As the excitement for Guardians of the Galaxy continues to build like only a movie featuring a deadly talking raccoon can, it's becoming stranger to think that at one time, mass audiences and fans alike worried that Marvel might be taking too big a risk in adapting such an outlandish property so soon. After all, it was the studio's grounded approach to Iron Man that kicked off their universe, not talking animals and little (or enormous) green men.
But the way Guardians' writer and director James Gunn sees it, when you take away all the aliens, armor, and special effects, this movie actually carries a message that the world is sorely in need of hearing. And in Marvel's eyes, James Gunn was always the right person for the job.
As a general rule, the business of superhero blockbusters is one designed to avoid risk; so how is it that the director of Slither and Super landed the job of crafting Marvel's first foray into outer space action? In a recent interview with Total Film (via CBM), Gunn provided some insight into what drew him to the story:
"[Marvel] came to me and told me about the movie... I met with them and at first I wasn't sure about it, but then I went home and I couldn't get it out of my head. I wrote up a document that was 20 pages long. I could really clearly see what the movie was, visually. I wrote about that and that just got me to the next level."
There was no shortage of surprise when it was announced that the film set to kick off Marvel's Cosmic universe was being handed to a director whose work tends to be largely overlooked or divisive. But Gunn had some key supporters - namely Joss Whedon - and maintains that while a talking raccoon, a walking tree and outer space may seem risky, it's nothing compared to the chance Marvel took with the original Iron Man, now face of their resident super-team (or as Gunn puts it, The Beatles to the Guardians' Rolling Stones).
Given his taste for the offbeat or darkly humorous - a unique approach and mentality that Gunn admits tends to be his trademark - did he enter the Marvel system knowing he'd need to tone down his eccentric tastes?
"No no. In fact, it's a 100 percent true story that when I turned in my first draft they were really happy with the screenplay - which of course I was overjoyed with - and the only comment they had, which was basically from Joss Whedon, was that they wanted it to be 'more James Gunn.' So that's what I did... I said, 'it's your funeral!'"
Marvel may have had their eye on Gunn to begin with, so they deserve much of the credit, even if Joss Whedon has become Gunn's cheerleader against throngs of skeptics. The overseer of the Marvel movie universe may have enough of a challenge shepherding an increasingly fantastic line-up, but seems to think that the creation of a truly unique space epic is hindered, not helped, by trying to imitate the ones that came before. And James Gunn is nothing if not original.
Originality isn't hard to come by when your core cast consists of a walking tree voiced by Vin Diesel and his closest friend who also happens to be a raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper and played on set by Sean Gunn. But take away all the CG and ties to the larger Marvel Cosmic universe, and Gunn believes the rag-tag team of outcasts has something to say:
"For me this movie is about family... It's about a bunch of people that don't have a family and they learn to love each other. And I think it's about giving a sh*t. I think we live in a world where we're taught that not giving a sh*t is the coolest thing, and this is a movie that says it's really OK to give a sh*t."
Again, it's hard to see the love story behind the little footage of Guardians revealed so far - again, the rampaging raccoon kind of steals the show - but Vin Diesel has also claimed that it was the film's unconventional love story that attracted him to the part of Groot. However well those themes land with mass audiences, it's good to know that Gunn is aiming for more than just sci-fi action.
What do you hope to see from Guardians: an adopted family of alien criminals, or a team that can be as effective as The Avengers? Sound off in the comments.
Guardians of the Galaxy hits theaters on August 1, 2014.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: Total Film (via CBM)