The Future Is Here
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​Why Guardians of the Galaxy could be Marvel's first flop

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So you guys had the Super Bowl this week, huh? We only dimly remember it in here in the post-apocalypse. I mean, we all know it was the ultimate football championship, pitting the two best football teams in the entire world to see who could best kick the ball with their feet, but other than that, it's a mystery to us. Oh, and I guess we remember who won the most Super Bowls — The Commercials. I wonder where they were from…

Rise (or Fall) of the Guardians

Elliott W.:

Dear Apocalyptic Postman,

So, it's another day (or at least will be by the time you receive this letter, thanks to our terrible infrastructure. Where do our tax dollars go in this post-apocalyptic wasteland?!), and you previously mentioned:

"I see no reason to panic about the Dr. Strange movie. Especially when everyone should probably be panicking about Guardians of the Galaxy instead… but that's a question for another day."

So here I ask: why should we be panicking about Guardians of the Galaxy?

The way I see it, the 2 Marvel flicks I had the greatest worries about prior to release, Thor and Captain America, both ended up pretty good, so Marvel deserves the benefit of the doubt. Marvel's people (or at least Mr. Feige) have shown a consistent ability to make entertaining films. They've even done so with the more challenging characters in their stable. Why would we worry about Guardians of the Galaxy? Especially when "sci-fi/space adventure" is a pretty successful and straightforward genre?


A lot of people asked me about my foreboding comments regarding Guardians of the Galaxy in last week's column. Exactly as I planned. BWA HA HA HA.

Look, I agree with you that Marvel deserves the benefit of the doubt. Their batting average is pretty damned high, they've taken potentially problematic characters like a semi-Norse extra-dimensional "god" and a patriotic Aryan boy scout and turned them into blockbusters. Certainly Marvel could very well hit GotG out of the park is well.


But I think if any Marvel movie (that we know of) is going to bomb, GotG will be it. First of all, people expect Marvel movies to be superhero movies, and GotG is not a superhero movie — as you correctly said, it's a scifi/space adventure. It's a radically different type of movie than what people have been getting, and bringing this new dimension to the Marvel movie-verse may turn mass audiences off.

And it's not just the scifi thing; it's an especially weird scifi thing. I can boil it down to two words: Rocket Raccoon. So far, the Marvel movies have had their share of comedy, but they've never featured anything as silly, goofy, ridiculous and weird as a talking, gun-toting space raccoon. Hell, think back to how ridiculous Benicio del Toro's space albino was in the Thor: The Dark World's post-credits scene — that shit is bizarre, and I don't know that mass audiences will go for this super-weird scifi adventure, even if they would be down with a scifi adventure. Comics fans know that the Marvel universe can contain any type of story and character, it can tell everything from gritty crime dramas to cosmic space odysseys to the nonsense of Deadpool. We've accepted that. But will the rest of the planet?

Look, it could be fine. Maybe Guardians of the Galaxy will be great and funny and exciting and everyone will love it just like they did all the others. In fact, given Marvel's track record, I'd say the odds are probably in its favor. But I still think if any Marvel movie is going to tank, Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely at the top of that list.


Intelligence and Belligerence

Greg H.:

Saw oblivion the other day on DVD (mildly entertaining), but the ending (Spoiler alert?) Sneaking a bomb into the alien mothership, why do aliens keep falling for this (battlefield earth, Independence Day, etc. etc.) are they fucking stupid?

Seeing how we can't even get on a plane without getting anally probed, why do advanced life forms that can travel the universe and take over the earth in minutes keep falling for this? I assume this is what caused the apocalypse.


Well, in Oblivion and Battlefield Earth, the aliens had already conquered the planet for a while, and had gotten complacent. In Independence Day, come on — if you saw drunken Randy Quaid coming at your massive alien battleship in a biplane, you would probably dismiss him as well. Of course, Khan also fell for this trick in Star Trek Into Darkness, but that's because Khan was an idiot and the movie was — nope, not going to get into it again. (Deep breaths, Bricken. Pull it together.)

But I like to think that of all the aliens in the universe, only humans are crazy enough to sneak bombs around and brutal enough to annihilate their enemies through deception. All these other aliens play by the rules, with very straight-forward, obvious invasions, because they have a sense of propriety about the whole thing, and then they meet us and discover we are all sneaky, terrifying assholes that will literally stop at nothing to win. We are the horrible bastards of the universe.


Game Theory

Daniel J.P.:

This e-mail began life as a comment to your article a few weeks ago, then got me thinking about a question. I think you underestimate just how nostalgia twenty somethings are about Nintendo. Yeah, Nintendo isn't doing so hot right now, but it practically raised a generation of latch-key kids; I literally learned to read so that I could play the Legend of Zelda (I was kind stupid as a kid). I would give Nintendo my left kidney plus my kids' college fund for a Zelda movie with the scope of Lord of the Rings (I'm kind of a stupid adult as well, sorry kids). They have twenty five years of lore built up with a straightforward action-y good versus evil plot with both huge mass appeal and a devoted fan base. Why wouldn't it be a license for a studio to print their own money?


It's not about the story potential of the games, and it's not even really about the fans. There's more at work here than just who has fond memories of The Legend of Zelda. First, Nintendo needs to get their shit together in the videogame world before they worry about extending their franchises to other media. They're in bad shape right now, and they don't have the time or the money to do anything else if they want to stay in the console business (not remaking the same eight games over and over again would help, I think).

Now, Hollywood could come a-calling, and pay for a Super Mario or a Zelda movie on its own, but take a look at this list of the highest-grossing videogame movies — it's dire. Few of them made a profit, and literally only one made more than $100 million (the first Tomb Raider movie). That's not even close to the kind of money big-budget Hollywood movie execs even get out of bed for.


Say some crazed Nintendo-phile wins the lottery and gives it all to Nintendo and some studio with the sole purpose of making a Metroid movie . Take another look at that list of videogame movies. Do you notice what else they have in common? They're all pretty terrible. For whatever reason, Hollywood cannot get videogame movies right, and I don't care how many Nintendo fans are out there, I'm pretty sure most of them would stay far the hell away if Mark Wahlberg put on a pointy green hat and was cast as Link.

One day videogames will be the next big source of movie ideas, just like comics are now. And they'll be made by talented people, and will be good, just like comics movies are now (remember, comic movies were also generally pretty godawful before the first X-Men). But we have quite a while before Hollywood takes a chance on them, and it'll be even longer before Nintendo hits the big screen.


First Ladies

Dane M.:

Hey Rob,

Let me preface this question by saying I would have no real problem with a female Doctor as long as the story was well written, nor would I even have a problem if they made Batman, Superman or whoever else a female in future reboots. A good story is a good story!

That said, your comments on Doctor Who a few weeks ago got me thinking: shouldn't we prioritize new female heroes built from the ground up instead of all this talk about converting male heroes to females? Converting gets people riled up and defensive, which can divert attention from the real issue. It also can seem a little bit like an easy route or a cheap shot at "the patriarchy" if handled poorly or done for the wrong reason. In contrast creating new female heroes, role models, villains has none of this baggage.

Creating is hard, I get that. It's easier to take a proven success and change it. I think it's better in the long run however if we're patient and create the female characters and heroes that can last generations. Stuff my daughter can grow up with and call her own, like I had as a kid with the endless male heroes on offer. I think Marvel not having a female hero movie in the works yet is a borderline crime. They have a stable of female heroes they could build up and flesh out. That's a much bigger deal to me than the BBC being hesitant to change a character who's been male for 50 years.

So is there a reason a lot of media writers tend to focus on changing characters like The Doctor instead of funding new creative processes to create tomorrow's female icons?


You have excellent points, but there is a reason why media writers and fake mailmen from the future tend to focus on changing established characters, and that's because they're established. I think it's great to create new female characters, but because they're new, they don't have the cultural cache of a character that's been around a long time, like the Doctor. They haven't really had the time to be great, or even be that newsworthy. For example:

Say I create a comic character named Jane Badass. She's awesome, but even if I'm a well-known and loved comic book writer, maybe that's worth a mention on io9, and maybe a slightly longer article on the comic book sites.


Now say someone creates a new character, but gives her a well-known name — e.g. the new Ms. Marvel (whose first issue comes out today, by the way). A new character that sounds awesome and by all accounts is awesome, and takes the mantle of an older, well-liked established character. That's definitely news on the nerdernet, although the main reason Kamala Khan has gotten so much attention is because she's a Muslim, meaning Ms. Marvel is now a Muslim.

Now say Doctor Who casts Luther's Ruth Wilson as the Thirteenth Doctor (oh please oh please oh please). Changing the gender of a beloved 50-year-old character, who's been on TV for most of that, internationally known and loved, had books, comics, radio dramas, merchandise, etc., well, that is big news. For no other reason than Doctor Who is bigger news than Ms. Marvel, who is bigger news than my new hit comic Jane Badass.


Which is why I think casting a female Doctor is a big deal. There are virtually no major characters that can switch genders of without essentially rebooting the entire franchise — for instance, Jane Bond cannot suddenly be the star of the next Bond movie unless she's a new character or the movie admits James had sexual reassignment surgery. Because of the established pattern of the Doctor regenerating into new characters, the show is uniquely equipped to add a bit gender equality that most other franchises of the same prominence cannot. That's why I keep talking about it. And hoping it happens, too.


Bad to the Boner

Mike K.:

Which of Batman's rogue's gallery has the biggest shlong?

Well, not Mr. Freeze, obviously. The Penguin and Riddler are clearly compensating. I still contend the Joker is asexual, so it really doesn't matter what his deal is. Killer Croc is an obvious choice, until you remember that crocodile penises are hidden in their cloaca and even 15-foot-long crocs only sport 4-inch penises (my Google search history is a fucking disaster now, by the way, thanks a ton). Bane might seem to be a contender, but Venom is partially a steroid, so no matter how big he gets, I'm pretty sure Li'l Bane only gets tinier.


I've gotta say Ra's al Ghul. He's certainly the manliest of Batman's opponents, and I have to think you don't get to become the semi-immortal leader of a giant network of killer ninja terrorist assassins without being fully confident of all the weapons at your disposal, if you know what I'm saying.

Of course, Clayface, being able to transform his body into anything he wants, probably walks around with quite the package on him. But since clay gets soft when it gets wet, does it really matter?


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