When we first heard that Marvel Studios was plotting to bring the obscure Guardians of the Galaxy to the big screen back in the summer of 2010, even superhero geeks like me laughed. Even by wide-eyed superhero movie standards, this science fiction film projected an out-there cast of intergalactic characters. Sure, there were the familiar comic book tropes amongst the oddities: an earth-born, wise-cracking thief and the Guardians’ unlikely leader with a proverbial heart of gold (Star-Lord); a green-skinned female alien trained as a merciless assassin, who was now seeking redemption (Gamora); and a hulking behemoth out to avenge the death of his beloved family (Drax the Destroyer).
But from there, it all just gets completely weird.
Never mind that the ragtag crew all have criminal backgrounds. One Guardian member, Groot, is a size-changing sentient tree whose only words are “I AM G-R-O-O-T.” And his partner Rocket, the most talked about (and controversial) Guardian member, is a genetically engineered raccoon (you read that right) and a gun-toting, sh*t-talking, spaceship-flying mercenary.
Once you do the weird stuff and people buy it, you can do anything.
“A raccoon will be the downfall of Marvel,” proclaimed “JimmyPasta” in 2012 on the influential fanboy site Ain’t It Cool News. And that was a heartbreaking prediction to make. The superhero world had just gone mainstream, thanks to Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the billion-dollar-grossing Avengers.
But no alarm bells are necessary. This film is an artistic game changer for Marvel.
“I always felt that it was very strange that people felt so negative that they wouldn’t accept a talking raccoon and tree, but they would absolutely accept a super soldier from World War II being frozen in ice and then thawing out in modern day,” says Spencer Perry, associate editor at the popular site SuperHeroHype, referring to the aforementioned red, white and blue hero Steve Rogers. “I definitely think Guardians is a stepping stone for Marvel because once you do the weird stuff and people buy it, you can do anything.”
Backed by a savvily casted lineup, including Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt, WWE pro wrestler Dave Bautista, “it” girl Zoe Saldana, Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper and action-hero deity Vin Diesel (the latter pair voice the CGI-creations Rocket and Groot, respectively), Guardians looks on track to earn $68 to $70 million according to Deadline for its opening weekend in theaters. This is optimistic news for a film that features comic book characters that have mainly sat on the D-lister bench in the superhero world.
And it all points to a new kind of risk-taking on Marvel’s part. Up next, in 2015, is Avengers: Age of Ultron. Currently in development: Doctor Strange, a flick chronicling a former neurosurgeon turned sorcerer supreme; Ant-Man, all about a hero with the ability to shrink down to the size of … an ant to communicate with Earth’s hardest working insects. And in addition to OZY’s own reports of a Black Panther movie in the works, there’s also talk that Marvel is plotting to take on arguably its strangest comic-to-film gamble yet: The Inhumans, a race of advanced beings who live on the moon. Their silent leader, Blackbolt, can level an entire city just by uttering a word.
Why you should care
Because not long ago, these were just comic books for geeks. The latest multimillion-dollar movie adaptation is about to sweep America and we’re excited.