When Marvel first announced they were making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, die-hard comic fans went, “What?!?” And the rest of the world went, “Who?” Hard to believe, then, that Guardians has become one of our most-anticipated movies of the summer. Now the first full trailer has premiered on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and I’m doubling down: this is now the movie I am most excited about this summer. Do I think it’ll be the best? No clue. Do I think it’ll be a hit to live up to Marvel’s impressive track record? Who knows? But do I expect to have a better time in a theater during the summer months, if not the entire year? No way. For God’s sake, watch it already!
With Iron Man and Thor, Marvel has proven it can make a hit out of characters that aren’t quite as universally known as Spider-Man or Superman. But even with that being the case, Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be a hard sell. It’s set mostly in outer space, far away from the cinematic Marvel heroes we’ve met over the past few years. It stars characters that, let’s face it, unless you’re a comic book fan, you’ve almost certainly never heard of. It doesn’t even have — as far as we know — any of those more recognizable Marvel characters along to help introduce audiences to these new guys. Also, two of the characters are genetically engineered raccoon with a gun fetish and a walking tree who only ever says “I AM GROOT.” I mean, if you thought Ant-Man was a long shot, he’s got nothing on the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Fortunately, with both Guardians and the in-the-works Ant-Man, Marvel did exactly what they needed to do: they hired people who can make it funny. In Ant-Man’s case that’s writer/director Edgar Wright, and with Guardians it’s James Gunn. The only way you’re going to sell the mainstream moviegoer on something as cripplingly weird as Guardians is to acknowledge the silly elements, then make that goofiness not an obstacle, but part of the appeal. This trailer shows from the opening moments that Gunn has got that alchemy down pat. After a moody and mysterious moment, our hero Peter Quill is cornered at gunpoint and asked his name. He delivers a deadpan, action-hero reading of “Star-Lord”…which earns him a reply of, “Who?” The trailer has acknowledged the elephant in the room, given the audience permission to laugh about it, and then invited them to come have their asses kicked in outer space.
That sense of humor continues throughout the trailer, including a moment midway through that is the first time I can recall laughing out loud at a trailer in ages, and one that proves Chris Pratt was absolutely the right choice to lead this motley bunch. And while the other Guardians don’t get to say anything this time, everybody gets a moment to shine: Dave Bautista’s beefy Drax the Destroyer, Zoe Saldana’s green warrior lady Gamora, the diminutive but deadly Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and the enormous, enigmatic Groot (voiced and performed by Vin Diesel. We also see glimpses of more of the flick’s damned impressive cast, including John C. Reilly as Nova Corps officer Rhomann Dey, Djimon Hounsou’s Korath the Pursuer, Benicio Del Toro as The Collector (last seen in Thor: The Dark World’s after-credits sequence), and a bald, blue Karen Gillan as Nebula. No doubt the rest of the gang will get more focus in the future trailers — this one is all about introducing the crazy cosmic fringes of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and making people who’ve never heard of the Guardians say, “I have no clue what the hell what that was, but I want to know more.”
The trailer isn’t just about the humor, of course. There is plenty of action packed in there, including Rocket unloading an automatic weapon while astride Groot, a sight that sends my fanboy heart into palpitations, and it also just shows that Gunn has created a crazy, unique-looking universe that people have already been comparing to Farscape. And frankly, if Guardians essentially plays out like a $100 million Farscape movie, I will have no complaints whatsoever.
Guardians is the story of Star-Lord/Peter Quill, a half-human, half-alien who was spirited away from Earth when he was young and grown up tooling around the galaxy as a “legendary outlaw” (or so he claims). After he comes into possession of a mysterious artifact, he winds up joining forces with the rest of the so-called Guardians of the Galaxy to save, well, the galaxy from some very bad people, including a bad-nasty named Ronan the Accuser (everybody loves a title in the Guardians universe). It hits theaters on August 1.