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It’s hard to find fault with Marvel Studios these days. They had a plan which, frankly, should’ve failed: Use Iron Man (featuring a B-level hero, starring a formerly tarnished actor, directed by a guy best known for Elf) as the first brick in the road — which would eventually include The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor — leading to The Avengers. If any of these movies were horrible, if any of those leading actors didn’t pan out (and Edward Norton was the one misstep), then the whole house of cards would crumble.
And then the well-mused-over decision to hand The Avengers to writer-director Joss Whedon, he of the passionate cult audience but puny box office muscle.
All of these choices turned out to be the right ones — thanks, hindsight! — but it all could’ve gone so wrong, so easily. Even though it might be foolish to doubt the gut-checked wisdom of Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, I’m going to anyway: I kinda think Guardians of the Galaxy is a bad idea.
The star-spanning super-team has been around since the late ‘60s, but the most recent incarnation — and the one that Marvel’s leaning on for the movie due out in August 2014 — follows a team of displaced humans, plant monsters, alien warriors and one very dangerous and unpredictable raccoon as they, well, guard the galaxy. The Guardians often came into conflict with Thanos, the big purple-faced bad guy we saw at the end of The Avengers and who will, no doubt, be the villain of Avengers 2: Avenge Harder.
The comics, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, were a ton of fun, don’t get me wrong. And, sure, this movie might be, too. But here’s the thing: A big part of what made Marvel’s comic universe to appealing to readers — and, later, moviegoers — was that its heroes were earthbound, with earthly problems. Sure, some of those heroes — like Thor and the X-Men and Dr. Strange, to name a few — would eventually travel to other planets/planes of existence, but they were always rooted in the “real” world, in our world. Even The Avengers introduced aliens by dragging them to down to our level, in Midtown NYC.
Guardians of the Galaxy, however, is cosmic. Like, starships in outer-space cosmic. And cosmic tends not to meld very well with a real-world universe, as I’m sure some of the folks behind Green Lantern will attest to. Plus, it seems like Guardians, however good or bad it may eventually be, is on the slate simply to introduce the bad guy for Avengers 2. And if you need an entire movie to set up your antagonist just so audiences will know who he is for another movie, then perhaps you chose the wrong antagonist. (And, really, the Submariner is just sitting there at the bottom of the ocean, with an arsenal of crazy magic-tech and army of Atlanteans at his command, waiting to be pissed off at everyone.)
Could it work? Yeah. But it’s a roll of the dice. Marvel’s on one hell of a streak and they’ve got a lot of post-Avengers goodwill on their side, from both fans and Disney…and yet, I can’t help but wonder if this is the movie they should spend all that goodwill on.
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