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.)
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 ...
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.
Guardians' nostalgia doesn't go back far. Remember how in The Avengers gobs of asshole aliens attacked and only the Avengers could stop them? Remember those shots of aliens swarming down to unleash all kinds of murder?
Well, we hope you liked that, because in Guardians, more asshole aliens attack and only the Guardians of the Galaxy can stop them, with the same MacGuffin and shots!
If you squint, you can see a Hawkeye cameo where he does the same thing from the other film: nothing.
Our point isn't that these filmmakers are being lazy -- in fact, it's kind of brilliant. Remember, this movie is based on a comic series no normal people have ever read. In order to sell new audiences on this madness, they needed to reassure them with scenes that looked exactly like things they'd seen work before. Because familiarity makes us feel comfortable. And comfortable people spend money. And money can be used to buy goods and services. We trust you're caught up with us at this point.
Yeah, Marvel's already announced that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 comes out in 2017. Sure, the buzz and box office estimates look rosy. But if the entire movie-going population goes insane, ignores Guardians, and randomly drops $900 million on Planes: Fire and Rescue, the Avengers franchise superstructure will survive. Hell, Guardians doesn't even take place on Earth. If the movie tanks, Tony Stark won't even notice, or miss the fact that he's destined for an unsatisfactory sex scene with Zoe Saldana's character.
Spock: 1, Stark: 0.
It's worth noting further that Guardians was preceded by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was the most realistic Marvel film simply because it starred Robert Fucking Redford. If Guardians flops, trust that Marvel's going to reel it back in, scrap their plans for 2034's Ego, the Living Planet movie, and gear up for Iron Man 22: We're Just Adding CGI to Chaplin.
Please make this happen. *Play for Full Effect*