Anthony Stokes on why Guardians of the Galaxy was such a massive financial success…
As it stands now, Guardians of the Galaxy has $770 million dollars worldwide, passing every other comic book movie released this year, and second only Transformers: Age of Extinction in the highest-earning movies of the year. I did predict Guardians having a good run, but I would never have guessed it would have made so much. So why did Guardians, a pretty obscure comic book, turn into the biggest comic book movie of the year, and also pave the way for what might be one of the greatest franchises of our generation?
The most obvious answer is James Gunn. I want to give screenwriter Nicole Perlman a lot of credit for helping shape the project to what it needed to be so that James Gunn could run with it. I’m actually a little concerned she won’t be involved with writing the sequel, but aside from her work on the script, everything else was all James Gunn. Marvel found the perfect director for this property. Gunn’s lack of name recognition actually helped the film, giving it a cult movie feel with a Hollywood budget.
From the soundtrack to the costumes, everything is so damn iconic and for lack of a better word cool. Remember when comic book movies were cool? And fun? Looking at you Zack Snyder. What we have here is the passion and preciousness of something like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the big screen appeal of something like Iron Man. It’s this weird, great, little movie that everybody can watch and enjoy even though it’s so radically different from pretty much everything else out there.
The Marvel brand didn’t hurt either. As a matter of fact I doubt it would have made half as much without that big bright red ” Marvel” logo at the beginning of the movie. And this is the essential Marvel movie to me. This would have fit much better with Phase One due to it having such a focus on comedy.
The thing that helped the most with long term business though was it being such a great movie. Guardians of the Galaxy manages to side step loads of cliches and tropes that I personally hate and sometimes barrels right through them in a hilarious way. Here’s a list of things Guardians does that I can’t abide in every other movie:
Bad guy gets distracted, causing his demise
An off-hand mention of a skill or macguffin coming back into the last act to beat the bad guy
Pop songs as a soundtrack
Cursing being used as a punchline
Comedy undercutting drama
Every character having a specific character flaw
In Guardians of the Galaxy, it all works. As soon as Chris Pratt hilariously references Footloose I knew it would come back into the story, and when it did I died laughing. The soundtrack is brilliantly integrated into the story. The bad guy gets distracted by something that’s not CLEARLY a distraction at a moment’s notice. James Gunn took a bunch of 80s movie cliches and made them great again. This gave me the feeling of watching The Goonies or The Breakfast Club again. Or even The Avengers, which also used comedy to keep things buoyant.
Because it’s such a great movie, Guardians had good word of mouth and people on the fence decided to see it. People like me decided to see it again, something which made The Avengers and The Dark Knight billion dollar hits. Notice how poorly Transformers: Age of Extinction did domestically compared to previous entries? People do care about what people and critics say about a movie.
If James Gunn can somehow repeat his success of making Guardians feel like a cult movie I have no doubt the next entry will pass a billion. All he needs to do is make a comedy sequel that feels fresh while keeping some elements the same, which doesn’t seem all that rare these days (i.e. Horrible Bosses 2 and 22 Jump Street). A lot of the jokes come from singular character traits like Groot only being able to say “I am Groot” and Drax being completely literal, so it will take some more ingenuity to make the sequel, but in James Gunn and Marvel We Trust.