Trailers@24 Panels: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Here at 24 Panels, we like to give each new comic book movie trailer the roundtable treatment. This time, we take a look at the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, from director James Gunn (Super, Slither).

DAVE: So, who wants to bet that pretty much every song on Star Lord’s Walkman is already part of my iTunes playlist?

Look, I’ve never read a Guardians of the Galaxy comic in my life, so I’ve not really had any vested interest in this film. It hasn’t helped that I haven’t been much of a fan of the work I have seen from James Gunn: Super is an interesting but deeply problematic film for me, while the less said about those Scooby-Doo films he was involved with, the better. But bloody hell, this trailer has won me over, and then some. If it is reflective of what the final film will be, then we are in for something that appears completely bizarre and fun, and I’m down for that.

One of the qualities that I love about this trailer is how Marvel does not seem to be trying to hide the fact that the Guardians of the Galaxy are not their most well known or traditional property. Instead, they seem to be embracing that fact as part of the film, and it is a smart choice. Marvel could easily have tried to hard sell the film as the hip, cool new joint from the studio that brought you The Avengers, but instead the goal seems to be to let the Guardians sell themselves on being the oddballs they appear to be, with John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz voicing what are likely the initial reactions of many audience members.

Then there is the universe building which seems to be going on. We really haven’t had a comic book superhero film really kick contemporary Earth to the curb yet, and Guardians is looking to be the first one to make that effort. I was rather expecting the first trailer for the film to try and ease audiences into the cosmic setting of the film, but instead Marvel and Gunn seem to have chosen to showcase just how big and different this corner of the galaxy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be, from the Nova Corps to the other worldly settings and the vast range of alien life forms which seem to roam the universe. And thankfully, the design work doesn’t seem to be derivative of other films, unlike the work seen in Thor: The Dark World, which was pretty much Lord of the Rings-lite. If nothing else, Guardians of the Galaxy won’t look or feel like anything else this summer, and that is a major plus in my book.

Still, the main point which impresses me in this trailer is just how fun the whole thing looks. With Captain America: The Winter Solider and X-Men: Days of Future Past looking to be fairly serious—if not grim—films, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 likely heading to some dark places if the one event we are all expecting to happen in it does indeed take place, Guardians of the Galaxy is looking to be a refreshingly fun romp of the summer. And given that Avengers: Age of Ultron is likely to continue the trend of pushing the core Marvel Universe to darker places, Marvel is going to need a lighter counterpoint to keep things level.

What about you Dru? What do you take away from this?

DRU: Unlike you, Dave, I have read some Guardians in comic book form—specifically, the first volume (Legacy) of what was the most recent reboot prior to Marvel Now. As I recall, I liked it, and I like this trailer too.

What Marvel has always done better than their competitors is place likeable characters at the centre of their films, and Chris Pratt’s Peter “Star Lord” Quill looks to be a new MVP for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have no doubt that he’s going to be a huge star (the effects of the one-two punch of The LEGO Movie and this are already being felt: he’s also slated to anchor Jurassic World). That they’re keeping the movie’s secret weapon in their back pocket—Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper—suggests that they know Pratt’s got the goods and they don’t need cheap marketing tactics to get butts in seats.

Tonally, you’re totally right, though I think another thing Marvel does better than anybody else in the superhero game is having serious stakes without going “gritty” (read: no fun). There’s a 9/11-esque montage at the end of The Avengers, and not only does it not feel out of place, it also doesn’t stop us from laughing at our heroes exhaustedly chowing down on some shawarma. Keep in mind that we know our old buddy Thanos will be making an appearance here, so just because we’ve got Benecio del Toro in full Liberace mode (almost entirely absent from this trailer, presumably because the focus is on character introductions rather than plot, or maybe because nobody liked the tease at the end of Thor: The Dark World…) and Pratt being a charming goof doesn’t mean things won’t get real.

What Marvel doesn’t do better than anybody else, however, is plots, which is what this trailer completely obscures. Their most recent outing, Thor: The Dark World, coasts by completely on the charms of its leads, getting bogged down by the requirements of “story.” Will Guardians succumb to the same fate? Right now, it’s impossible to say, but when it comes to Marvel movies I don’t necessarily mind a B- story if it’s full of A+ characters.

How’s about you, Nuno? I know you’re more excited for this flick than just about anybody in the known universe.

NUNO: HOLY CRAP GUYS! THIS IS GONNA BE THE BEST FLICK EVER! Okay, maybe it really is my uber-fanboy having its glorious moment, but I really want this to live up to every single expectation I have for it. Usually that’s a dangerous feeling to have before going in to see a film you really want to see do well, critically, and especially financially. But I wholeheartedly believe it will blow people away.

Both of you touched on points I immediately thought myself. To summarize quickly so I can gush over different points: First, that the smartest strategy used with this unknown property was to present it all Temple of Doom serious like, then flip 180 degrees and go meta by being the voice of the audience right away; right from the Kree soldier’s confused/annoyed “Who?” to the Nova Corp’s very silly, comic book dialogue roll call of the GotG members, to ending the trailer with “Hooked on a Feeling” playing over top of a shot depicting a very unimpressed/bored misfit crew in a Usual Suspects style lineup. Just perfect.

Secondly, that this trailer focuses on presenting the audience with a character that will be fun to watch as the lead, an obvious underdog of Marvel cinematic heroes thus far. Star-Lord is a dude… in space… who calls himself “Star-Lord”… just because. That’s such a simple detail which I find it hilarious and speaks to the tone of the film. Each of the GotG members in the line-up have their own very subtle moments during the roll call that speak to their characterizations. The trailer wasn’t about blowing you away with a bunch of crap exploding, although it ends with a collage of visuals to remind the audience that will be there as well. With this trailer, Marvel demonstrates that it’s confident the characters will be enough. That’s not saying the plot gets a pass to be weak, but I think with a group like these characters, most of the cinematic entertainment will come from how they interact. If this is executed anything like the comic—which had some of the best character dialogue exchanges I’ve every read in a comic—then this will be the strongest aspect of the movie’s plot anyways. (Please let there be an appearance from Cosmo, the Russian Cosmonaut dog… oh please…)

These heroes are misfits. They aren’t perfect human patriotic specimens, they aren’t super-inventor billionaire philanthropists, they aren’t large biceped thunder gods. Although each of the Avengers have their own personal flaws, the Guardians of the Galaxy have social flaws—for lack of a better phrase. They’re rejects. Corrupted. They’re registered criminals. They self-indulge in their own personal goals. But, they work as a team, and they respect that they work well as a team, even if the things they do to save the galaxy are never recognized by the larger masses of moving pieces across the universe. This is Ocean’s Eleven meets The Fifth Element. This is Firefly meets Farscape. This is Big Trouble in Little China meets Star Wars.

This isn’t an Avengers flick. The reality set in motion by Marvel though, is that this is most definitely part of their Marvel Movie Continuity-Driven Blockbuster Engine of Competition Destruction. The Avenger property flicks have set up the foundation that Guardians of the Galaxy is building upon, and rest assured, this flick will continue to build on the Big Bad that Marvel seems to be building towards, which is Thanos. It’s almost impossible to not foresee this all leading to an Infinity Crusade mega-cinematic masterpiece that takes everything Marvel has thrown at the large screen, and threads it all into a tapestry of cinematic continuity never experienced before by Earthlings.

August 1, 2014. That will mark the date when everything about Marvel Studio’s plan of attack in the live action arena will change. When—not if—Marvel proves they can nail this kind of flick, with these kinds of unrecognizable characters, the value and potential of their property portfolio is going to skyrocket. The possibilities will be as endless as space itself (heh).

Guardians of the Galaxy opens August 1, 2014.

Dru

Dru Jeffries is the co-host of 24 Panels Per Second. Follow him on Twitter @violetbooth.

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