When Marvel Studios first announced Guardians of the Galaxy, words like “risky” and “obscure” sprang to mind. Risky because it was a big-budget action movie starring a wise-cracking CGI raccoon in one of the lead roles. Obscure because who has even heard of Guardians of the Galaxy comics, anyway?
The movie’s first trailer already acknowledged the obscurity issue, pointing out that even people in the movie don’t know who the Guardians of the Galaxy are. “What a bunch of A-holes,” says one character, when hearing the team’s overblown nickname for the first time. This is the kind of sci-fi movie where, when some guy decides to call himself Star-Lord, people make fun of him because seriously: Star-Lord? Come on.
When the second trailer hit the Internet on Monday, a sudden wave of Guardians enthusiasm appeared as if from nowhere. In a word, this movie looks fun.
First of all, everyone seems to be a big fan of Chris Pratt, who plays Peter Quill (A.K.A. Star-Lord). Casting Chris Pratt in a lead role was an immediate signal that GotG will lean towards the comedy side of its action/comedy/sci-fi genre combo. We’ll also see a certain amount of his own personality shining through, as Pratt said in the Q&A, “I couldn’t help but to [improvise], but improv on the set of Guardians is tricky because if you blow a take trying to say something funny that doesn’t work it might cost production $500k. I still did it anyway.”
The film’s Star Wars-esque setting allows it to have a lot more leeway than other Marvel movies when it comes to character design. The Thor movies are already beautiful, but even the trailer footage indicates that GotG will step things up a notch in the visual worldbuilding department. On the topic of his inspiration for GotG’s aesthetic, director James Gunn had this to say:
“One of the biggest influences was—and no one is going to expect this answer—Magritte’s Empire of Light paintings. I was also very influenced by many of the great space epics and science fiction films and westerns like the films of Sergio Leone.“
He also added that the most beautiful scene in the movie was with Groot, the humanoid tree alien who is described in the trailer as one of the two “thugs” on Peter Quill’s team of space-traveling antiheroes.
Groot is definitely one of the weirder aspects of GotG. Along with Rocket Raccoon, he’s one of the characters who people mention as a reason why this movie is such a departure from Marvel Studios’ usual superhero fare. Understandably, the cast and crew are already going out of their way to sell Groot and Rocket Raccoon as serious characters. They are definitely not meant to be the kind of Jar Jar Binks/annoying animal mascot CGI characters that spring to mind when you hear the phrase “talking raccoon.”
GotG may be a relatively comedic movie, but Chris Pratt has already described Rocket as a “tragic character.” Vin Diesel (Groot’s voice actor) was one of the most vocal cast members on Monday’s Facebook chat, talking about how much he loved playing the character. Which is pretty impressive, considering the fact that the only thing Groot ever says is “I am Groot.”
So, how many times did Vin Diesel have to say Groot’s catchphrase? “Oh god… maybe a thousand? I don’t know. It felt like a thousand. James Gunn and I were having so much with it. So it could’ve been a thousand. And it was amazing to go in there and to work with someone who wanted to explore the character—we wanted each ‘I am Groot’ to mean something different… It reminded me, as an actor, how much we can do with so little and if we’re passionate about it, good things can come from it.”
Vin Diesel also said that the role was “very personal.” “It was the month after the accident happened with my brother Paul Walker and it was the first time I had worked since. Although it was challenging, just to get back to work was therapeutic—especially as Groot. There was an innocence about the character that was just refreshing—and it may have been more challenging under other circumstances, but at that time, it was very therapeutic.”
The movie doesn’t come out until August, so the Q&A was mostly limited to fun on-set anecdotes (James Gunn tricked the cast into performing a dance-off on camera!) and nonspecific comments on character development. We won’t be hearing any plot spoilers for at least a couple of months, but purely from a marketing perspective, it’s interesting to see what the cast and crew say in these early interviews.
While GotG does have a small fanbase of people who already read the comics, the filmmakers are clearly aware that in order to hook in a new audience, they need to get negative preconceptions out of the way. So it’s no surprise that they’re focusing on characters like Groot rather than bothering to talk about someone like Gamora (since Zoe Saldana is already a sci-fi icon thanks to Star Trek and Avatar), or going into much detail about the actual plot.
For now, all we need to know is that Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be funny, and Marvel is 100 percent invested selling a tree and a talking raccoon as serious protagonists.
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