Well, after a somewhat lackluster summer, we finally arrive at what could be the single largest gamble Marvel Studios have taken since the original Iron Man in 2008, the proudly cosmic GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
Marvel have done so many things right since 2008 that it’s hard to focus on any one thing in particular, but for the sake of brevity I will keep the focus on the one area that has impressed me the most: The Directors.
In 1989 it was something of a miracle that Warner Brothers picked a great up and comer, Tim Burton, to head their big-screen version of Batman. A miracle because by and large comic book films with the exception of Superman: The movie in 1978, had been directed by people you’ve never heard of before or since.
The story of clashes between Superman director Richard Donner and penny-pinching producers, the Salkinds, has become the stuff of hollywood legend. If you don’t know that story, google it and prepare to be entertained.
For years though, the Batman franchise was something of an anomaly in Hollywood and most of the comic book films have been headed by guys just looking to shoot the film and go onto the next job.
Marvel went another way. They decided early on to get real filmmakers to bring their characters to the screen. At first it might have seemed an odd choice to give the first in-house Marvel Studios film to Jon Favreau, who was best known for the Holiday Comedy, Elf , but on closer inspection it made perfect sense. He was a certified geek and had a love of the character. Also? He was a real director with actual talent and vision. You wouldn’t believe how much that helps. Well, I guess maybe you would because you and a lot of your friends went to see it. Would it have mattered to the success? Maybe, maybe not. For a film like The Avengers, it probably wouldn’t have had an impact on the opening weekend grosses, but it would have had an impact on how the films are perceived. It would also have effected casting.
When a good director is attached to a film, they draw better actors. It’s a domino effect. The better the first actors are on a film, the more likely it is that better actors are going to want to be a part of it. So you have Jon Favreau directing Iron Man and he has the good sense to fight for Robert Downey Jr. It’s funny to remember that before Iron Man, Downey was almost impossible to get cast in a film. he had had so much trouble in the past that insurance wouldn’t cover him on a production.
But Jon Faveau fought for him and to their credit, Marvel backed him up and the perfect actor was cast in the perfect role and magic happened. Iron Man was a smashing success, both commercially and critically. Now I know that most people always say they don’t care what the critics say about a movie, if they like it, they like it and that’s all that matters. I’ve said the same thing and it’s true to an extent, but it’s also true that good films tend to attract good talent. If you have really good actors, like RDJ, in a film that turns out to be really good and well made, then other top line talent want to be attached to that film franchise. Thats how you have end up with guys like Robert Redford in a comic book movie.
Once a good director is involved, the quality level is raised across the board. That’s how we end up with Joss Whedon directing The Avengers and Shane Black directing Iron Man Three and now, James Gunn directing Guardians of the Galaxy.
Wait…James who? You can be forgiven for not knowing the name. Hopefully, this film will put him on the map in a big way. I will give you just a small IMDB lite rundown of his highlights.
In 2004 he wrote (but not directed) the way better than expected remake of Dawn of the Dead, which no one had any hope for at all. He turned in what was actually a smart and funny and at times, terrifying script that Zack Snyder turned into a way better than expected zombie film. In fairness, he also wrote (but not directed) the 2004 pointless live-action Scooby-Doo flick. So, there’s that.
His first at bat behind the camera was 2006’s Slither, starring Captain Malcolm Reynolds himself, Nathan Fillion. It was also a smart and funny and mean little horror comedy that brought to mind some of the forgotten late-night horror films you would come across on HBO in the 80’s, like Night of the Creeps and Squirm.
Next came Super in 2010, which starred Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. It was a lean and mean and also hysterically funny de-construction of the superhero film that, if you haven’t seen, you really should. It features the single goofiest catch phrase of any film. The blunt and beautiful “Shut up, Crime!”.
And now, Marvel has given him the keys to their sole summer film this year (Captain America 2 came out in April and thus, doesn’t really count) with Guardians of the Galaxy.
This film is his most blatantly commercial film by far. It’s also got his sense of humor and his point of view. How do I know? I haven’t seen it yet, I will be seeing it tonight, but I know just from the trailers. They capture his style of writing as sure as The Avengers felt like a Joss Whedon film.
So far, Marvel has had a stunning run of success. At some point, there is bound to be a film that doesn’t deliver. A film that falls flat on its face and…well…sucks. The law of averages say this is a must. Based on early word on this one though, this isn’t the one to fail.
Going in, this one could have been it. It’s the most out-there film they’ve done so far. It is set in outer space and is the most cosmic film the studio has done. It also has a talking squirrel in it. Yeah, that one made a lot of people do a double take. They are aware of how crazy this seems on paper though and they have not dodged it at all. They have went straight at it and just made the film this kind of story HAS to be.
It opens tonight at 7pm in 2D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D. This is one I would suggest seeing on the biggest screen possible. Buy your popcorn, a soda and just settle in and prepare to have a great time.
We are in the Golden Age of Marvel films and this might be their shiniest flick yet.
Until next time, Keep the Projector Threaded.