By now, it’s probably no big secret to anybody that the newest Marvel flick, Guardians of the Galaxy, has received a whole lot of praise from critics and fans alike. Metacritic scores it at 76, with a user score of 8.6, and box office figures report the fun-filled space adventure complete with talking tree and wise-cracking raccoon has generated more than $41 million. That’s a nice little chunk of change for a franchise that most non-comic book readers have never even heard of. Heck, a lot of the comic nerds out there that I know don’t have much to say about the Guardians, but somehow Marvel found a way to make us care. How did they do it?
Sure, superhero movies tend to dominate the summer box offices. Just look up figures on the new TMNT movie and you’ll see just how easy it is to rake in the cash, even with a film that didn’t score half as well on Metacritic (34 out of 100, in case you were wondering). But the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a colossal fan base when compared to Starlord and friends. So what made Guardians’ formula so successful? Well, in this case, the low profile of the the film may have done more to set reasonable expectations for moviegoers rather than alienating them from the experience altogether.
Think about it, if people weren’t sure about the wacky cast of characters that make up the five-man space brigade, they expect less from it than say a movie like, oh, I don’t know, The Avengers. With a movie like that, comic book fans as well as fans of the previous films were practically trampling over each other to get their tickets. Why? Well, in the case of the Avengers, it’s almost an impossible question to answer. Some people wanted to see Thor. Some came to see Captain America. Others just wanted to see Robert Downey Jr. Either way, expectations were high and rightfully so. A lot of people’s favorites were out there alongside other heroes of legendary status and fans wanted nothing less than perfection. This wasn’t a hurdle the Guardians had to overcome.
Instead, I think the biggest problem Guardians looked to resolve was getting people to care. After all, not everyone wants to watch a two-hour movie about some rocket-wielding raccoon, even though deep down I kind of wish they did. What better way to make Marvel fans care that than throw in Thanos, one of the biggest bad guys from the respective universe? By doing this, people who saw the Thanos teaser at the end of the Avengers wanted in on the action.
To top it off, this film just looked like it was going to be stupid, silly fun wrapped up in a neat little package of ass-kickery and a bit of mystery. There’s humor, everybody loves Chris Pratt, there’s action, everybody loves Chris Pratt, and the movie is set in space. Who the hell doesn’t want to watch a superhero movie set in outer space… with Chris Pratt? Add in a few more aliens, one strong and stupid, one sexy and smart and you have yourself some interest to say the least – but even then, only interest. Not the overwhelming urge to say, “this is going to be the best thing ever”.
The trailers got butts into seats and those butts turned into bucks quickly. But at the end of the day, the movie was actually good; really good. It wasn’t perfect and I had a few small qualms with with pacing, but nothing big enough to take away from the overall experience. Everything the trailers promised, the movie delivered but better, and the best part is nobody even expected it, and that’s what made it so memorable. It took people by surprise. That, and unlike The Avengers, the majority of the film wasn’t spent getting all of the guardians to play nicely together.
The moral of the story here is that sometimes less is more, and in the case of Guardians and people’s knowledge of the franchise, less expectations turned into more enjoyment. I just want to see how the next entry wiill measure up in the eyes of audiences now that there’s an established fan base.
I originally set out to write this piece with the intent of reviewing Guardians, but at this point there’s just been so much positive feedback that you all know what you’d be getting into. But if you haven’t seen it, you should stop reading this and be on your way to the theater right now. Unless, of course, you want to go check out Michael Bay’s latest attempt at mass childhood ruination. I’ll just be here writing about games and patiently waiting for Guardians 2. – AF