Moviegoers around the world are familiarized Iron Man and The Avengers, now that the last two Marvel films featuring them both sit among the top five grossing movies of all-time. With Marvel Studios releasing two films per year theatrically, this fall will see the return of Thor and next spring will bring back Captain America.
After that, the Disney-owned studio heads into uncharted territory with the ambitious Guardians of the Galaxy. While the original Iron Man was considered a risk because - at the time - Tony Stark was a B-list character from the comics, Guardians of the Galaxy up until recently sat several levels deeper into obscurity which makes it the riskiest project from the studio yet.
At the Saturn awards this week, Collider caught up with Joss Whedon on the red carpet and asked him about his thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy and whether or not - after the success of The Avengers and signing to not only write and direct the sequel, but oversee the films leading up to it - he had a part in greenlighting the project.
"You know, it seemed out there to me too. I think it came from Kevin and I sort of went 'I don't know about this,' and then they brought on James [Gunn] and he really turned it around... As soon as they said James the movie started to make sense to me in a way the movie hadn't. 'Oh, this isn't a guy who's going to chase Star Wars, he's going to make a James Gunn movie, and for James the first thing was 'I love Rocket. It's all the raccoon' and a lot of people were like "really, a raccoon?' and he's like 'nah, the raccoon is the heart' and knowing that I felt very safe. And then casting Chris Pratt... I was just there before they started production, and seeing all the designs, I got really jealous. I was like 'why can't I make this movie?' I really turned a 180 on that one."
Guardians is part of Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for which Whedon is helping manage so there's not much else he can say but praise the idea and people behind it, but his words - echoing previous statements about the film and James Gunn - do go to show just how instrumental Marvel Studios President of Production and film producer Kevin Feige has been in shaping the franchise. Another key point is how critical it is for such a risky project to be creator-driven and from every account, it seems to be the James Gunn show, since he is re-writing the script and helping handpick the right people for the role, and not the obvious bankable A-listers studios usually strive for. That being said, even though Guardians is a standalone film taking place 95% space, it is very connected to The Avengers 2 and Whedon has been there on the story side from the beginning. It's the same reason Ant-Man is finally becoming a film. The only reason Feige even considered the idea is because of Edgar Wright.
If it weren't for Feige, Marvel wouldn't have cast actors into super-long contracts, allowing the studios and filmmakers to shape a bigger picture universe and if weren't for him, risky "out there" films including Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy would never see the light of day. Moviegoers should applaud the creative minds for not just going with the safe bet and rushing sequels for The Avengers and instead aiming to continue expanding and exploring new ideas.
We know Doctor Strange is all but confirmed for a theatrical release sometime in 2016 or 2017 and Feige has been namedropping The Inhumans as another potential property up for an adaptation. It won't be long before Disney brings Marvel Studios to Comic-Con and begins unveiling casting additions (Vin Diesel?) and hopefully, what the unannounced projects are that already have official 2016 and 2017 release dates.
Iron Man 3 is currently in theaters, 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 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news.