Only James Gunn could have made the journey from low-budget flops to the head of DC movies at Warner Bros. Despite his artistic sensibility and being a cinema fanboy at heart, the writer/director has always struck a chord with fans from his generation and beyond. Earlier in his career, he got his start by making cult films. As his reputation rose, so did the popularity of his pop cultural status.
Only James Gunn could have made the journey from low-budget flops to the director of DC movies at Warner Bros. Despite his artistic sensibility and being a cinema fanboy at heart, the writer/director has always struck a chord with fans from his generation and beyond. Earlier in his career, he got his start by making cult films. As his reputation rose, so did the popularity of his pop cultural status.
Today James Gunn has rapidly risen to the top of the list of Hollywood’s most-known names. As a filmmaker, writer, and producer who wears many hats, Gunn has substantially influenced the filmmaking of titanic studios Marvel and DC. With the recent announcement that Gunn has been named co-CEO of the DCU, he will play a significant role in determining the brand’s on-screen persona.
There is no question that Gunn will fit the role since he spent the entirety of his career working his way up the Holly studio system. With that, here are his films ranked from worst to best, which built him into CEO head status.
In a nutshell, Movie 43 is a compilation of crude vignettes with big stars and directors attached to it. It’s Hollywood’s attempt at recapturing the slapstick comedy of Airplane! and The Naked Gun. It’s bombastic and disjointed, and not even Gunn’s juvenile energy could have saved the film from being a total disaster.
The outpour of humor, which flows in an unrelenting torrent, is a challenge in its quest to top any prior Hollywood comedy’s gross-out factor. The audience, from the film’s start, quickly feels jaded and subdued once they recognize the film’s desperate attempt to startle them. Oddly, there are too many efforts at being funny, making the film not funny at all. Some consider it the worst movie of all time.
The concept of Seth MacFarlane’s Ted is expanded upon in James Gunn’s Beezel, in which a jealous, sex-crazed animated cat seeks to break up two young lovers. Although the film was a huge failure, it isn’t hard to see why Gunn attached himself to it. As a unique voice in the Hollywood system, the film was loud, sick, and altogether extreme. It was something that the punk-roots director could sink his teeth into, even though it was a big rotten apple.
Those larger-than-life, big attempts at failure and success are part of the James Gunn brand. And even though Movie 43 didn’t do well, it showcases Gunn’s approach to taking chances and staying true to his own tastes and visions. One can see how that attitude paved way for hits like Guardians and Suicide Squad.
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
While not as well-received as the original, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed is a decent sequel to the Mystery Machine crew’s first live-action adventure. Also penned by Gunn, the sequel tells the tale of a masked individual who steals the displays at the inauguration of a museum commemorating the gang’s past cases.
The original film’s performers all repeat their roles, and everyone is cast again as they bring the famous characters to life. A third film was planned, with Gunn set to helm after authoring the scripts for the previous two, but it was shelved after the financial failure of part two.
In the inaugural live-action “Scooby-Doo” episode, the attraction to both kids and adults was skillfully handled. The second tried to appeal to both fanatical cartoon fans who would love every Easter egg and adult online followers who wanted to see Velma seem attractive. The final product is not very cohesive, but it is still enjoyable. However, it successfully imitates some of the well-known animated monsters in real life, making them entertaining for young children without being overly frightful.
James Gunn, who was formerly recognized for schlocky horror and wacky super-folk before bringing warmth and a talkative, creative flair to Marvel’s cosmic corners, serves as producer in this instance. His brother Brian Gunn and cousin Mark Gunn wrote the screenplay, while longtime partner David Yarovesky is the director (The Hive). However, despite his influence, the end product only timidly understands how to completely exploit the genres, unlike in his earlier works, such as Slither and Tromeo and Juliet.
The movie turns the Superman story on its head by giving us a very identical situation before going in a much darker route. When a meteor with a baby inside falls from the sky in the little hamlet of Brightburn, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman), who are having trouble getting pregnant, believe their luck has changed. However, when Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), their adoptive child, gets older, they realize that something is terribly wrong.
As part of a rather savvy marketing strategy, James Gunn’s involvement with Brightburn has been baited into expecting a typical superhero plot. Even while the genuine plot, jammed into an often rushed timeline, doesn’t spend much time pretending, there are some magnificent visual allusions, including some large country landscapes, with the central mansion interchangeable with that of the Kents.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 2)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gunn’s first directorial sequel, is nowhere near as well-structured as the original film. But, from a funky soundtrack to a continual stream of amusing quips, it retains all of the elements that made the original such a breath of new air. Vol. 2 may have a slower first act than its predecessor, but once it gets rolling, it leverages its interplanetary backdrop to present a genuinely emotional father-son story.
When Peter Quill eventually meets his biological father, Ego the Living Planet, he discovers that he is much more vicious and amoral than Yondu, the space pirate who reared him. Yondu was far from a perfect parent, but the events of Guardians Vol. 2 – notably his final sacrifice – make Quill realize that he had always loved him like a father. That touching arc is immensely entertaining although corny as heck.
The Suicide Squad (2021)
James Gunn’s comically violent sequel to 2016’s mediocre Suicide Squad embodies and mocks conventional superhero stereotypes. It is without a doubt one of the stronger films in the current DCEU. Unlike the formulaic “hero swoops in to save the day” tropes of Marvel, DC allows Gunn to explore depravity in which no “hero” is safe and the stakes are genuinely felt.
Every member of the Squad has their moment to shine, and the humor feels natural rather than forced by Marvel. Suicide Squad is great not necessarily because of the environment Gunn sets up. We’ve seen this countless times from Troma’s War to The Hunger Games.
Suicide Squad is instead great because of its uniquely defined characters created by Gunn. From Stallone’s man shark to Cena’s Peacemaker, Gunn’s strengths are exemplified by his ability in creating unforgettable cinematic characters.
Scooby-Doo, written by Gunn, performed marginally better than Scooby-Doo 2, but not by much. In the film, Mystery, Inc. is closed down, and Shaggy and his team of crime solvers are disbanded. Gunn does a solid job in setting up a family-friendly film, something at this point he had yet to do, but would pave the future for his fan-favorite, Guardians of the Galaxy.
Scooby-Doo is one of those films aimed at providing humorous family enjoyment. Audiences who seriously may enjoy its amusing, nostalgic take on their favorite Scooby-Doo cartoons from their childhood. Those looking for an exciting comedy who aren’t into nostalgia, on the other hand, will find it difficult to overlook the film’s terrible animation, cheesy gags, and boring plot.
Dawn of the Dead
Imagine the vitriol directed at writer James Gunn and a relatively unknown director called Zack Snyder for dabbling with George A. Romero’s zombies classic. Many moviegoers believed the original to be the best zombie film ever made, and the Scooby-Doo guy ventured to assume he could redo it.
Beating the odds, Snyder and Gunn’s film established a name for itself by employing “fast zombies.” Previously, the walking undead onscreen was characterized by shuffling movement and relative individual weakness. The strength of zombies was always in their numbers and packs. Gunn modified that by creating unique zombies with predatory speed and focus.
Resident Evil and World War Z, both zombie-related franchises, took the idea and ran with it. The remake felt fresh and modified the zombie rulebook created by Romero in the 1960s by redefining what the zombies were. Gunn’s penmanship thus was revolutionary and bold at the time. It’s one of Gunn’s least blatantly humorous scripts, but it has some hilarious gags and visuals while staying true to Gunn’s cult horror aesthetic.
Slither is one of those films that underperformed at the box office but went on to become a cult favorite among fans. Slither, a black comedy horror film written and directed for the first time by Gunn, premiered in 2006. Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Tania Saulnier, Gregg Henry, and Michael Rooker star in the film. Slither follows the invasion of an extraterrestrial parasite in a little community in South Carolina. When humans become infected with the parasite, they become ugly, tentacled monsters.
Slither is a film that isn’t for everyone, but for those who can handle it, it’s a tremendous delight. The picture is horrible and strange, yet it uses gross-out terror and creepiness successfully. With its blend of shock value and horror, it’s no surprise that the picture has spawned a fervent fan base among aficionados of low-budget, throwback horror flicks. It showed spectators what Gunn was made of as a director and laid the groundwork for his more refined concepts with Marvel and DC.
Super highlights Gunn’s ability to helm a subtly humorous Batman parody. As the Crimson Bolt, played by Rainn Wilson, a short-order cook feels compelled to combat crime in disguise after having a vision of God. Thus he starts beating offenders in the head with a wrench while wearing red tights. At the end of the day, he wants to get his lover (Liv Tyler) back from her new drug dealer (Kevin Bacon). As the eerily perverted Boltie (Elliot Page), a comic shop employee who is even more aggressive in her tendencies, he finds a willing sidekick to help him out.
With Michael Rooker as a wicked henchman and Nathan Fillion as The Holy Avenger, a Christian TV program superhero, and Rob Zombie as the voice of God, Super isn’t exactly family-friendly. Gunn exhibited a rare knowledge of the complicated sentiments that great comics can elicit by blending violent mayhem with sensitive tenderness.
Gunn is at his most creative in Super. It has his signature indie roots, yet it seems deeply personal and brave. It’s a final love letter to his low-budget beginnings, before breaking into Marvel and creating his masterwork, Guardians of the Galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 1)
Guardians of the Galaxy, the film that launched Gunn’s career and cemented Marvel Studios’ reputation as a success maker, is a near-flawless action-adventure spectacle. The first Guardians of the Galaxy picture has the ideal blend of pathos, comedy, and superhero adventure. It also boasts a killer soundtrack, packed with pop and rock hits.
Audiences were drawn in by the characters’ provocative dialogue, but they stuck around because of the cast of cosmic outlaws’ close relationships. While there are many heartwarming sad moments in Guardians, there are also many hilarious comedy ones. Everything about a Gunn film is there, and it’s all done with the highest level of cinematic perfection. It’s without a doubt the reason Gunn crossed over into the DC universe and became the studio’s co-CEO.
James Gunn’s films have a great aesthetic flair while also being entertaining. Even though he has only made four films, Gunn’s distinctive influence on film cannot be denied. Even if it is popular fare, there are very few occasions in a James Gunn film when it appears to be predictable entertainment. With his unique ability to create a branded universe with a diverse cast of characters, people will be anxious to see what the DCU will do next.