Luke Graham on James Gunn and Marvel Studios’ upcoming ‘space epic’ Guardians of the Galaxy…
In mid-august, it was reported (well, rumoured) that James Gunn (of Slither and Super fame) was in talks to direct Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy, which is set for release on August 1, 2014.
Since then, nothing more has been said or reported by either Marvel or Gunn, so film news websites have contented themselves with speculating what a James Gunn-Guardians of the Galaxy might be like.
Well, new information has finally emerged as The Avengers director Joss Whedon announced his support for James Gunn taking on Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only did Whedon wax lyrical about his appreciation for Gunn’s talent and that he thinks Gunn could make the outlandish space epic concept work, but he also mentioned that he has told Marvel that he approves of his selection: “then they said, ‘Well, we’re thinking about using James Gunn.’ And I said, ‘Oh, then no, you’re fine.’”
For me, this is all but a confirmation that Marvel will select Gunn to direct the film. It’s believed that Marvel leaked the rumour about Gunn making the short list to test fan reaction, and it’s safe to say the majority approved. Considering that Whedon is Marvel’s creative consultant for “Phase 2” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the mind behind their most financially successful film, it seems unlikely that Marvel would ignore his recommendation, especially after he has expressed it in such a public way.
Still, the talks and negotiations, which have been going on for a month, could still break down, but more importantly, is Gunn right for the project?
On the one hand, I would really like Gunn to get the job. His appeal is that he is very similar to Whedon: Gunn is a great writer, he is very funny, is experienced with the genre and he can write ensemble pieces. With Slither and Super, Gunn has demonstrated his flair for genre material, and, in the interview, Whedon was especially keen on Gunn’s script for The Specials, a 2000 superhero comedy. I’m a fan of the video game Lollipop Chainsaw, which Gunn wrote the script for, as well as directing the voice artists, and it shows how he can create a strong mix of defined, individual characters and make them interact.
He, like Whedon, has also worked many times with geek-idol Nathan Fillion, this generation’s Bruce Campbell, and it’s a strong chance for him to be cast in a Marvel movie!
Super is also an intelligent, deep and engaging movie, which is, again, a sign of how good Gunn is at creating movies. Gunn can make big action set-pieces and small, personal character moments.
On a more selfish level, I also like Gunn for his ability to create absolutely crazy and bizarre ideas and make them work on screen. After all, he began his career with Troma Entertainment, the creators of bat-shit insane and shocking B-movies, so not only could he make strange characters like Rocket Raccoon and Groot (the walking, talking alien tree) work on screen, but there is no telling what kinds of other gonzo crazy things he could fill the Marvel universe with.
But there-in lays the rub. The sticking point that makes me wonder whether this will work at all.
The Marvel Studios films have been very producer driven. While they have taken big risks with the directors they have chosen on their previous movies (Jon Favreau had only made indie comedies and kids films and Kenneth Branagh was best known for his Shakespearean works) the studio had a reliable set of producers to maintain a level of consistency and creative control across the franchises.
There can’t be any doubt that, whatever Guardians of the Galaxy will be like, it will need to be accessible to kids. Marvel, after all, are looking to make money. They’re not going to let anyone, let alone Gunn, make a 18 rated Troma-esque space opera (as amazing and bizarre as that would be) because it will have to tie back into The Avengers 2, which will once again draw in the lucrative kid audience.
Would Gunn be able to deal with the restraints Marvel asks of him? The last time Gunn was asked to make something for kids, he wrote the two Scooby-Doo movies, which were never particularly well-received.
Furthermore, neither Slither nor Super was on the same budget or size as Guardians is likely to be. Would he be able to manage a project that large, which will require copious amounts of CGI, animation and accursed 3D? Only time will tell.
I love James Gunn to bits, and I know that I would sit down to watch his version of Guardians of the Galaxy, as good or bad as it may end up. But I can’t help think about these these very big obstacles…