The Marvel Studios’ Phase 2 films are filled with no-brainer sequels from Iron Man 3 to Thor 2: The Dark World. The one in particular that I am most excited to see reach the big screen is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which should be largely based on the landmark Ed Brubaker story that ran in comics in the late 2000s, reintroducing Cap’s WWII sidekick, Bucky as an assassin working for the KGB. Then there’s Ant-Man, which I strangely have all the confidence in the world, given Edgar Wright’s involvement. But the big elephant in the room is the Guardians of the Galaxy– the pivotal film of Phase 2. Marvel is very clear in trying to reproduce the same big screen magic that The Avengers created but up in space–a great challenge no doubt. So why are they talking to James Gunn, Peyton Reed and the directing pair of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden?
Gunn is their first choice according to THR because of his ability to combine genres seemlessly from comedy and horror to superero dramas. Some of that was developed in creating films for the low-budget schlock factory, Troma Entertainment, as well as directing two low-budget films, the slice-of-life drama about a crime-fighting vigilante, Super with Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, and Slither, a horror comedy that starred Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks.
That’s a pretty big car being gifted to a director/writer without some major box office success, but Marvel is willing to see how it can make these films and keep the costs down. Sometimes careers are made on calculated risks and there’s a lot to like about Super and I can see how comparisons with Gunn have been made to Avengers director, Joss Whedon. By banking on talent on the rise, Marvel is able to save some money and at the same time help vault the career of a director who has shown the potential to be a blockbuster filmmaker. It’s a smart way to do it, but there’s always the risk of being a flop. So far, Marvel has not swung and missed with its loyal fan base, unlike say Warner Bros. did with Green Lantern but Guardians of the Galaxy will require a similar leap of space faith.
The roster for Guardians of the Galaxy are Star-Lord (weapons combatant), Groot (an alien plant monster), Drax the Destroyer (a warrior with Hulk-like strength), Gamora (an cybernetically-enhanced assassin) and an anthropomorphic military tactician Rocket Raccoon.
Why try to introduce some massive space saga when everything besides Thor has taken place on Earth? For those who stayed through the Avengers‘ credits saw a teaser with Thanos as the big baddie Marvel is building towards in Phase 2. Thanos is one of the cosmic characters in the Marvel Universe and is potentially one of the, if not THE biggest, baddest villains every to be drawn on Marvel’s pages. Thanos has two ties to the Guardians of the Galaxy team.
One is Gamora, the last surviving member of her planet who was saved and then trained by Thanos as his best assassin. She would become his adopted daughter and he gifted her with enhanced speed, strength and agility from Thanos. Then there’s Drax who was once a human named Arthur Douglas. Douglas’ family was attacked by Thanos and his ship when visiting the Earth. His daughter survived, and was taken away and raised by Thanos’ father, Mentor. Fearing Thanos’ power, Mentor tethers Douglas’ spirit to a powerful warrior’s body with superhuman strength and energery blasts and becomes Drax who is repurposed to destroy Thanos. Drax can also sense Thanos’ location with the power of psychic detection.
In case you haven’t noticed, the original roots of the characters from the comics will be a challenge to adapt and establish these relationships to a wide audience. The Marvel film universe tends to build on itself, so let’s see what Thor 2, Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2 establish too that will help audiences embrace what Guardians plans to be.
Having two characters tied directly to Thanos puts a greater importance on Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s connection to Avengers 2. Rather than have Thanos come down and have some gripe with Earth, it sounds like they can lay the motive behind what Thanos has done to Gamora and Drax and have the Avengers be called upon to assist.
I think I’d still like to see some form of Nova or Captain Marvel be introduced as well. Nova has ties to Gamora, is a cosmic character of great legend in Marvel Universe, and is visually cool. Chris McCoy has been hired to rewrite the original script by Nicole Perlman and I don’t envy anyone trying to make sense of this in a screenplay. We’ll see Gunn takes the assignment. Marvel tends to have their priority set with casting and directing and then move down the line should Gunn pass. Boden and Fleck co-directed Half Nelson. Reed directed The Break-Up, Down with Love, and Bring It On. Any one of them would being their own set of question marks.
One thing is for sure, as it continues to develop, Guardians of the Galaxy will be Marvel Studios’ biggest challenge and the one that could make or break Phase 2.