Director James Gunn has stated that Hong-Kong cinema directly influenced the style and direction of Guardians of the Galaxy. Speaking to an audience of Chinese filmmakers this week, he also spoke of his close relationship with Eastern audiences and which Guardians character he most identifies with.
At the time of its release in 2014, the original film was seen as something of a gamble by Marvel studios. Following lesser-known characters in the (then) unexplored far-reaches of the franchise’s outer-space environment, it seemed risky when compared with the Earth-bound adventures of Iron Man and Captain America. But of course, it defied expectations and went on to be a huge critical and commercial success. Gunn’s quirky style and confidence in his cast paid off immensely. This was further compounded by the success of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 released this May, which has gone on to make even more at the box-office than its predecessor. Work on the third volume has been confirmed, with some exciting additions to the team wholly possible.
Gunn has previously spoken of how his personal experiences affect the Guardians films , but this week he attended an event within the Shanghai International Film Festival, and spoke to fellow directors and screenwriters about other influences. Variety reports that he made some interesting comments as regards links to the Guardians films and Hong Kong cinema itself;
“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 … I figure out everything before I go on stage. I know every shot beforehand … Half of film making is about balance. A film is a giant machine that I’m helping to build. Half is very personal, it’s about characters … (The whole) is a balance between the emotional and the logical.”
At the event Gunn also admitted which character he would be in the films, and it wasn’t Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord. “Rocket is me, feeling outcast and forgotten“, he said. The trip was the director’s first visit to mainland China, but he has always made a concerted effort to stay connected to Chinese audiences. Using social media, Gunn was surprised to see many complaints from Eastern viewers about the subtitles for Guardians of the Galaxy. So with Vol. 2 he actually worked with translators to ensure that this was greatly improved. The filmmaker also had a word of warning for Hollywood studios that cynically look for international appeal through calculatedly diverse casting choices. “Chinese people don’t fall for that trick any more,” he said.
The comparison to Hong Kong cinema is interesting, and in hindsight similarities can definitely be found in Guardians and the work of John Woo and Ringo Lam. Huge choreographed action sequences, coupled with intimate character moments. It gives the films even more of an added layer of coolness. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a remake or a sequel of Hard Boiled from Gunn one day…
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