Guardians of the Galaxy is a $170 million sci-fi action-comedy based on a comic book starring a bunch of D-list superheroes nobody gave a shit about five years ago. It's directed by James Gunn, a former Troma screenwriter best known for low-budget gorefests like Slither and Super. Two of Guardians' main characters are a talking tree and raccoon. And if this wasn't a Marvel Studios movie, Guardians would've been exiled to the Stygian wastelands of February, along with Jupiter Ascending and Texas Chainsaw Massacre $17: The Budget Is the Title. In short, it's incredible that Guardians was made.
Several Cracked writers checked out Guardians earlier this week. It's fun in that way Marvel films are, but it has the DNA of a B-movie, albeit a B-movie that Marvel has been daintily shepherding into the public consciousness for the past two years, like a Faberge egg wrapped in a tortilla of angel's laughter.
"Clap harder, you fool. The Disney snipers are watching."
Seriously, every single facet of this film is meticulously crafted to convince the audience they are not watching the next John Carter, Cowboys & Aliens, or The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Here's how Marvel's selling you on their most obscure property yet. (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.)
#4. The Marvel Logo Is the Title Screen
At the beginning of Guardians, there's a brief opening scene, and then huge fanfare, followed by this:
That's right -- the studio logo ends up with way more fanfare than the movie's title. It gets more fanfare than any studio logo we've ever seen in our lives. It's like if Universal Studios were unsure if they could hook audiences with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, so they splashed the opening seconds with the disclaimer "THE LOOPY MOON-BICYCLE HORESHIT YOU'RE ABOUT TO LOOK AT IS A GUY-WHO-DID-JAWS JOINT."
"Oh, we tried that shit before. Didn't work."
Remember, "Marvel Studios" isn't just a brand -- it's an interconnected universe that all these movies occupy. Most audience members couldn't pick out a 20th Century Fox production from a Paramount movie from a Miramax indie about people with zany accents who have sex. Marvel's gargantuan logo is their way of saying, "Don't worry. You've been here before and loved it. No matter how weird things get, you're still home." At which point you snuggle into Marvel's armpit -- which smells like Stan Lee's aftershave -- and drift into a stupor. Which is easy, because ...
#3. The Entire Plot Is Safely Nestled in the Familiar
When the first trailer for Guardians smacked the moist nerd eyes of Comic-Con 2013, fans were puzzled by the presence of a Sony Walkman among protagonist Star-Lord's many accessories. Director James Gunn later revealed that the Walkman is used to link Star-Lord to his home planet of Earth. Consequently, the movie's fight scenes get a '70s and '80s soundtrack befitting of a supermarket, instead of Hans Zimmer getting paid to fart in a microphone. And the nostalgia factor goes beyond the soundtrack. The opening scene is unapologetically Raiders of the Lost Ark in space:
Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm
"We own the rights. Wait until you see him in the sequel."
And the rest of the plot? It's about a ragtag crew of intergalactic misfits flying around in a signature spaceship while attempting to stop another larger spaceship filled with planet-destroying lawful-evil goons. Where have we seen that before?
Finally, Marvel movies tend to have Easter eggs for comics fans. Here, the opposite is true: Guardians' dialogue abounds with references to John Stamos, Footloose, and Jackson Pollack -- these are for the normals in the audience. The comics fans already know they're being catered to because they are watching a $170 million Guardians of the Galaxy movie, dammit.