Random Loot is a new series in which I get to focus on one particular game, movie or even comic, be it relatively old or quite new, and then ramble about it, often going off-course in the process or using it to make a point about something else entirely. This series is far less critical than my reviews or even standard opinion pieces. I’m less concerned with being entirely fair, and more with just presenting my personal views or ideas in a quick, easy format. You’ve been warned.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a soft-spot for eccentric, off-beat movies. Toss in my life-long addiction to comics and it’s hardly surprisingly that I’m incredibly pumped for Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, especially given that astonishing first trailer, which neatly captured the wacky spirit of the film.
The thing is, Guardians of the Galaxy is a savvy choice for Marvel. I’ve heard a lot of people comment that they view it as a risky movie by such a big company, one that could easily backfire. I’ve even heard people say that Marvel should be applauded for such a bold direction. But I think it’s not actually very risky, and in many ways is a very smart move on their behalf.
At this point Marvel’s so-called “cinematic universe” is rock-solid in the eyes of the vast majority of people. The Avengers was a massive cultural event that grossed absurd amounts of money, and its backed up by several sub-franchises that show no signs of slowing down, with Iron Man 3 grossing over a billion dollars, Thor: The Dark World doing somewhere around $600M and Captain America: The Winter Soldier snagging a nifty $710M. Unless Marvel somehow manage to create truly awful films for each of their franchises in turn then their cinematic universe is essentially bullet-proof for the forseeable future. The closest they’ve come to making a bad film was Iron Man 2, and even that was mostly just okay. Sure, in comparison to the original Iron Man it was vastly disappointing and didn’t half a soundtrack even half as good, but viewed on its own it was a mediocre action flick, one that hardly deserved much praise but still raked in vast sums of money and clearly did not put even the tiniest of dents in either The Avengers or Iron Man 3’s box-office performance, or at least, if it did not enough of one for anyone to care.
With Marvel having now laid such solid foundations Guardians of the Galaxy is almost a guaranteed success financially. All the general public need to know is that it’s a Marvel film that takes place in the same universe as The Avengers, and they’re going to buy a ticket. The fantastic trailer released a few months ago merely served to tell people what they felt like they already knew: this is going to be so awesome, because it has a fucking raccoon in it. With a gun. A raccoon with a gun.
The reason I view it as a savvy move on the part of Marvel is that the film holds the potential to catapult the comic series into more mainstream attention, having existed in a bubble all of its own since inception. The Guardians of the Galaxy has a dedicated following, but its relatively small, the rag-tag group of anti-heroes living in obscurity. The upcoming movie could boost sales of the comic series which just relaunched in 2013 considerably. That’s a win/win situation for Marvel right there. If their plan succeeds then they’ve got a reinvigorated comic series and a brand new movie franchise in play.
But let’s get back to the actual movie, because I’m freaking excited about this one. By all accounts I’m sort of breaking a rule I made for myself which states that I’d only ever use the Random Loot series to talk about films, games or comics that are actually out, rather than things coming in the future. But something about this film tickles me, neatly hitting that part of me that loves weird, eccentric, off-beat stuff.
And let us be clear about this: I’m saying that from a financial standpoint the movie is pretty safe, although there’s always that chance it’ll trip and fail. Thor: The Dark World opened to an $85M weekend last November, and Iron Man 3 opened to $174M in May. The Winter Soldier managed a solid $95M. Anything substantially lower than that, say around $30M, would be perceived as a failure in the eyes of Marvel, I would imagine. No, from a financial angle my opinion is that Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t as big a risk as many believe, but from a quality standpoint there’s certainly some risk involved, especially given the lack of pure starpower and the interesting choice of director in James Gunn.
Let’s face it, the choice of Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers was a surprising one. Even though I’m a Joss Whedon fan the decision to bring him onboard caught me off-guard, as his work in film had been limited up until that point. Obviously he’d created and helmed things like Buffy and the downright awesome Firefly, but before the Avengers came along the only movie he’d done was Serenity, which admiteddly was shot very well. There was Cabin in the Woods, a very under-appreciated film in my view, but he only served as producer on that, as well as co-writer. The choice of Whedon to helm Marvel’s hugely ambitious plan was a risk that paid off gloriously. Joss not only knew comic books, having written a lot of them himself, but he had a damn good eye for framing the action, too. He didn’t mess around with all that shaky cam bollox, instead he let us see heroes beating the crap out of each other in glorious detail.
Gunn is Marvel’s second big risk in terms of directors, but something like Guardians of the Galaxy needed that risk, needed someone quirky to really make it work. Gunn made his debut with Slither, which featured Nathan Fillion. It’s not astounding, but Slither is a neat little horror film with a knowing schlocky attitude and good sense of humour. It knows it’s a cheesy, B-movie, and revels in that. He also directed and wrote the disturbing super-hero movie Super, a film which I admit made me feel uncomfortable throughout watching it, which in hindsight was the point. It’s dark, a little comedic and more than a bit unsettling, containing brutal violence, an unlikable lead character and a rape scene that left me disturbed. I don’t personally view it as a very good film, but there’s no denying that it had an impact on me.
So yup, Gunn is an interesting, risky choice, but it could pay off big. He’s a director that definitely brings an unusual view to the table, and something as wacky as the Guardians of the Galaxy could benefit greatly from that. The many interviews and on-site articles all paint Gunn as being genuinely excited about the project, and he himself seems to believe that Guardians of the Galaxy is pretty much the absolute perfect match for him.
And then, of course, there’s the lack of any real big-name actors, with the exception of Zoe Saldana who played Neytiri in Avatar, although most people will still probably be unfamiliar with her. Dave Bautista is a former/current WWE star with a great off-screen personality, but thus far hasn’t exactly impressed in his few roles and has little in the way of drawing power. Bradley Cooper is an actor plenty of people would likely recognise on-screen, but since he’s playing a racoon the point is somewhat negated. Vin Diesel is much the same, his face being known to many but hidden away behind a walking tree with a vocabulary of exactly three words. That leaves Chris Pratt of Parks and Recreation’s fame, another name most people will be scouring IMDb for. Still, I maintain that Pratt is an inspired piece of casting for the role of Starlord. Hopefully he proves me right.
That’s one hell of a melting pot and there’s a chance that it’ll set the movie ablaze and burn to the ground, leaving me looking a tad embarrassed and quietly eating my own hat. By all accounts I’m an idiot sitting here attempting to judge the quality of a movie based entirely on a trailer, the director and the actors. Unlike the world of videogames where I can quite literally get some hands-on time with an upcoming game and make a semi-informed opinion, I’m mostly just throwing around guesses when it comes to a movie.
An early “review” of sorts has already hit the Internet-based on an unfinished version of the film, one which doesn’t even contain many of the effects. I won’t list much from the so-called review because in essence it’s actually just a break-down of almost the entire plot, which I skipped in favor of reading the final paragraph which offered an actual opinion. According to the reviewer, it was a great movie, which surprised him/her as they weren’t expecting much. Apparently some of the action is a little weak and some of the character motivations don’t make sense, but the reviewer rightfully points out that there’s time to fix some of that yet. The most pertinent points were that it’s very funny, Rocket Raccoon steals the show, Drax is a good character and the soundtrack plays a huge part in the film, which is unsurprising given the two trailers.
There’s just something that tells me Guardians of the Galaxy will work out. It may not be stellar or even amongst the best of the Marvel movies, but I’d be surprised if it’s anything less than a funny, action-packed romp with a raccoon. And seriously, who could ask for more than that?