Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige was in Barcelona this week to present footage from Guardians Of The Galaxy , Marvel’s latest big-screen hopeful.
Harking back to the days when taking Iron Man to market seemed like a risky proposition, Feige was enthusiastic about presenting something new. “It’s very important that we keep surprising people and going out of our comfort zone,” he admitted, clearly excited about exploring ‘the other side of the Marvel universe’. Way over the other side. In outer space.
If the footage shown pointed to anything, though, it was that Guardians Of The Galaxy has its feet firmly plonked on the ground, thanks in no small part to its likeable, ragtag team of central characters. According to Feige, the humour will be key to pulling in audiences that might otherwise be turned off by genre fare.
The description of the footage that follows contains some spoilers for GOTG , so any fans planning to go in completely cold are advised to turn back now. Still with us? OK…
In the several clips shown (out of context, and occasionally with unfinished special effects), it was Chris Pratt’s Peter ‘Star-Lord’ Quill who took centre stage. The first sequence was set in 1988, as an eight-year-old Quill storms from his house, following an argument with his parents. He’s barely had a chance to fall on his knees and start weeping before he’s taken away from the misty night by an alien spacecraft that suddenly blinks into view. The only possession he has with him? A backpack loaded with ‘80s memorabilia, including his Walkman.
Following that, we leap 26 years ahead to the abandoned planet of Morag, for a fuller look at the scene that been a key fixture of the trailers, as Quill (now in Chris Pratt form) is on the hunt for an orb to steal. Geysers pop and splutter, as rain lashes the dusty, red planet, home to the remains of a lost civilization, like ruins of a cosmic Rome. Quill uses what looks like a hi-tech torch to survey the area as it once was in an augmented-reality style. With his trademark helmet vanishing digitally at the touch of a button, Quill slips on his headphones to dance his way towards his prize. Puncturing the faux sci-fi seriousness of the set-up, it’s a brilliant showcase for Pratt, who demonstrates his likeability further in his now infamous run-in with Djimon Hounsou’s Korath. After making his jet-booted escape, Pratt’s back in his ship, revealing a Captain Kirk-esque side when a red-skinned alien girl – who he’d forgotten was still there – appears from below decks.
His escape was clearly not all that successful, as the next clip we were shown had Quill being flung into prison, alongside the others that will go on to make up his team in the future: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Over the course of prison sequence, Rocket was something of a standout, with Cooper adopting a not-hugely-recognisable drawl for the cute-but-deadly trouble-maker. He’s the one who’s scheming up a plan to get the gang out of prison, although he’s not averse to winging it or throwing a curveball as and when the situation dictates. There’s also a hint at what makes Rocket such an angry little fella. As the gang are being processed into the prison, Quill is stripped down to his briefs and blasted with red gunk (showing off the six-pack that got so much attention after it was glimpsed in the trailer). He spies Rocket, also clothesless (but, y’know, covered in fur) and sees metal nodes that are attached to the little guy’s back, a reminder of the genetic experimentation he’s been subjected too.
Also standing out was Groot, a tree-being who can grow and alter his shape at will, as the situation requires (at one point an arm is puffed into a bunch of twigs to use as protection against machine-gun fire, and he can also extend his height to reach important items). He also steps up to defend Quill from the attention of a hulking space-brute, lifting the aggressor skyward via his nostrils. And, even in the limited footage we saw, there was a good sense of the range that Groot gets out of the only three words he can speak: ‘I am Groot.’
And while Zoe Saldana’s emerald-skinned badass wasn’t at the forefront of the footage, Gamora felt like the straight-up badass of the group. Though, even she still gets a few scathing one-liners – “I’m going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots on the planet!” During the prison escape, Gamora demonstrated her superhuman ass-kicking abilities as the quintet pulled off their haphazard plan.
The choreography of the whole sequence was impressive, not only in how it juggled the roles of the Guardians, but also the innovative action itself (particularly when a sneaky bit of hot-wiring by Rocket renders the prisons anti-gravity tech useless…) and the ever-present humour.
Following that escape sequence, we were also shown an excerpt from later scene, when Quill is being held captive on Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) ship. Quill was brought up by Yondu’s people, as evidenced in their red leather garb: the same type Quill was sporting at the beginning of the film. We didn’t see enough of Rooker’s performance to get a true sense of the character, but he looked awesome, with bright blue skin and a red mohawk. The scene took a sudden shift when Rocket appeared to ‘save the day’ in a particularly unsubtle manner, with some ridiculously heavyhanded negotiating tactics. His failed attempt at a rescue leads the entire group to be taken hostage. “I didn’t have time to work out the minutiae of the plan,” he grumbles.
This led to the final piece of footage we were shown, as the gang – looking at their seemingly hopeless fate – decide to stand up and do something to stop Ronan the Accuser and his nefarious plans (the villain, and details of his plan, were kept off-screen). It’s Quill, evidently growing from the earlier scenes, who rouses the team to action with a stirring – but not saccharine – speech. While it could have been cheesy, Pratt’s delivery, and the smartly scripted dialogue, kept it on the right side of emotive. And, as ever, Rocket’s on hand to puncture any potential pomposity (“What the hell – I don’t have that long a life span anyway…”)
And with that the footage wrapped, with Feige promising that it leads to ‘one of the biggest and best final battles in any Marvel film.’ As impressive as the action was – think the dusty, weathered sci-fi reality of Firefly on a much bigger scale – it’s actually this bunch of characters we’re excited to spend more time with. Just as Iron Man ’s secret weapon was having a hero who was more interesting outside of the suit, Guardians promises characters that you’ll be invested in before the explosions start. Roll on summer.
Guardians Of The Galaxy opens in the UK on 31 July 2014.