Marvel's Gamble: Guardians of the Galaxy

“Who?”

Yes, the trailer for Marvel Studios’ upcoming blockbuster-hopeful, Guardians of the Galaxy (based off the comic series by the same name), highlights the film’s principle problem immediately. While past superhero movies have starred big names like Batman, Superman, and the X-Men; Guardians of the Galaxy gives us Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, and Rocket. Who indeed. For the first time in its existence, the cinematic superhero genre is going obscure. There is no one out there, other than comic book fans, familiar with these characters. It’s a bold risk, although Marvel Studios is no stranger to ambitious projects (Thor, The Avengers, the Incredible Hulk).

For starters – the film needs a star. Someone the audience can identify and be like “I want to see a movie with that dude/dudette in it!” Guardians of the Galaxy has such a star. Bradley Cooper, an Academy Award nominated actor whose recent screen credits include American Hustle, The Hangover trilogy and Silver Linings Playbook. Simply put: he is one of the most popular actors out there. Surely they would use his face to help draw in the ticket sales… well, this is his face in the film:

Yep.
Yep.

Bradley Cooper lends his voice talents as Rocket, the seemingly homicidal, gun-toting, sentient raccoon. While this still sounds like a great casting decision, it’s not going to draw in the casual crowd. That’s okay because Vin Diesel (of Fast and the Furious fame) is also in the movie… as this guy:

Groot-Concept-Art-Comic-Con-2013-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy

Perfect, so the film’s two biggest leads are virtually unrecognizable. I could point out that Zoe Saldana (Star Trek and Avatar) is also in this but, you guessed it: she’s the green chick. This is not to say that Chris Pratt (Peter Quill aka Star-Lord) is a nobody. He has appeared in hits like Parks and Recreation and the LEGO Movie (looks totally identical to his Lego counterpart). Still, of the four actors mentioned, he is currently the lowest in terms of recognition. That may change with films like this and Jurassic World (I’m not kidding, that’s the title of the 4th Jurassic Park) but for now: star power is shaky.

However, star power isn’t the only thing that drives the success of a film. Competition is also important. Guardians of the Galaxy is currently slated for release on August 1st of this year. It’s main competition will be the films that come out immediately before (July) and immediately after (rest of August). Right now it will only be going against films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11th), Hercules (July 25th), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8th). That’s not too imposing in terms of potential blockbusters. The direct challenge is the last film mentioned:

One week after release and the Guardians will face their biggest challenge: a team of much better known superheroes.
One week after release and the Guardians will face their biggest challenge: a team of much better known superheroes.

Guardians of the Galaxy is in good shape to make a splash this summer: provided that audiences think it will be worth paying money to see. That largely depends on marketing. Again they have their hands full this time (who are these people and why should anyone give a damn). First impressions matter and, well, here is the trailer:

Pretty good, nice use of “Hooked On A Feeling” to give it some class (as opposed to trying to cash in on the latest popular radio song). The trailer illustrates that there may be more going on here than just the average, action-driven superhero movie. For one thing: there’s comedy. When two of the main characters are a raccoon and a walking plant, seriousness would be hard to impart. Marvel’s better films (Thor, The Avengers, and Iron Man) have all made excellent use of comedy to help infuse their plots with human emotion.

It is worth noting that this movie is directed by James Gunn. Not the largest name in Hollywood by any stretch but Gunn made a name for himself with Super, another superhero film that not enough people have seen (seriously check it out, Ellen Page is amazing in it). While no guarantee, Gunn’s involvement does bring some assurance that Guardians of the Galaxy will not be the next Man of Steel.

I have made no secret that I believe the superhero genre is dying in movies. I have yet to see anything to convince me otherwise but nevertheless, Guardians of the Galaxy is in a good place to make money this summer. Marvel Studios is counting on it, should this film fail financially, it will bold very ill for the likes of Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange.  If Marvel is lucky (and if the film is good) their gamble will pay off.

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