The first two installments in “Phase 2″ of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe – Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World – were fun diversions, but there’s an argument to be made that 2013 was an overall middling year for Marvel Studios, creatively speaking. However, as was mentioned on the latest Screen Rant Underground Podcast, 2014 could be another story altogether, with two potential game-changers arriving: the sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier this spring and then a new IP in the (peculiar) shape of Guardians of the Galaxy this summer.

Besides the distinction of counting a talking tree and raccoon with a machine gun among its leads, Guardians is the story of a team of intergalactic anti-heroes-turned fighters for justice that’s pretty out there, in terms of everything from the world and characters to the people making the movie (on both sides of the camera). Yet, its most radical element may be the message for the moviegoing masses in these disillusioned times – that caring about others and not being cynical and/or completely self-involved is actually cool.

That sense of family extends beyond what’s onscreen, as Guardians co-writer and director James Gunn brought along some trusted collaborators on his first excursion into the world of big-budget superhero filmmaking. That includes composer Tyler Bates, who teamed with Gunn on his previous directorial projects (Slither, Super) – in addition to having provided music for the Zack Snyder comic book movies 300 and Watchmen – as well as Walking Dead actor Michael Rooker, who is also no stranger to Gunn’s off-kilter brand of cinema.

Rooker hasn’t been hesitant to sing Gunn’s praises or express his excitement about the potential Guardians of the Galaxy franchise before now, and that didn’t change in a recent interview he conducted on the Unrendered Podcast (via Comic When asked what Guardians has to offer moviegoers, Rooker answered:

“Lovely, beautiful colors. What do you expect? It is a superhero movie. And I hope that you see it, and you’re going to be going ‘I’m going to see this again.’ That’s what I hope… It was a beautiful shoot. James Gunn was an awesome, awesome director to work with again. I’ve worked with him before in the past, and it was great to get to do it again.”

As eccentric and outlandish as the Guardians mythos and characters may be, that’s also part of the appeal; with a cast that includes two green-skinned aliens – Hulk-like Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and deadly huntress Gamora (Zoe Saldana) – a genetically-engineered talking raccoon and humanoid tree (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively), along with other extraterrestrials, it seems fair to say that Guardians will be Marvel Studios’ most colorful film – visually and thematically – released to date, as Rooker pointed out.

Case in point? Check out the first promotional images and merchandise for Guardians (via Comic Book Resources), featuring the titular crew of outer space miscreants:


Of course, it’s for the same reasons that most of the Screen Rant crew (and larger comic book fan community in general) are looking forward to Guardians that the film is a risky investment for Marvel.

Fact of the matter is, while some people are going to look at a cup and/or thermostat that has Rocket Raccoon on it and get excited, others will roll their eyes based solely on principle – and, admittedly, not without any justifiable reason either, since Guardians could (in the worst-case scenario) turn out to be an imaginative, yet soulless and charmlessly campy space adventure, if things go wrong. However, we’ll keep hoping for the best, until proven otherwise.

Marvel Studios will release Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theaters on April 4th, 2014, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1st, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31st 2015, and unannounced films on May 6th, 2016, July 8th, 2016 and May 5th, 2017.

Source: Unrendered Podcast [via], Comic Book Resources