Although Hulk, Thor, and the Avengers introduced humankind to heroes that were not earthbound, "Guardians of the Galaxy" is the first Marvel Studios movie that really turns the superhero paradigm upside down -- or at least takes it to outer space. Featuring a cross-section of unusual characters, including a talking raccoon, who find themselves in possession of an unusual but "highly coveted" object, writer-director James Gunn's film expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe in both literal and metaphorical ways, and Comic-Con International attendees enjoyed an opportunity to see an early look at the film as it wraps its first days of production.
Following a presentation of footage in Hall H, Gunn and cast members Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace and Karen Gillan sat down in front of a horde of reporters to talk about their roles and the challenges of bringing this unconventional comic book adaptation to the screen.
What's the basic moral premise and conflict of Guardians of the Galaxy?
James Gunn: Guardians is about a family coming together. It really is about a group of individuals who have acted selfishly and only as individuals, throughout their life. And they learn something about themselves that makes them heroes.
As they expand the Marvel [Cinematic] Universe, will there be a connection between the Guardians and other Marvel movies?
Gunn: Well, we have Thanos. Thanos is the thing that connects us to the Marvel Universe, at this point. In the future, we'll see what happens after that. But right now, we're connected to the rest of the Marvel Universe because of three seconds at the end of The Avengers.
Your previous films have more of an R-rated tone. Are you keeping a darkly comedic tone with this film?
Gunn: I don't think of it as darkly comedic. I do think of it as me, I've gotta say that. There's a lot of James Gunn in this movie, and it's a strange thing. When I turned in the first draft to Kevin [Feige] and Marvel and Joss [Whedon], and they read the first draft, they were all really happy, which made me happy. That was a really good day. And their biggest note was, "More James Gunn," which freaked the hell out of me. So, I gave them more James Gunn, and that's what's in the movie.
I think it's a really unique movie. But with every movie I do, I'm speaking to a certain part of myself and I'm speaking to a certain audience. With a movie like Super, I'm speaking to a specific person that that movie means a lot to. I really appreciate everybody who loves that movie. When I'm doing a movie like Guardians, it really is for a much broader audience. It's for everybody. It's a movie we can go see on a Friday night, with everybody else in the city, and really enjoy ourselves in a different type of way. And I appreciate both of those types of movies.
What has your experience been like on set, with this big budget?
Gunn: That it's easier. With a movie like "Super," there are a lot of people on set who I think, I can do their job better than they can. With a movie like this, we worked really hard to find the best, whether it was the best actor for each of these roles, which we worked really hard at, but also the best production designer, the best composer and the best costume designer. They all make my job a lot easier on this movie than it's been in movies past.
As actors, is it intimidating at all to step into these roles that people might not be as familiar with as they are with some of the other characters in the Marvel Universe?
Zoe Saldana: It's exciting! Of course you're nervous, but I would be cautious to use the word intimidating because I don't want it to be interpreted like I feel inferior. I feel very excited to be joining the Marvel family of superheroes. I do believe that the Guardians have bigger powers, in a way. If we were up against Captain America, or Thor, we'd totally kick his ass.
Chris Pratt: All the Marvel movies, thus far, have been received so well because they were such famous comic books, but I think they were [also] great stories. Iron Man is Iron Man now because of "Iron Man," the movie. It was a comic, and certainly people knew it, but they love [the movie] and they go back to it because it's great storytelling. It's the same thing with this. This is a really cool story. Marvel knows what they're doing and they know how to tell a story and they know how to make this movie. I really don't feel intimidated. If you told me, "Chris, you have to go adapt 'Guardians of the Galaxy' into a movie on your own," I would be super intimidated. But when they're like, "We're doing it and we'd love you to be a part of it," it's like, "Wow, great! I'm along for the ride!"
For the actors, what is your favorite weird and wonderful aspect of your character?
Michael Rooker: There's a lot of me in Yondu. When I first read the script, I noticed right away that there are some aspects of Yondu's existence within this universe of ours that were very, very close to me. For example, the tough love that I have towards some of the other cast members. I'm very much like that in my life, as well. I hardly ever do make-up, in the movies I've done, except on James Gunn movies. This one is about two-and-a-half hours. To me, that's a very interesting aspect. When I get mad, I turn red. When I get embarrassed, I turn red. When I get turned on, I get red. And I want the audience to see that, in the character. So, if the character is getting mad, getting upset or getting turned on, you're getting to see that in the facial tones and the skin tones. That's what I enjoy about acting. It can be very subtle, like that. With a lot of make-up on, you can't see a lot of that, so I prefer to have no make-up, at all. But not in this one. I'm very excited to be involved with this.
Djimon Hounsou: I play Korath, who is a humanoid. I have a 4-year-old son, who loves all the superheroes from Spider-Man to Batman to Iron Man. He's got all the costumes. And one day, he looked at me and said, "Papa, I want to be light-skinned, so I can be Spider-Man, 'cause Spider-Man is light-skinned." That was a shock to me. I'm extremely excited to be a part of the Marvel Universe, so I can provide a diverse outlook of superheroes or bad guys in those stories. It's important for us to be part of that, and specifically for me. That was my in ticket to the Marvel world, and I'm excited.
Lee Pace: I play Ronan the Accuser, a character that's been around since 1967, when he first walked into "Fantastic Four." So, there's a lot of incredible story that I've gotten to research. If you call reading comic books research, I guess I've been doing my job. I start work this week, filming the character, and I'm just really excited to make a villain that is complicated. There's a core to him where you can find something that you can understand. I don't know. He's pretty bad, though. It's the early days, so I'm just putting the first wall up and we'll start there.