Story Theater Movie of the Week for Oct. 10-12
Brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits-Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand- with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.
Created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, the Guardians of the Galaxy (rated PG-13 for langauge and action sequences; and with a running time of 121 min.) were introduced in 1969 as a team of heroes in the 31st century - each member the last of his kind. The idea of creating a cinematic project from that concept had much going for it - not only a remarkable group of characters operating within an amazing universe, but also an opportunity to explore another side of the Marvel Universe, contemporaneous with The Avengers, maintaining the scope, action and humor, as well as a sense of the high stakes at its core, which made that film such a success.
There was strong interest at Marvel Studios to do a space epic and to expand their Cinematic Universe in a new direction. Says producer Kevin Feige: “‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is the riskiest movie we’ve done since ‘Iron Man’ but in many ways that makes it the most exciting movie we’ve done since ‘Iron Man.’ It means we can surprise people and exceed expectations. When I was a kid and I would go to the movies, most of the characters - Indiana Jones, Marty McFly, the Gremlins - I had never heard of before. I love the notion of being able to introduce some originality and although all of it is based on the great work that was done in the comics, because so few people are aware of them, I hope it feels like something very new and very fresh in the way that almost all those movies in the ’80s were when I was a kid.”
“One of the things we found most exciting about Guardians,” executive producer Jeremy Latcham adds, “is that the characters are not heroes but a group of outlaws and misfits who meet in prison. They’re mostly a selfish and self-interested group who care little about anyone. Yet this team of people is thrown together with the stake of the entire galaxy on the line and come together to save it.”
Getting the tone right was of paramount importance to the filmmakers, who wanted a balanced mix of humor, emotion and action. This desire informed their search for the right director for the material and led them ultimately to James Gunn. Explains Latcham, “We wanted to find a director with something to say, who had already done a great job saying it on a smaller scale, and give him a huge Marvel canvas to play with. James Gunn had made a couple of really interesting films [“Slither,” “Super”], had written some really interesting screenplays, but had never been given the keys to a gigantic vehicle. From the outset I think he understood it couldn’t be an R-rated James Gunn film but it needed the wit, humor and charm that imbued his films. In many ways ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a lot edgier than some of our films, the stakes seem a little more real, the characters are rougher around the edges and James embraced that right away and brought that real world aesthetic to it, which is so right for this story.”
Commenting on their directorial choice, Kevin Feige says, “It is important to us that a filmmaker bring a vision and have a handle on the characters and be able to bring them to life in an unexpected and unique and three-dimensional way. We wanted a director who could bring those elements and a slightly skewed sense to the film, and James Gunn has that voice and that vision.”
After a meeting with Feige and other Marvel filmmakers, Gunn was intrigued but unsure. “At first I wasn’t certain about it but when I went home that night and thought about it, I could really see the movie in my head. I could see what it was visually-not so much from a story standpoint but visually. I just started writing how I saw this movie, what the visuals would be like, what would it look like, what would the shooting style be. I wrote ten pages and I sent them back to them that night.”
Clear that his vision accorded with Marvel’s, Gunn signed, and he was given approval by Marvel to post an announcement on his Facebook site: “For a month or so there’s been a lot of Internet speculation about my involvement with Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ Until now I haven’t said anything, because I’m trying to be less expulsive about this project than I am about the rest of my life. But last night I got the go-ahead from Kevin Feige to let you all know that, yes, indeed, I am rewriting and directing ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ As a lifelong lover of Marvel comics, space epics, AND raccoons, this is the movie I’ve been waiting to make since I was nine years old. Kevin and all the folks at Marvel have been amazing collaborators so far, and we’re committed to bringing you something majestic, beautiful, and unique…”
Gunn was also excited at the prospect of introducing the characters into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and introducing a global audience to the Guardians. Acknowledging the freedom he had since they were relatively unknown, Gunn remarks, “I think ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ gave me more freedom simply because there aren’t as many rabid fans of Guardians as there are of say The Avengers, or as many Guardians comic books, and so I have been able to recreate the Guardians more for the screen without worrying that the audience will have a different expectation of the characters.”
While there have been several incarnations of the Guardians over the years, Marvel had planned from the early development stages to draw from the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning run of the comic from 2008, for the film. Gunn embraced that direction and comments, “We’re using the characters that Abnett and Lanning used and their tone is both humorous and dark, an interesting mix, which I think we have in the film too.”
Gunn informs that the delicate balance in the movie is “really between the drama and the comedy and the action and finding the right balance between all of those things.” He explains, “I see the movie overall at its center as an action-adventure film. That’s what it is. But within that there’s a hell of a lot of comedy and a hell of a lot of drama. People see the comedy coming but I don’t think they realize the dramatic aspect to this movie and that’s going to be a big surprise for people.”
With the director on board and busy reworking the original script written by Nicole Perlman, a Marvel Writing Program alumnus, the filmmakers turned their attention to casting.
—taken from the production notes of Guardians of the Galaxy, courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures