At last year's San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel shocked the world by announcing that before Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor got back together in what we now know as "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," we would meet an entirely different team of superheroes, the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Flash forward one year, Marvel is showing early footage from "Guardians" in the exact same room, and it plays like gangbusters.
MTV News caught up with the man bringing the team to the screen, James Gunn, at the press line after the panel, and Josh Horowitz asked the director if he could choose a favorite among the Guardians. Gunn had his honest answer all ready to go. "No, I have a favorite," he said. "It's Rocket Raccoon. I just love him. I really truly love him with all of my heart. When I took on this movie, I had a concept of what Rocket would be cinematically, and I feel protective of him. I love him more than anything."
For the uninitiated, the concept of a gun-toting, talking raccoon in a Marvel movie seemed like, perhaps, too big of a stretch for the superhero studio, but Gunn said the character's backstory is essential for understanding him and making him believable.
"You say, 'Oh, there's a talking raccoon. How does that exist?' You really take it backwards from there and say, 'How would that exist?' It's not about creating Bugs Bunny in the middle of the Avengers," Gunn said. "This is about creating a character that's a little animal that was taken and experimented on and pulled apart and put back together again and implanted with cybernetics. He's half machine and half raccoon, and he's a little gnarled, miserable, pretty angry creature because there's nothing else like him. It's not easy to be."
Even if Rocket Raccoon is Gunn's favorite Guardian, Star-Lord is without a doubt the leader. The director confirmed that Chris Pratt's character is, indeed, the main character and that the lengthy audition process was an essential part of making Marvel's most outrageous movie yet a success.
"Chris is amazing. We tested a lot, a lot of actors looking for the right Star-Lord because I knew that we were starting this new wing of Marvel, and we needed to do with this what they did with 'Iron Man.' I need someone who I could picture on screen with Robert Downey Jr. and giving back as good as he gets," Gunn said. "We watched one guy after another, plenty of great actors, but nobody was quite Peter Quill. We needed somebody to come in and inhabit the role and go beyond what was on the page.... Chris came in, and I knew within 30 seconds that he was the guy."
With Gunn already talking about Star-Lord potentially interacting with Tony Stark, questions of how "Guardians" connects to the rest of the Marvel movies were bound to come up, and the director elaborated a little on how that could happen. "We're definitely connected by Thanos [the villain teased in 'The Avengers'], and this is the first movie in the Marvel cosmic universe, so we're connected to the rest of the universe," he said. "How that plays will is going to be seen as the future comes along. I know a few little things, but we're concentrating on this movie right now and making this movie the best we possibly can.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" opens in theaters on August 1, 2014.