Guardians of the Galaxy Stops Summer Slump
By David Mumpower
August 3, 2014
A movie featuring no bankable actors as lead actors or villains debuted this weekend. Carrying a hefty $170 million budget plus one of the largest advertising outlays in the history of our industry, this project was as daring and ambitious as it was risky. It was a comic book adaptation featuring characters considered obscure even within the realm of comic book fanatics. That movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, just opened to $94 million, thereby shattering the August opening weekend record and demonstrating once more that nobody in Hollywood is better at producing blockbusters than Marvel Studios.
On August 31, 2009, the Walt Disney Company acquired its latest property, Marvel Entertainment. At the time, the $4 billion investment was hailed by some as a masterstroke while others wondered if Disney had overpaid for a business that had been mired in bankruptcy only a decade ago. Few people are willing to own up to that criticism now, as Disney’s purchase of Marvel has once again proved to be one of the greatest business masterstrokes of the 2000s.
Their latest number one movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, is unquestionably their most impressive accomplishment to date. There are eight actors who physically appear in the movie as either heroes or rogues. The ninth performer is Glenn Close, arguably the most famous of the core, yet she claims only a handful of minutes in what must have been a performance largely left on the cutting room floor. Two of the other three most famous actors, Djimon Hounsou and John C. Reilly, disappear for large stretches of the film. The other half a dozen thespians do not seem like a group of people who could star in a $90 million opener.
Guardians of the Galaxy possesses one A-list Hollywood performer, Zoe Saldana. She can now add this movie to an already dazzling resume that already includes performances in seminal franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek and Avatar. As wonderful as Saldana and her representation have been at selecting projects, however, she is not much of a box office draw. Consider the three projects she anchored after starring in the number one movie of all-time, Avatar. The Losers, The Words and Colombiana averaged an opening weekend of $8.2 million with a final domestic take of $23.9 million. Those numbers are lower than Guardians of the Galaxy earned on Thursday night and Friday alone. Simply stated, Saldana is a trusted actress whose name does not mean much to the bottom line of production.
The other “stars” of Guardians of the Galaxy are a trio of television actors, a professional wrestler, and a pair of CGI creations. The person who will get the Robert Downey Jr. bump from Guardians of the Galaxy is Chris Pratt, the lovably unintelligent Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation. In combination with his voicing the main character in The LEGO Movie and his upcoming starring role in Jurassic World, Pratt has a chance to be the male Katniss. Meanwhile, Lee Pace has now played the villain in Guardians of the Galaxy plus a villainous type in The Hobbit prequels. The artist formerly known as the Pie Man on Pushing Daisies is currently starring in Halt and Catch Fire, a series so unpopular that it has not garnered a million viewers over the last eight episodes. And Michael Rooker was famously Merle Dixon on an AMC series people do watch, The Walking Dead. Adding in professional wrestler Dave Bautista, I have just described four people who could just as easily anchor a straight-to-video action film. How then did these people just accomplish the impossible?