So Guardians wound up making $94 mil. That’s just a tad less than the opening of Winter Soldier earlier this year. It also set a new record for an August opening. As I posited in my previous post, this speaks very well of the Marvel movie brand.
Looking at the numbers, it would seem to me that the great success of the Avengers is the engine behind Marvel’s hot streak at the box office these last two years. Prior to the release of Avengers in 2012, the first Captain America and Thor movies did about $65 mil apiece on their opening weekends. The sequels to those films—both released post-Avengers—did $95 mil and $85 mil, respectively. Now Guardians has joined them in that lofty territory.
So now what?
The Good News
Alright, so here’s the good news: Marvel’s got a lot of freedom to do what they want now. They’ve got the Midas Touch, clearly, and whichever direction they go it seems like they’re going to make a killing at the box office.
They can afford to take some chances. They can roll the dice on some of their properties with less-than-obvious commercial appeal; maybe push some of their more artistic efforts.
They’re also not going to have to work very hard to find performers to work with, since (A) there’s probably a line around the block of big names that want to hop on to their bandwagon now; and more importantly, (B) they don’t appear to need big-name stars anyway, as Guardians didn’t really have any and still managed to sniff a hundred mil.
Guardians also had a lot of laughs. Hopefully this is a sign that the films will avoid the morose “grim & gritty” trend that has basically swallowed the superhero-comics industry whole.
The Bad News
As mentioned last time, this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy is relatively new. I’m worried that this might lead Marvel to start thinking that their newer, more recent creative endeavors have as much value as the Lee-Kirby-Ditko classics. This would be a mistake. Just as the current trends in comics have eroded the comics audience, I’m firmly convinced the movie audience would erode even more quickly.
Up to this point, we’ve actually been fortunate that the film adaptations of more modern material have corrected some of the problems of the original stories. The comic version of Guardians featured a large cast with intricate backstories that would have been impossible to follow if adapted religiously to film. But the film simplified and streamlined basically all those backstories, making it much easier for first-timers to digest.
In fact, this is actually the second Marvel movie in a row that took its cue from more recent material, as the original Winter Soldier storyline is a mere ten years old. Of course I hated this storyline when it first came out—as the old saying among comics fans once went, there are two guys who can never come back from the dead: Uncle Ben and Bucky. But again, the movie version was made more palatable by making its version of Bucky a much different character from the innocent young kid from the comics. Comics-Bucky carried a lot more symbolic weight in death than the movie version did. (Though truth be told, my own preference still would have been that both versions be allowed to rest in peace.)
In any case, this success could potentially open the doors for adaptations of garbage like Civil War, Avengers vs. X-Men, Secret Invasion, and similar sewage. (One of the reasons I’m glad Marvel doesn’t have the movie rights to Spider-Man is that I’d be terrified they’d try to adapt Superior Spider-Man or—Lord save us—”Sins Past.”) Even something like Infinity Gauntlet, which came out in comics form in ’91 and appears to be an inevitability for film adaptation at this point, is a fairly crappy story. Maybe Whedon can clean it up, but I’d feel more confident if all involved parties worked from stronger source material.
MTV came up with a list of possible future adaptations for Marvel in the wake of the success of Guardians. Just for fun, let me throw in my two-cents on their suggestions:
1. “Captain Marvel”
They want the Carol Danvers version, which I have no interest in. Remember when I lamented the news of making Thor a woman a while back? The reason I hate these things is that it always comes off as cheap pandering and they never last anyway. Captain Marvel is a perfect example—they’ve tried to bring this character back multiple times, first as an African-American woman, then as the original character’s son, now as Carol Danvers. But they always fail. Why? Because forty years ago, Jim Starlin gave us this awesome storyline that’s been reprinted many times, and will continue to be reprinted for many years to come. It starred (or at least co-starred with Thanos) the Kree soldier Mar-Vell as Captain Marvel, and for this reason he’s always going to be Captain Marvel in the Marvel Universe. They can fight this as hard as they like, but it’s never going to change.
Of course, if they went with Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel—and maybe set it in the 1970s, at the height of the woman’s movement—that could be interesting.
2. “Black Panther”
Now this needs to happen. Especially if they plan on giving us McGregor’s “Panther’s Rage” at some point.
3. Fewer Sequels
I think this is a pipe dream. While it would be a good move artistically, the sequels just make way too much money. I don’t see it happening.
4. “Planet Hulk”
No. They need a simple, good ol’ fashioned, classic “Hulk smash puny humans; Hulk is the strongest one there is!” movie. They’ve done two Hulk movies and failed to deliver on this both times. They whiff for strike three on the next one and the Hulk might be out permanently.
No. The very idea of She-Hulk has always been stupid to me, even by the worst comic-book standards.
Flip a coin. If they give us Rich Ryder, I’m in. If they give us that pipsqueak kid they’ve been pimping in the current series, I’m out.
I’d like to see these Kirby characters brought to life on the screen, but it’s a tricky proposition. One article I saw pitched it as “Game of Thrones in outer space,” but I’m not sure this works because they’re called “the Inhumans”—doesn’t that mean they need to be connected to humanity/Earth somehow? Again, this could be good but they’ve got to figure out a way to make it work.
8. “Black Widow”
Yea from me. And commercially speaking, as long as Scarlett’s on board, I don’t see how this one could fail. This should already be on the Marvel docket, honestly—not sure why it isn’t.
9. “Howard the Duck”
It was fun to see him in the tag (along with the creator credit to Gerber and Mayerik), but this isn’t happening. Not that I wouldn’t love to see it, but the general public does not know nor care a whit about Howard. Besides, no one’s ever been able to write him but Gerber. It would likely just bomb again if they tried, barring some ingenious marketing or somesuch.