The last few weeks have been exciting ones for Marvel fans, with new trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming! Both are proving to be hits — in fact, the trailer for Guardians 2 is a record-breaker, with 81 million views in just the first day. That makes it one of the most-viewed movie trailers of all time, second only to Beauty and the Beast!
Some critics, though, have lashed out at the trailer. They suggest that Baby Groot in particular is a tremendously-successful marketing ploy, included in the movie just to sell merchandise. Over on Facebook, James Gunn has just debunked this argument — and revealed just why he went for a Baby Groot in the first place!
Baby Groot Wasn't Originally Planned
Most Marvel movies are based in the years of their release, and as a result the first Guardians would ordinarily have been set in 2014, with the sequel in 2017. Over the course of those years, Gunn had planned for Groot to have grown up. Unfortunately, as Gunn worked on the script, he came to realize it just wasn't working.
First of all, he felt that the audience deserved a chance to see the team dynamic develop. As Gunn stated in an earlier conversation:
"The first movie was really about becoming a family. This movie is about being a family. And what’s harder, becoming a family or being a family? I think it’s being a family. That’s where you really have to deal with each other. And that’s what this movie is about."
Setting the film years later meant that the audience was effectively robbed of this dynamic.
But there was another thing that just wasn't working: Groot. He just couldn't make the grown-up Groot work.
"It was then I came upon the idea of having Vol. 2 take place very shortly after the first film and for Groot to still be Baby Groot, with quite a lot to learn. Even though I had already long-ago-decided on the other characters involved, this change opened up the whole movie for me and it suddenly all came together. I fell in love with the script for Vol. 2, and I felt like we were creating something very special."
This would be impossible in the Earth-bound #MCU, but Gunn has an unusual amount of flexibility with the Guardians; they're off adventuring in a distant corner of space, and are yet to interact with any other franchises. That means those two movies can be set whenever Gunn wishes.
The Idea Worried James Gunn
But would Marvel go for it? James Gunn wasn't sure, and he describes himself as being genuinely worried about it. Groot had been such a tremendously popular part of the first film, and studios are notoriously wary of messing with success. Gunn worked up his courage and approached Marvel with the idea.
"To my happy surprise, my partners at Marvel were more than supportive about the big swings in the story of Vol. 2. They seemed to instinctively know, like I did, that what matters in the Guardians franchise is to keep giving people the unexpected..."
Just that first trailer has proved that both James Gunn and Marvel Studios made the right call. Switching the Guardians franchise up like this — setting this sequel just a few months after the original — has given Gunn a chance to tell the story of how the Guardians family develops. More excitingly, though, it's also given superhero fans worldwide a cute new superhero who's simply captivated the world.
Sure, I'm certain that the merchandise value factored into Marvel's decision to okay this — Gunn himself admits that he knew that, if Baby Groot worked, the character's value would go through-the-roof. But the main reason for this decision was a simple one: Baby Groot worked in the story.
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Like so many acts of genius, it's hard not to look at this decision and shrug it off. It seems so natural, so obvious, that it's easy to dismiss it. But in reality, like most such cinematic moments there was a whole lot of thought behind this tremendous character twist! When the idea finally came to James Gunn, he simply couldn't take matters in any other direction.
"I, like so many of you through the trailer alone, had fallen in love with the little dude - even though at that point he was only in my head."
What did you think of Baby Groot?
(Poll Image: Marvel Studios)