It’s pretty hard to deny that Marvel’s newest film: Guardians of the Galaxy has had a decent amount of hype. Entertainment news sources left and right are talking about the cast, the characters, and how potentially epic it will be. I myself am hopeful for the project, but other news sources like The Motley Fool and io9 have suggested that it could be Marvel Studios' first flop. That's quite a bold statement, but let's take a look at the film's elements to see if their assumptions are accurate.
Let’s first take a look at the comic book that the film is based on. Unlike a comic series like "Iron Man" or "Captain America," “Guardians of the Galaxy” is relatively unknown to general audiences. While it does have its fans, it indeed may have trouble connecting to audiences more familiar with popular Marvel characters.
In recent years, Hollywood has tried to adapt more obscure comic books and graphic novels to the big screen. However, they aren’t always successful. Films like “R.I.P.D.,” “Dredd 3D,” “Kick Ass 2,” and “Whiteout” performed rather poorly at the box office. On the other hand, some of those films also faced negative reception. Word-of-mouth could have deterred more viewers than the fact that the comics aren’t as well known.
This brings me to my next point: will “Guardians” be good? Director James Gunn is far from a flawless director. Just recently, he shared a Razzie award with several other directors for the compilation film: “Movie 43.” “Beezel,” his segment involving a jealous cat with a sexual desire for his owner torturing his owner’s girlfriend, was arguably the worst one of the bunch. On top of that, he wrote the screenplay for the abysmal “Scooby-Doo” movies.
On a positive note, he has done projects that have been more well received. Perhaps his best example is writing and directing “Slither," a goofy sci-fi horror comedy about killer alien worms. Based on what we’ve seen so far, “Guardians of the Galaxy” has the tone of an action comedy that mixes intense sci-fi action with irreverent chuckles. Seeing as how he has had critical success in mixing sci-fi and comedy, “Guardians of the Galaxy” could indeed fit his style. This movie doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, though that could also handicap this film’s reception.
Unlike the relatively serious “Dark Knight” and “Man of Steel” films, Marvel movies are know for being more humorous and light-hearted than DC superhero films. On the other hand, they aren’t exactly comedies, as the characters still face real challenges and the plots have high stakes. Even “Iron Man 2,” which seemed to overdo the element of humor, still had the serious conflict of Tony Stark’s possible impending death. While not much is known about the plot of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it's possible that it could be too simple and light hearted to attract broader audiences.
This feeling of low-stakes comedy is arguably given off by the film’s trailer. Unlike most Marvel movie trailers, it is chock full of jokes. In addition, it plays the song “Hooked on a Feeling” during clips of the film’s action setpieces, chanting “Ooga Chaka” as the characters run and fight. While some may find it funny and interesting, some audiences may not be interested in what looks like a mostly-comedic superhero film. People expecting a more “grown up” film may just look at the trailer and say: “that was kind of funny, but why should I care to see this?” On the contrary, this may not be as much of a negative as some may see it as.
Action/comedy hybrids with more of an emphasis on comedy have worked in the past. Perhaps the most relevant example is the surprise success of “21 Jump Street.” Many people expecting an action-style remake of the 1980s television drama somewhat had the same mentality. I could remember people saying “it’s funny, but it’s not ‘Jump Street’.” In spite of this, the film was a hit, critically and financially. It even has a sequel coming out this June. Even if “Guardians of the Galaxy” turns out to be mostly a comedy, a witty screenplay and good word-of-mouth can make it a hit.
One more thing I want to bring up is the cast. Many have complained of restricting the film’s biggest star, Bradley Cooper, to a voice-only role as Rocket Raccoon. Quite frankly, I fail to see how star-power relates to this film’s box-office draw. Seeing as how big-name action movies like “The Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp and “R.I.P.D. “ with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds flopped, I highly doubt that star-power could have any influence at all on how much money “Guardians” makes.
So will “Guardians of the Galaxy” be a hit? Probably. Will it flop? Very unlikely. Every handicap that can face the film has a positive to fall back on. Come to think of it, tracking is pointless anyway. The only way to find out if this movie will be a hit is to at least wait for the early reviews. Even then, there’s no guaranteeing its success until it actually comes out.
Update: The film is officially a hit, with a projected $94 million opening weekend.