MARVEL STUDIOS: NO RISK, NO REWARD, NO ROCKET RACCOON…AND WHO WANTS THAT!?!

guardians-of-the-galaxy-posterLast week the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer hit the web like a comet; it sent shock waves around social media sites with folks mostly in exuberant praise, but even more so, scratching their heads wondering what the hell is a “Groot.”

2013-10-15-i_am_groot-530x230If you haven’t seen the trailer yet (WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?  YOU CALL YOURSELF A GEEK!?!) you can do so here.

Geektastic Podcast’s very own fearless leader, Michael Hover, wrote a great review of this trailer after it debuted…what I liked most about his review was that he had absolutely NO clue who any of the characters are, what they’re doing, or what the film is even going to be about, and yet he was “hooked on a feeling…”

That feeling is the feeling that comes from seeing a Hollywood studio actually take a risk with its property and give audiences something new, focusing on the film’s merits and not the recognizability of its characters or plot to sell tickets.

Just last week I was “constructively” complaining in my review of the RoboCop remake how Hollywood is too often relying on familiar stories and characters because they’re too afraid of the gamble that is movie making not paying off for them.  I can see those executives now just sitting around a table pitching “what has worked in the past,” when they should be asking themselves “what could work for the future…”  The day after I wrote my RoboCop review, The Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was released; after seeing it (and re-watching it a dozen times), a little hope that some heart found its way back into the Hollywood machine returned.

Now I know what you’re going to say…but, Eric, Marvel’s name is attached to the film.  It takes place in its cinematic universe.  EVERYONE will see it, because of this.  Because Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers made more money than America’s deficit…SO OBVIOUSLY THIS WILL TOO…

That may very well be the case…but I’d argue that Marvel has earned it, and applaud them for getting to a point where they realize they’re in a good place to start making movies about characters that are far from mainstream, and who in their own comic book universe, before the announcement of any film plans a couple years ago, were fairly D-list.

That’s right, a lot of non-comic book readers might assume that they’re in the dark about these characters only because they don’t hit their local comic shop every Wednesday.  But, Guardians of the Galaxy (with a roster that most resembles that of the film’s) didn’t event have a steady title until 2008, before then the characters just drifted in the obscure corners of the Marvel Universe and had a cult following…some of them, like Groot, have actually been around before Spider-Man, Hulk, and the X-Men.  I can honestly say that while I’ve been a Marvel Comics reader for over twenty years I only know enough about each of the film’s characters to give a brief one or two sentence explanation as to who or what they are and my familiarity of them:

Star-Lord a.ka. Peter Quill is the “most” human of the bunch.  I use quotes because he’s only half human…his papa was an alien…he’s your typical space-faring, guns-blazing, quip-throwing archetype.

Star-LordGamora (who was in one of the first comic books I ever read, The Infinity Gauntlet) is a deadly assassin (She actually calls herself “the deadliest woman in the galaxy.”) She was raised and trained by Thanos (who you may remember as being all menacing in the post-credits scene in The Avengers) until she rebelled against him.

Gamora3-350x277Drax the Destroyer (also was featured heavily in The Infinity Gauntlet) was killed by Thanos along with his family and whose spirit was some how resurrected in a suped-up alien body and is now vengeance-crazed for the mad titan.  I remember him being kind of dumb muscle back in the early 90’s…I’m guessing Marvel has given him a bit more brains in recent years.

Drax_90s_hRocket Raccoon is a genetically altered raccoon from another planet.  Pretty simple actually.  He likes guns.  He’s pretty good with guns.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a comic book without a gun in his claw.  The most exposure I’ve had to the little guy is playing him in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3…because seriously, who doesn’t like kicking the crap out Ryu with a raccoon?  Rocket debut in some random Marvel Preview comic/magazine back in 1976, and then later entered Marvel’s official canon in Incredible Hulk #271.

tumblr_mvt389t2sO1s0pt79o1_500Groot is the member of the team who’s been around the longest, debuting in Tales to Astonish #13 in 1960.  He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and was your run of the mill space monster come to earth to study and kill us.  Somewhere along the way he became a Guardian of the Galaxy, which seems pretty contradictory to his origin story…but whatevs…also he can only speak three words, “I AM GROOT.”  Though Rocket Raccoon can translate what he means to say.

tales-to-astonish-13So there you have it…those are, to my knowledge, who the Guardians of the Galaxy are.  And I didn’t even have to look to Wikipedia!  The point is, that if folks are feeling like they’re not in the know as to who this rag tag bunch of misfits are after seeing the trailer, rest assured, a lot of comic book fans are right there with them.  Unless of course they are and have always been avid readers of the series, but like I said “cult following.”

(If you’re interested in reading some of the best Guardians of the Galaxy stories, to get a better idea who these whacky kids are, check out this article over at Comic Book Resources for their recommendations.)

Releasing a movie whose characters are arguably as obscure to comic book readers as they are to the general population takes guts.  Sure, Marvel may be the chip leader at the Super Hero Movie Poker Table, but that doesn’t mean that playing a questionable hand  to possibly lose some of their chips, isn’t going to hurt their stack.  They’re still taking a risk here…and you know how the saying goes…no risk, no reward…

…for them, and for us as movie goers.

And remember…Marvel took a big risk back in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man, who at the time was a second tier, maybe even third tier character, and turned him into a house hold name. All of a sudden kids everywhere (and some adults) were donning plastic Iron Man masks and shooting make-believe repulser rays from their palms…I have a feeling we’re going to see that again, this time in the form of Rocket Raccoon masks!

52fffc47637b51To quote the wise sage Yogurt from Space Balls: “Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made.”

Spaceballs-flamethrower-sce

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