Karen Gillan has already earned her geek creed, having played Matt Smith’s Doctor’s adventure-seeking companion Amelia Pond for two and a half seasons on Doctor Who. As such, Gillan stands to bolster her standing this summer, when she portrays the bald, blue-skinned alien warrior Nebula in Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy.
Guardians is Marvel’s first foray into the comparatively niche cosmic superhero adventure genre, but a cheeky teaser trailer has already begun to attract interest from those far outside the normal sci-fi comic book crowd. It probably doesn’t hurt that co-writer/director James Gunn – whose indie films like Slither and Super are pretty much the epitome of “niche entertainment” – has decided to play up the inherent silliness of this property – a world of talking alien trees, raccoons with guns, and Andy from Parks and Recreation (Chris Pratt) as a daredevil theif with a penchant for Blue Swede.
Still, although self-awareness is nothing new for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians does represent a change of pace for the young studio, as Gillan acknowledged during an interview with MTV at the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival (where she’s promoting her upcoming supernatural horror/thriller Oculus):
“I just think it’s a new direction for Marvel, it’s really, really funny. It’s not taking itself seriously at all. It’s tongue in cheek. And just to see people be excited about that new tone is cool.”
Perhaps a part of what makes Guardians seem more appealing is that the film doesn’t take the stereotypical comic book movie route to earning laughs – by playing up the inherent campiness of the property, which more often than not seems to suck the joy out of the characters and world onscreen (see: 1990s campfests like Batman & Robin or Steel). No, most of the players in Guardians take themselves dead-serious, which Gillan admitted is very much the case with how Nebula behaves in the movie:
“Okay, so Nebula does not find herself funny. I find her hilarious. But she can’t find herself hilarious, that’s not scary.”
Speaking of dead-serious, the Guardians trailer offers a brief glimpse at a throw-down between Nebula and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who – without spoiling too much – share a history that involves the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), as well as his boss, the ‘Mad Titan’ Thanos. Saldana is not a stranger to onscreen fights (see: Colombiana) nor the world of dance (see: Center Stage), which Gillan confessed gave the Avatar/Star Trek franchise star the advantage in the pair’s “big girlie fight sequence” (though she was quick to clarify “it’s not that girlie”):
“She’s really experienced in the physical stuff, she was a ballerina. She’s really amazing at all of that stuff. She barely required any rehearsal, she was like, ‘I can do this.’ I required two months of rehearsals every day that I wasn’t shooting, because I looked like spaghetti when I started.”
The best action movies use fight sequences as more than just mindless entertainment, but also as a means for character and/or plot development, which Gillan also promised will be the case with her one-on-one battle with Saldana:
“This is the integral one for my character, because it’s not just a physical battle. Their relationship goes very deep, and there’s a huge history between them. So there’s a lot more to it than just the physical.”
Guardians of the Galaxy opens in U.S. theaters on August 1st, 2014.