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Friday, December 27, 2019 

Terry Gilliam says Marvel movies have undermined the rest of the film industry creatively

Veteran filmmaker Terry Gilliam, in an interview with Indiewire, joins fellow movie directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola in arguing the Marvel film franchise has taken up too much room and notice, and feels they don't send the proper message, while discussing his latest production, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote". There's one part near the start though, where he unfortunately brings up his otherwise unsurprising politics:
...Gilliam remains embattled in a pile-up of lawsuits. Specifically, he’s up against his film’s producer, Paulo Branco, whom Gilliam calls a “psychopath. He’s the filmic version of Donald Trump. He’s an egomaniac, a megalomaniac, and a semi-psychotic and I also think schizophrenic…he makes Harvey Weinstein look like a really sweet guy to work with.” Branco has not responded to IndieWire’s request for comment.
He just had to take a swipe at Trump, and I think that reference to Weinstein risks minimizing the disgraced producer's sexual offenses, which he'll hopefully be convicted for at his trial in the coming month. I think that was awfully awkward of Gilliam, though he did acknowledge a year earlier Weinstein's a monster, and told how he caused problems for him. One Angry Gamer argues it leads to his comments on the Marvel films coming up short. On which note, now to the comics-related debate in question:
From “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” to “Brazil,” Gilliam has long adhered to his singular vision despite production setbacks and studio worries. “Each film I am doing is the one and only film I will do in my life,” he said. “Even with studio films, I go into it like a military strategist. Who’s going to be in the foxhole with me after we finish shooting?” He used “12 Monkeys” as an example of a film where, despite studio intervention on the dark sci-fi reimagining of Chris Marker’s avant-garde short film “La Jetée,” Gilliam relied on his cast for support to push the project through. “If Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, and me are in the foxhole together, they can’t touch us.”

However, not all auteurs are as lucky, and for Gilliam, the towering reign of Marvel movies at the box office pose an attack on this very kind of creative freedom. “I don’t like the fact they’re dominating the place so much,” he said. “They’re taking all the money that should be available for a greater variety of films. Technically, they’re brilliant. I can’t fault them because the technical skills involved in making them are incredible.”

However, he cautioned that Disney and Marvel’s seemingly infinite resources could be put to better use. “If you are that powerful, you should be dealing with reality a bit more.” He also warned of what he believes to be the central lie peddled by such films, and the cultural threat it poses. “What I don’t like is that we all have to be superheroes do anything worthwhile. That’s what makes me crazy. That’s what these movies are saying to young people. And to me it’s not confronting the reality of, you know, the quote-unquote human condition. You know what it is like to be a normal human being in difficult situations and resolving them surviving,” he said. “I can’t fault them for the sheer spectacle, except it’s repetitive. You still have to blow up another city.”
He's just hit on a serious problem that affected Marvel's comics proper when Axel Alonso was EIC (and DC's too several years prior), and still prevails - the whole notion that all these social justice fabrications they came up with to fill the masks and boots of veteran white superheroes can only do anything significant if they wear costumes and have superpowers. It's just as poor a direction as it is not to create new protagonists who can stand on their own in their very own roles, rather than be shoehorned hastily into an established white hero's role. It could even suggest why to date, there hasn't been a major film centered foremost around Nick Fury and Adam Strange. And then Marvel's complicated everything involving the former, because they had to change the Agent of SHIELD's racial background to black instead of white, which could surely wind up conflicting with how to market the original stories, since the moviegoers they supposedly want buying their books are bound to come across Nick's Silver Age tales, and wonder why the change? The Hollywood Reporter asked earlier this year if the time's come for a Fury-powered film. But even if racial background's not an issue, it may still be too late, now that Kevin Feige's moving their productions in a social justice-themed direction.

To be successful on many issues requires intellect and talent, and superpowers alone don't guarantee that. If the Marvel/DC films are sending that message, it's a very poor one.
“Where’s the gravity, where’s real gravity? Because [in superhero movies,] everything is possible,” Gilliam said of the limitless worlds of the MCU. “It’s the limitations that make life interesting. Okay, so your suit burns up. So you get another suit because you’re Tony Stark. It’s not enough. They dominate so much.”

Gilliam also argued that superhero tentpoles are drying out any available resources for mid-budget films. “There isn’t room or money for a greater range of films. You make a film for over $150 million or less than $10 [million]. Where’s all this other stuff? It doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “I make films where I’m trying to make people think. I mean, I try to entertain them enough that they don’t fall asleep on me, and they’re there to make you think and look at the world in a different way, hopefully, and consider possibilities. Those films don’t do that.”
That could explain why I've seen at least a few people on some online forums argue the Marvel films don't have re-watch value. If they don't have what to offer serious thought for the viewer, they're hardly the accomplishment Feige surely wants everyone to believe. Corporatism combined with political correctness has led to a situation where film producers - and comics writers - don't deal with issues in a valid way, but rather, with deliberately biased liberal politics that only prove divisive. Gilliam also took noticeable issue with the Black Panther movie:
Gilliam said he’s not a fan of Ryan Coogler’s 2018 “Black Panther,” which critics heralded as a gust of fresh wind in the superhero canon, and one that welcomed diversity and inclusion to an otherwise airtight, white-dominated universe of films. Earning more than $1.3 billion worldwide, “Black Panther” penetrated the cultural consciousness in a way few superhero films ever had, but Gilliam isn’t buying it.

“I hated ‘Black Panther.’ It makes me crazy. It gives young black kids the idea that this is something to believe in. Bullshit. It’s utter bullshit. I think the people who made it have never been to Africa,”
he said. “They went and got some stylist for some African pattern fabrics and things. But I just I hated that movie, partly because the media were going on about the importance of bullshit.”

When asked if he felt that critical praise for “Black Panther” was a politically correct response that ignored aesthetics in favor of identity politics, Gilliam said, “It makes my blood boil.” The conversation pivoted to controversial remarks he made back in 2018 amid the Harvey Weinstein fallout and the wave of voices that responded to form the #MeToo movement. “We’re in the era of the victim. We are all victims. It’s all somebody else, abusing us, taking advantage of us. We are powerless, except except that we go out and do other things,” he said.
On the MeToo movement, there is valid criticism to raise, since, as noted earlier, there's been as many false accusations made as there have been factual ones, and the former have often been made without filing police reports, which could lend more credibility to the accusations. And in hindsight, the BP film does seem to have been hijacked by identity politics advocates, even if it wasn't an example per se of a movie made to represent the same. Film critics often do sell out to please a PC narrative, and these Marvel films are no exception, recalling a lot of the favorable takes on Capt. Marvel looked intentionally biased in its favor (and it even made the Oscar shortlist along with Avengers: Endgame). There's also a valid critique to be found on the superficial notion these films should be looked upon by POC as something to believe in, when artistic merit is what truly makes the movie worth the viewpoint. But surely it wouldn't work better if the films were sold as something like wish fulfillment? Yet that was hardly how it turned out in the past year or so. Black Panther wasn't even the first movie based on a black Marvel hero produced - that honor would go to Blade starring Wesley Snipes, first produced over 2 decades ago, and that was what precipitated many of the Marvel movies to follow over the coming years. (It was also one of the very few with an R-rating.)

And spending wasting so much money almost entirely on these tentpoles - the DC/WB and Star Wars movies included - at the expense of other projects whose filmmakers may have better ideas, even simple escapism-related ones, doesn't avail Hollywood or the reputation of the comics movies. Of course, that might be one of the reasons why the last of the latest SW trilogy, Rise of Skywalker, has turned out to be the lowest-grossing entry in the main franchise under Disney so far following Solo.

The Wrap notes, however, that Gilliam's mistaken about the filmmakers not visiting Africa:
Gilliam, however, is incorrect about the “never been to Africa” part. Coogler traveled with several key members of his team to Africa to do research and aerial shots for the film. Production designer Hannah Beachler and costume designer Ruth Carter recounted in an interviews with TheWrap how Afrofuturist architecture from the continent and from the attire of tribes like the Masai were core influences when building the world of Wakanda. Both women won Oscars for their efforts.
But, as they also note, he is right about the following:
Like Scorsese and Coppola — the latter of whom called Marvel films “despicable” — Gilliam feels like the series is accelerating an arms race in Hollywood that prioritizes tentpole blockbusters and low-risk/high-reward microbudget horror films to the detriment of everything else.
The major studios are the foremost ones guilty of this, though it does seem to have affected indie production outfits as well, if the following interview Gilliam gave to The Wrap says anything:
So that’s the likely course rather than theatrical?
Independent distribution is really f—ed. They don’t have any money anymore. And how do you compete with “Avengers” and things like that? It’s only at this time of year when you get a sense that there are independent films out there, because they’re spending all their money for the awards.

There must have been a point in your career when Hollywood would have given you “Avengers”-style movies.
When I was younger, I would’ve loved to have done that kind of work. But not now. There’s so many good technical directors out there. I don’t know their names – nobody knows their names – but boy, they can do the job. And even fairly recently, somebody was talking to me about one of the big things. But I just don’t want to work on that kind of movie, because they’re basically factory systems. And why?

The one person I admire at the moment is Taika Waititi. A couple of years ago at Christmas, my son put on “Thor: Ragnarok.” I said, “I don’t want to see this stuff,” but it was really funny. [...]
Maybe the funniest part, depending how you see it, is that Thor was one of the earliest Marvel films where all the diversity-inclusion propaganda was first injected, with Heimdall an example to undergo all these unnecessary alterations. And what if independent films, regardless of their partisan politics, have suffered because too many businesses are putting all their eggs into the superhero investment basket, instead of simpler productions that don't rely on heavy special effects? However you look at this, I must concur it looks bad when so much money is being banked on in categories that wind up crippling the creative freedom of filmmakers like Gilliam who want to prepare food for thought, or even escapist fare that's not reliant on the heavy FX these major blockbusters are. It's not good for entertainment's future, assuming there is one.

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