For Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with this summer's Iron Man 3 and continuing in the coming weeks with Thor: The Dark World, a new set of directors take over for all of the films leading to Joss Whedon's return to the director's chair for The Avengers: Age of Ultron in summer 2015.
The change in leaders on set for these productions coincides with a different vision for the upcoming slate of films over the Phase One introductory movies, and it seemingly gives creative control back to the directors, a publicized issue for earlier directors. The most telling example of the new strategy is with Guardians of the Galaxy, the one new intellectual property coming before the Avengers sequel that aims to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe into deep space.
Speaking with Fandango, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, who also rewrote the script for his film, explains the benefits of taking the unique and ambitious Guardians gig and working with Marvel Studios on an nontraditional comic book adaptation.
"At the risk of sounding pompous, because it's going to be filtered through me, it's going to be its own thing no matter what. But I think it was a chance to do something that really could make people feel like I felt when I was a young kid and saw these big spectacular space epics and give them something of that. And that was an exciting thing to be able to do."
"I want to lay down the rules, I want to start it – I would love to be able to see it grow into other things. I love talking about all the other filmmakers, sitting around with the producer pitching ideas for other filmmakers to take on future Marvel projects. It's a great thing to be a part of. And I don't think it's for everybody, but the truth is for me being able to sort of create this movie is a dream come true and just been a great experience."
The sentiment of being able to share his own vision was shared to us on the set of Thor 2 by its director Alan Taylor, who told that us that despite the size of the project, the creative team is small enough that it feels "indie" in a way. Gunn's words also echo those of the unexpected directors (Anthony and Joe Russo) chosen to helm Captain America: The Winter Soldier, who despite working on big budget, big brand, studios films - were chosen alongside Taylor, Gunn and Shane Black (Iron Man 3) for their unique take on the properties.
Marvel Studios boss Kevin Fiege continually reiterates when doing press for Marvel releases how each Phase Two film was designed to be unique and different than what came before - in tone, character and story - with the added condition that they need to stand on their own. By Gunn's own admission, Marvel is letting the directors have creative control, something that wasn't the case as much in Phase One where the studio was squarely focused on a strict plan to introduce its core characters with the goal of launching The Avengers. Now that it's out, accepted and successful, the next wave of directors have more freedom, with Joss Whedon serving as an overseer of the franchise's next phase, helping on scripts and watching progress to learn what he needs to know for The Avengers 2 while at the same time offering input to help maintain the continuity of the franchise.
Gunn also seems keen on continuing with the franchise and as a comic book fan himself, it comes as no surprise. Guardians is Gunn's career-defining film project (so far) and the fact that he sees opportunities to grow and expand it is very telling. By growing "into other things," Gunn could be subtly hinting at the obvious future crossover of The Avengers and the Guardians or could simply be referring to future sequels/spinoffs.
On the topic of the inspired casting of funnyman Chris Pratt as the lead of Guardians, the director explained again how Pratt got the gig against strong competition and a lot of it.
"I was not willing to settle for second best. We auditioned many, many actors, and a lot of big actors who came in and tried to get the role of Peter Quill, and we tested over two dozen people. And none of them were right. It just didn't feel right in my gut, and I always follow my gut. And Chris came in. He was pretty heavy at the time, and he read. But within about 30 seconds of him reading, I looked back at the casting director and I was like, 'What the--? This is the greatest thing ever!' I mean, I knew he was it."
For fans of Marvel Comics or moveigoers interested in learning more about the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, Gunn also mentioned again his knowledge of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning space-based event stories from the late 2000s. Having read them, I'd recommend checking out Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest, which leads into the 2008 reformation of the Guardians of the Galaxy team and relaunch of the series.
Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn off of his script co-written by Nicole Perlman. Cooper joins a cast led by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly and Glenn Close.
Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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