Ever since Guardians of the Galaxy was announced at the San Diego Comic Con Marvel panel two years ago, there has existed some skepticism amongst both the geek community and Hollywood analysts at large. How could a space movie – a genre that does not perform well in the theaters unless it begins with Star and ends with either Trek or Wars – be a success in an already tepid summer movie season? After looking at everything that has been released, combined with the early buzz and reviews, I have a good feeling that Marvel Studios will have another hit on their hands.
I admit I was one of the concerned at the beginning when they first announced Guardians. Despite Marvel’s vast cosmic roster of characters and storylines, (a good portion which may or may not be tied up due to the Fantastic Four rights over at Fox,) their first step was a group of misfits who end up becoming one of the universe’s best protection forces (after the Nova Corps, who sanctions the team.) A film directed by a relatively unknown who’s claim to fame is scripting the Scooby-Doo live action movies and the Dawn of the Dead remake, not to mention helming the cult movie Super. Yet, the more I saw what James Gunn was doing with Guardians and the comments made by him and Kevin Feige (President of Marvel Studios), I became comfortable with the idea. Even with my reservations with some of the casting (I still want a Rocket with a gravely, Cockney accent dammit) I still held out hope; which was well placed when the trailers were released.
Yet, with all the promotion media presented for Guardians, there is still doubt on how well it will do. It may even be quite understandable, especially with the box office being down this year. Yet, I feel there are many factors that will help this film succeed.
You can call Marvel many things, but at the end of the day there is only one adjective that describes them best: shrewd. They may be open to new directions and concepts for their characters (except for Fox’s plans for Fantastic Four), but you cannot accuse them of making moves that do not have the brand or their IP’s at heart. They will not hesitate to cut someone from a project if the person does not have either aspect in mid. There are many examples of this (anyone remember Ed Norton Jr?), however the most recent one is probably the best one. Fans were crushed that Edgar Wright had left the Ant-Man project, feeling he was wronged for the fallout over the script and direction. Up until that point, it had seemed both sides were on the same page with the concept and overall visual feel. It was a shock to many that Wright and Marvel butted heads; however some creative relationships just cannot co-exist, especially when one party is justifiably protective of their brand.
How does this fit in with Guardians? Simple: Marvel wouldn’t have dipped their little piggies into the space portion of their portfolio if they weren’t sure money could be made while keeping the brand intact. They have enough experience with movies – with a proven track record, mind you – to gauge what will work in their strategy. They are confident to the point of being bat-ish crazy that this concept will work.
Speaking of bat-ish crazy…
As I said before, Marvel is not afraid to try new things with their properties. Some bad (everyone remember Spidey wiping his marriage away to save Aunt May?), but many turned out good. Whether it is the comics or the movies, many of their ideas look crazy on paper but work out when put into place. After the initial excitement over the announcement of the Phase 1 of movies would lead up to The Avengers, many people became skeptical. A lot of the “How will they make this work” kind of questions began to be asked. People became hesitant, almost fearing the final result of the project. Fast forward a few years later, and the film became the undisputed film of the year, breaking several box office records and grossing $1.51 billion worldwide.
During a Twitter discussion on the recent news that Falcon would be taking over as Captain America, one thing that resonated with me is that Marvel is a lot smarter than fans give them credit for. They know the treasure trove of material they have at their disposal, and are apparently not afraid to use it. Some of it so crazy – such as Guardians of the Galaxy, where you have an assassin, a being whose sole purpose is to kill Thanos, a mercenary rodent, his deciduous friend and a rogue thrown together to be heroes – that with the right people, it will work on screen. They have both Feige – who has been with Marvel Studios since its inception in 2000 and an overall comic geek – and Joe Quesada at the helm; both men willing to take calculated risks. The company itself converted the comic’s division, beginning with “The Ultimates”, into a testing ground for concepts and storylines for motion pictures and television, while staying true to putting out quality material. They also used the One Shot stories as potential jump off points for other projects such as Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. They are giving the fans what they want to see while experimenting with things that can be used in multiple formats.
This organized, yet reckless abandon approach has paid off for the House of Ideas. For the last 15 years, barring stunt issues that DC frequently throws out, Marvel has been #1 in comic sales as a whole. They have consistent success in the theaters ever since the studio arm released their first film, Iron Man, seven years ago. Their only weak link right now is their television/animation division, and this is something that could be resolved with the replacement of an individual or two.
The company knows what it is doing, and if the early buzz heading into San Diego Comic Con is any indication, Guardians should do well. And why shouldn’t it? It appears to be a fun romp that many of the films this year are lacking.
I know it sounds like an incredibly douchy response as an outsider looking in, but think about it. Why else would you release a movie at a time when you throw most of your junk in? Most Hollywood analysts had come to the conclusion months ago that Marvel slotted Guardians in the August 1 release slot because they did not have much faith in the film.
I’d have to disagree with that assessment.
I feel that the decision was equal parts desperation and opportunity. Okay, desperate may sound harsh, but not without its merits. Ever since Marvel announced that they planned to release two films a year, I feel an ever increasing problem arose for them. There are now so many movies jammed packed into the traditional summer blockbuster schedule, that slotting Guardians in a release date where it would stand out most likely became an issue. This year you had Transformers: Age of Extinction, Godzilla, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes, X-Men: Days of Futures Past and others that took the prime spots of the season. With Hollywood’s currently mentality of barraging people with “blockbusters”, the conventional scheduling of films becomes useless.
Leave it to Marvel to do the unconventional. I am sure somewhere along the scheduling process, someone asked “Why not August”, with question receiving “Yeah, why not August” as a response. August through September is considered a dumping ground, where studios usually send movies they are not too sure about to die a quick death in obscurity. The logic to put Guardians at the cusp of the summer dumping ground gives Marvel an advantage. They have already experimented placing projects on months that are considered awkward for films (April for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World in November) with great success. Each time, neither film had any competition for weeks, allowing them to rake in a combined $465 million domestically. The company has already proven that if you put out a product people are interested in, they will go to the theaters.
Guardians only competition in early August is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which has not been well received so far. Guardians also has the added weight of the post-San Diego Comic Con buzz as well. Marvel is expected to focus on promoting the project heavily in addition to announcing future ones as well. Yes, Disney may be concerned with Guardians tracking (which has resulted with the intensive advertising campaign), but I feel between Marvel’s strategy, experience and the word of mouth, The House of Ideas will have yet another great film that will be number one.
Ultimately, I could be very well off-base in my logic. Guardians could be Marvel Studios first goose egg, which will make Feige and others re-evaluate their entry into the space genre. Many of the company’s future plans could be affected by what could be a turd in a can for them. It is a scenario that can happen come August 1.
However, after everything we know of this film, Marvel’s track record and just the sheer potential of more Marvel stories in space (Kree/Skrull war, anyone?), I feel confident in saying that Guardians will perform well. I welcome your thoughts on the matter. How do you think the film will do going into SDCC? I want to know!