't hurt any of us — but instead to acknowledge that by favoring one studio's films over another's, we can collectively force both to raise their game. Offering well thought through, balanced and (ideally) polite criticism of Marvel, or of DC, is the only way that those companies can determine what works and what doesn't, outside of the cold, misleading basis of box office grosses.
Gunn is ultimately right, of course, to want all Marvel and DC movies to be good — "a rising tide lifts all boats," after all. However, a healthy rivalry between Marvel and DC — and between fans of both studios' output — is arguably one of the most important elements in making that happen. While it's ultimately laudable, then, that Gunn is so determined to not think ill of others, it would be a shame if a lack of competitiveness, and of legitimate criticism, were to hold back his attempt to make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the "greatest spectacle movie of all time." After all, if that comes off, just think about how great the movies designed to outdo it'll be.
Want more about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, though? Don't worry, we've got you covered right here.
And in the meantime, what do you reckon about James Gunn's comments, and the Marvel/DC rivalry? Let us know below!