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Is ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ More ‘Star Wars’ than ‘Avengers’?

By John Casteele – Feb 21, 2014 at 7:21AM

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The promotional push for Marvel Studios' "Guardians of the Galaxy" has officially begun. Some argue that the film is a risk and could be a flop, but it's possible that it might be a bigger hit than some think.

Considered by some to be one of the riskiest movies to date based on Marvel Comics characters, Walt Disney's (DIS 2.60%) Marvel Studios recently unveiled the first trailer for this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy. Premiering during ABC's "Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel" (which makes sense, as ABC is owned by Disney), the trailer gave us our first official look at the outer-space adventure in action.

Featuring a rag-tag group of adventurers fighting against a powerful adversary on distant worlds, the film takes place in the same shared universe as the other Marvel films, but has very little direct connection to them (other than the primary villain working for the same Big Bad that was behind the invasion in The Avengers.) In fact, comparisons might be easier to draw against another Disney property that will be hitting theaters again in 2015: the "Star Wars" saga.

They call themselves the 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
Unlike Iron Man, Captain America, and some of the other headliners from The Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy aren't exactly household names. While the team was originally created in 1968, the film focuses on the modern lineup that was introduced in 2008. With two green people, a walking tree, a talking raccoon, and Chris Pratt, Guardians is quite a departure from almost everything else that moviegoers have been exposed to in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.

Hooked on a feeling
Though only so much information about a film can be conveyed in a 2 1/2 minute trailer, the scenes used in this first look at the setting and characters did a lot to express a certain tone. Chris Pratt's Peter Quill character at times seems to evoke hints of Harrison Ford's Han Solo (and one scene seems to have a bit of an "Indiana Jones" vibe to it as well.) It makes sense that the film would have a different feel than those that came before, not only because it has a vastly different setting but also because each individual franchise within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe so far has done a good job establishing its own identity. It wouldn't make sense for Peter Quill to essentially be Tony Stark with a talking raccoon sidekick.

One thing that really sets Guardians of the Galaxy apart from the other Marvel films to date is the alien creatures in the cast. Similar to how the original Star Wars gave us a glimpse of a galaxy teeming with non-human life, Guardians features a wide range of alien species ranging from Rocket (the raccoon) and Groot (a sentient tree) to Ronan the Accuser (the blue-skinned primary antagonist of the film.) While Chris Pratt isn't the only actor in the film to appear without makeup, prosthetics, or CGI, humans are clearly not the most common species in the Guardians' galaxy.

Is Guardians of the Galaxy the new Star Wars?
If Guardians of the Galaxy is successful, not only will it show that Marvel Studios can succeed with riskier films (which could be a good thing, since it would encourage the studio to take more chances in the future), it will also give audiences a fun deep-space adventure to tide them over until the next "Star Wars" film arrives in 2015. That said, a similar setting doesn't guarantee a similar film.

Guardians of the Galaxy is likely part of a larger plan for the Marvel cinematic universe, one that may not see its culmination until well into "Phase 3" of the universe initiative. The Guardians team is confirmed not to appear in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, so the upcoming film (and the likely Phase 3 sequel) are likely setting the stage for an upcoming showdown with Thanos (the aforementioned Big Bad) in the third "Avengers" film. This would make sense, since the comic miniseries that the Thanos plot is hinting at featured a battle against the villain in space.

What about the box office?
At the end of the day, Guardians of the Galaxy is being released not just to build on this cinematic universe, but to make money for the studio. It seems like a risk because these aren't standard A-list characters, and it lacks a direct connection to the current slate of Marvel films. But there's a good chance that it will be profitable for Disney.

Association with the Marvel Studios name will draw in some fans, and fans of the comic (which has been prominently positioned in Marvel Comics' "Marvel Now!" and "All New Marvel Now!" initiatives) will also be likely to show up. Add in a marketing campaign that's just starting and the ability to attract genre fans who are hoping for a fun film with deep space action and there's a good chance that the film will end up being another Marvel hit.

John Casteele has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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