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The Best of James Gunn

The Best of James Gunn

(07/07/2020)

Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY became a huge blockbuster hit thanks in large part to the weird and wonderful mind of writer-director James Gunn. The 2014 movie also pushed the filmmaker into the mainstream, introducing him to a wide audience which might not have seen some of his earlier films.

With Gunn back in the director’s chair for two big comic book team movies — GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 for Marvel and THE SUICIDE SQUAD for Warner Bros. and DC — we’re looking back at the filmmaker’s excellent work as a writer, director, promoter of actor Michael Rooker, and producer on a variety of projects ranging from kid movies to superhero flicks and beyond.

Scooby-Doo

The Best of James Gunn: Scooby-Doo

[Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]


Six years after making his film debut as the associate director and writer of TROMEO AND JULIET (a horror/satire based, of course, on "Romeo and Juliet"), James Gunn did a complete 180-degree turn from low-budget horror comedies. Gunn’s sensibilities were just right for him to script the first major live-action movie based on the "Scooby-Doo" set of animated series. Gunn wrote the script for the 2002 SCOOBY-DOO movie, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr., and his campy sense of humor worked perfectly with the classic cartoonish hijinks—so well, in fact, that Gunn returned to write the script for the sequel, SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED.

Dawn of the Dead

The Best of James Gunn: Dawn of the Dead

[Image Credit: Universal Pictures]


This project united two of the filmmakers who would be major voices in superhero movies for years to come. Gunn continued to show off his versatility in 2004 as the screenwriter of DAWN OF THE DEAD, a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 horror classic of the same name. DAWN OF THE DEAD, released the same year as the SCOOBY-DOO sequel, was directed by Zack Snyder, who would go on to direct major comic book movies like WATCHMEN and BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. With its mix of horror and dark humor and stylish visual choices, DAWN OF THE DEAD established Gunn and Snyder as promising filmmakers and helped launch their careers.

Slither and Super

The Best of James Gunn: Slither and Super

[Image Credit: Universal Pictures]


After those projects, Gunn soon lined up his own big-screen directing debut: SLITHER. Like DAWN OF THE DEAD, Gunn’s 2006 film successfully combined horror with humor to tell the story of a mysterious alien parasite that infects citizens of a small town in South Carolina. SLITHER wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, but by the time it hit home media, the film (and Gunn himself) had developed a sizable following. The film also featured a few actors who would go on to collaborate with Gunn on other projects, like Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker. Both actors appeared in Gunn’s next film, a very dark superhero comedy called SUPER. Rainn Wilson, best known for playing Dwight Schrute on “The Office,” starred in the film as a restaurant cook who decides to become a superhero despite his lack of magical super-powers. He reluctantly teams up with a sidekick, played by Ellen Page, to embark on an extremely misguided mission to rescue his wife (Liv Tyler) from drug dealers.

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Best of James Gunn: The Guardians of the Galaxy

[Image Credit: Marvel Studios]


SUPER might not have been a big box office hit, but like SLITHER, it found a fanbase on home video—and caught the eye of executives at Marvel Studios. In 2012, Gunn was hired to write and direct GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as part of Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was a big risk for Marvel, as the comic book characters were considered pretty obscure in comparison to Iron Man and Captain America. But hiring Gunn paid off, and having an ensemble cast that included Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista (as well as Michael Rooker) didn’t hurt, either. The intergalactic superhero team-up was praised for having a great sense of humor and an even bigger heart, and Gunn subsequently returned to direct the sequel, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2. Last year, Gunn signed on to return for the third film in what has become a blockbuster trilogy and one of Marvel’s most successful titles.

Brightburn

The Best of James Gunn: Brightburn

[Image Credit: Sony Pictures]


Gunn isn’t just a talented writer and director—he’s a smart producer, too. In addition to backing Marvel titles like AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and AVENGERS: ENDGAME as executive producer, Gunn lent his star power to the 2019 horror film BRIGHTBURN, which he also produced. Like SUPER, the film reimagined the superhero formula through a much darker lens. BRIGHTBURN, which features Gunn friend and SLITHER star Elizabeth Banks, is basically the horror movie version of SUPERMAN. Set in Kansas, the film begins with a mysterious object crash-landing on Earth. Banks’ character discovers an infant inside and adopts him as her own, but as he gets older, the child begins displaying strange abilities… and violent tendencies. BRIGHTBURN was written by Gunn’s brother, Brian, and their cousin, Mark, and directed by David Yarovesky.

The Suicide Squad

The Best of James Gunn: The Suicide Squad

[Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]


OK, it's too early to call this one of Gunn's best efforts, because the movie isn't out yet. In 2019, Gunn became the first director to helm movies for both Marvel and DC when he signed on for THE SUICIDE SQUAD. A sequel to 2016’s SUICIDE SQUAD, Gunn’s film features the return of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, and Jai Courtney (above) as Captain Boomerang, alongside a cast of even quirkier anti-heroes—including characters like Polka-Dot Man and King Shark. Frequent Gunn collaborators Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker also have roles in the film which is absolutely packed with star-power: Idris Elba, Storm Reid, Taika Waititi, Pete Davidson, and John Cena co-star in the film, which Gunn plans to make more comedic than the previous SUICIDE SQUAD in an effort to honor the comic book origins.



Want to know more about the next year or two in superhero movies, including THE SUICIDE SQUAD?

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