Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
August 6, 2014
Kim Hollis: Where does Guardians of the Galaxy rank amongst the Marvel success stories?
David Mumpower: I think a lot depends on how much we grade on a curve. Realistically, The Avengers is always going to be THE Marvel success story. Marvel Studios built a quartet of superheroes in solo films, added Black Widow and Hawkeye as window dressing in some of those titles, and then successfully built to a sum much greater than the individual parts. At the time, I appreciated that the Iron Man movie could succeed due to the similarities of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne. I also felt that Captain America would do well because of the genteel throwback nature of the story. Plus, a little well-intended jingoism generally goes over well in this country.
Thor was the biggest risk in my estimation. That character had to include Norse mythology as well as some of the same traits I lamented about John Carter and Green Lantern in a previous reply. Marvel cleverly played up the strengths of the character, his larger than life attitude and natural charisma, and struck gold. I do think that the performance of Thor: The Dark World, the worst performer of the three post-Avengers projects, reflects the limitations of Thor but we are still discussing a financial outlay of $320 million with a box office return over a billion.
Given the above, I would have to slot Guardians of the Galaxy second overall. It slots ahead of Thor, a slightly risky project, but behind The Avengers, the most daring cinematic gamble of the 2000s. The reason why I slot Guardians of the Galaxy so highly is that even among comic book nerds, these characters are not especially beloved, at least not ones that require real actors. Groot and Rocket Raccoon are popular, but an action movie should never sink or swim based upon the comic relief. Oftentimes, the box office result in such situations is similar to The Fifth Element. Guardians of the Galaxy features one genuinely famous face in Zoe Saldana plus a bunch of That Guy actors. It has a storyline that barely hangs together under even the least critical of evaluations. And it actually fails the laugh test in a lot of key ways as a potential movie project. Despite all of that, it just opened to $94 million. Miracles do happen.
Edwin Davies: I have to agree with David both in terms of the placing of The Avengers at number one and Guardians of the Galaxy at number two on that list. Even considering how careful The Avengers project was put together, it could still have fallen apart completely if any one of the constituent parts had flopped, or if the final product didn't meet the sky high expectations that Marvel created for it. In hindsight, one of the most successful films of all time might not look as risky as it was perceived at the time, but there was no guarantee that The Avengers would be a success on the level that it ended up being.
Guardians of the Galaxy was still a much dicier proposition than any of the films that preceded or directly followed The Avengers because the characters had zero name recognition with the general public and only partial name recognition within the comic community, and its world existed so far from the one established in the other Marvel films. It spends maybe two minutes on Earth, then two hours immersing audiences in universe full of weird, grotesque monsters and finds the one human palling around with a talking raccoon. On paper, that's nuts. In execution, it's slightly less nuts, but not a commercially viable project demanding a $170 million budget and a huge marketing campaign. Up until the enthusiastic reviews started coming out, there was every reason to expect that Guardians of the Galaxy could be a disappointment, and the fact that it was not is nothing short of astonishing.