In exactly two years, Marvel Studios goes galactic.
As announced at Comic-Con, the house that Spidey built plans to unveil its most ambitious project yet, "Guardians of the Galaxy," on August 1, 2014. Boasting an eclectic cast of characters including the masked Star-Lord and the gun-toting Rocket Raccoon (a hero who wouldn't look out of place headlining his own Pixar adventure), pursuing "Guardians" is an incredibly risky move for Marvel and here are just a few of the reasons why.
Not A Household Name
Even to folks who've been reading comics all their lives, the Guardians are an obscure group of characters, certainly when it comes to moviemaking. We live in a world where Drax the Destroyer will get a movie before Wonder Woman gets one of her own. Think about that. Not Marvel's problem, mind you, but the studio is nevertheless opting to adapt these mostly unknown heroes before other, bigger marquee names like Black Panther or Ms. Marvel ... both of them being characters who, on the surface at least, seem more at home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Raccoon And His Tree
Two of the five key heroes at the heart of the "Guardians" roster are a talking raccoon and a huge, powerful, walking tree. Seeing Rocket and Groot on screen could be an incredible sight to behold. But if Marvel doesn't lock in a visionary director, and if the visual effects masterminds take even the briefest of cat naps on the job, these two heroes are going to look tragically laughable, sending the movie into a black hole from which there's no escape.
The "John Carter" Factor
Disney gambled big and lost huge on their Taylor Kitsch-led adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs space opera. After suffering one of the most memorable flops in movie history, they're looking to give the stars another shot with "Guardians," a franchise that has even less name value than the Barsoom tales. That's an exciting prospect from a fan standpoint, particularly given the Marvel Studios track record this far. But for Disney? The top brass will be shaking in their boots from now until liftoff, and rightfully so.
The "Avengers" Factor, Part 1
It's popularly believed that Thanos, the purple-skinned death worshipper seen at the end of "Avengers," will take on a central role in "Guardians." It's also widely theorized that Thanos will appear in the "Avengers" sequel as the primary antagonist. Exciting times for fans of the Jim Starlin-created character, but if the Mad Titan goes up against Earth's Mightiest Heroes, will the Guardians be far behind? If Star-Lord and friends wind up in "Avengers 2," an already impossibly crowded superhero flick just added five more heroes to its roster. A tall order for whoever steps behind the lens on the next "Avengers" flick, and, potentially, an equally sized pill to swallow for "Avengers" fans.
The "Avengers" Factor, Part 2
There are countless reasons why "Avengers" worked, and here's one of them: we had five movies to slowly get to know every member of Earth's mightiest super-squad before they all joined forces together. And these are all heroes who were at least somewhat recognizable well before "Avengers" hit. Not so for the Guardians on either count. In their case, these are virtual unknowns teaming up for their own "Avengers"-sized blockbuster on a faraway world, with no amuse-bouche in place to set up the gargantuan feast. Will fans be ready to dine with such a crew so fast and furiously? Or will it be too much, too soon? Plenty of questions still surround the developing movie and we only have to wait two years to the day to learn all of the answers.
Are you excited for "Guardians," or has Marvel bitten off more than they can chew? Let us know what you think in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!