Fans already know that Rocket the Racoon is a marvel of good screenwriting. How in the world can an anthropomorphic raccoon resonate so deeply with human beings? The answer, which has been hinted at before, is pretty simple: the writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy is basically Rocket himself. Recently James Gunn took some time to sit down and discuss his process and influences with some filmmakers in China and talked about his close relationship with the furry hero.
Gunn went one step further. He described “Guardians” as an autobiography of Rocket, the raccoon character voiced by Bradley Cooper, before adding: “Rocket is me, feeling outcast and forgotten.”
As we discussed on our podcast back when Vol. 2 was released, in many ways the film is a very vulnerable piece of art to come from Gunn. Throughout the film Rocket is slowly examined emotionally, probing at the ways that he keeps other characters at arm’s length. His difficulty being intimate with even his best friends provides some of the heart of the film, with his face to face moment with Yondu in which the patriarchal character calls out his shenanigans being a standout scene. When Gunn admits his own affinity with the character, the result is an incredibly brave willingness to expose the director’s own personal issues to an audience of hundreds of millions of people.
The session included some other thoughts on how Gunn puts a film together. His meticulous planning is something that he holds in common with some other Marvel directors.
I figure out everything before I go on stage. I know every shot beforehand.
This attention to detail is one of the things that has helped Marvel Studios to be as successful financially as they have been. The Russo Brothers are also known for not cutting much material. (Their original cut of Captain America: Civil War was essentially the same as the final cut.) When you contrast this with stories coming out of other studios like Lucasfilm where directors are doing copious reshoots or Warner Brothers where “Director’s Cuts” of superhero films are becoming the norm, you can see how Marvel keeps costs low with leaner production. Gunn doesn’t even believe in the idea of a director’s cut because that’s exactly what Marvel releases for him.
Gunn also gave a peek into his influences and his answer was very friendly to the audience that he had before him.
The structure of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ comes straight from Hong Kong cinema (where anything can happen at any moment)…Johnnie To, John Woo and Ringo Lam made me fall in love with cinema even more than I had been before.
A cynic might suggest this is a bit of pandering but Gunn is known for his honesty. He makes it a point to not jerk fans around when he talks about his projects. That devotion to connecting with the people who watch the Guardians films goes so far as to him signing up for non-American social media accounts.
The trip to Shanghai was Gunn’s first to mainland China, but not his first encounter with Chinese audiences. He stays in touch with Chinese fans through his own WeiboChinese social media account.
As the MCU has unfolded there is no question that Gunn has risen in significance. Generally speaking, fans love him for his willingness to speak to the public while also being straightforward and not putting up with bologna. Slowly he is taking a place seemingly below only Kevin Feige in shaping the direction of the franchise. Any chance that fans get to know his personality a little more (even if it comes via talking mammal) is a joy.
Source: Variety Asia