Do you need your galaxy guarded? Boy do we have the team for you. No, you certainly don’t know who they are, but we’ve advertised them so much that they surely must feel like part of your family by now. Love, Marvel.
By Kim Hollis
August 1, 2014
Yes, the Summer of Mediocrity takes a pause this weekend as a bona fide blockbuster is poised to dominate the box office. And believe it or not, this one’s not a sequel. Disney and Marvel will roll Guardians of the Galaxy out to 4,080 locations this weekend, and despite the fact that this group is one of the lesser-known commodities in the comic book universe, the buzz has been building to a tumultuous uproar over the past couple of weeks.
When the initial previews for the film started making their way into theaters and digital avenues a few months ago, the general response was one of perplexity. Not only had most potential audiences never heard of Star-Lord, Gamora (no, not the giant flying turtle), Drax the Destroyer, Groot or Rocket Raccoon, the bits and pieces that were being revealed of the film made the characters look weird and off-putting. I mean, let’s be serious here. We’re talking about a walking, talking tree and an anthropomorphic raccoon as two of the featured heroes. Although there were some funny one-liners, more than anything, this movie evoked memories of Mystery Men, another film that had strange characters and humor. Had Disney and Marvel finally made their first bad move after achieving monumental success after monumental success?
With the release of Guardians of the Galaxy finally upon us, the answer appears to be “no.” With Captain America having become one of the biggest hits of the year and Agents of Shield rewarding the faithful, trailers and teasers for the film have been placed in front of precisely the right audience. More important, the run-up to the film’s release included plenty of exposure at San Diego Comic-Con, with panels highlighting the cast in a promotional effort that seemed to hit its stride at precisely the right time.
All of this effort might have still been for naught if audiences had been able to sense a dud. All the exhaustive marketing in the world can’t help a movie that has the stink of failure surrounding it, as we’ve seen with recent summer disappointments such as The Lone Ranger and R.I.P.D. Such a deliberately strange project was a big risk that had the potential to damage the Marvel brand.
Thus, Disney had to be absolutely thrilled when rapturous reviews for Guardians of the Galaxy began to surface. Heading into its first Thursday night screenings, the film is sitting with a 90% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, 86% from the site’s “Top Critics.” There was a time when reviews didn’t count for much, but in the social media era, they have a significant impact. The positive word-of-mouth has been spreading across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and presumably dozens of other channels over the last couple of weeks. The new heroes are everywhere, including toy stores, ESPN commercials and Subway restaurants.
And so it is that Chris Pratt, the guy who played Bright Abbott on the delightful but little-seen series Everwood, is poised to become a big deal. His portrayal of Star-Lord puts him front and center amongst the group, though all players have plenty to gain from the film’s success. It’s easy to forget that not that long ago, we were pondering whether enough people knew Iron Man, Thor and Captain America to make those films standalone hits.
I mention Thor and Captain America for a reason. Both of those Marvel films debuted right in the range of $65 million, and both had leads that were not really known commodities. We’ve got a similar situation with Guardians of the Galaxy, but I’m going to bump up my opening weekend estimate to around $72 million because this summer’s box office offerings have been so unexciting. I feel like audiences are aching for something good and different, and Disney/Marvel gets the benefit of the doubt from potential viewers.
There are in fact two new openers this weekend, though you might not know it based on the amount of marketing you’ve seen for each one. Get on Up, a biopic about the late R&B singer James Brown, will make its debut in 2,468 venues. This feels like a film that should have had a fall awards season release, and indeed it was originally scheduled for that time frame. Reviews are solid, so it still could prove to be a factor when Oscar discussions begin.
Brown is an interesting character who dealt with a lot of demons, which means that sometimes he wasn’t always the most sympathetic person in entertainment. Even so, with 42’s Chadwick Boseman in the lead role, the film should prove to be an interesting alternative option for those who aren’t interested in a weird-looking space comedy about superheroes. A weekend total of around $10 million sounds reasonable.