2014 is looking like a good year for Marvel films, especially with the continuing expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Warner Bros. stumbles over itself to form its own continuity from DC Comics characters, Marvel is pulling full steam ahead into the second half of their Phase Two, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy coming out in the approaching months. Guardians of the Galaxy is the wildcard of the pair, taking the MCU into outer space and introducing a host of new characters, including the Guardians themselves, a new gallery of villains, and a wider look at the mythos that will be explored in the future films of the Marvel universe.
First a little history of the Guardians. There have been two versions of the interstellar team, the first appearing in 1969’s Marvel Super-Heroes #18 written by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, and a second team introduced in 2008 in the second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy by Dave Abnett and Andy Lanning. The first generation made sporadic appearances until they got their own miniseries in the 1990s, and had a large number of rotating members, existing in the 31st Century from an alternate reality of Marvel’s main universe. These members include Major Vance Astro, an astronaut cryogenically frozen for one-thousand years on a space expedition to reach the nearest galaxy, a crystalline being from Pluto named Martinex, Charlie-27 – a super soldier from Jupiter, and Yondu Udonta, a blue-skinned Native American-esque hunter (who is to appear in the film played by Michael Rooker.) Each is the last of their species and banded together to fight aliens and evil menaces in space.
The second generation are formed in Marvel’s present universe, under the banner of Star-Lord to do the same thing as the first, whom they cross paths with in a couple of their comic issues, since you can do that in comic books. It begs the question whether or not the film will explore alternate dimensions since Yondu is going to appear, and whether or not the two teams will cross paths. Anyway, let’s take a look at the five members of the film’s incarnation of the team.
Star Lord: Really named Peter Quill, Star Lord is the son of a human woman and an alien named Jason of Spartoi, who crashlanded on Earth and had a romantic relationship with Meredith Quill for a year before leaving. Meredith was eventually killed by assassins sent by Jason’s uncle, but Peter survived, growing up to become an astronaut but also an angry, violent douche. While working on Earth’s first permanently manned space station, Peter and the other residents met the enigmatic Master of the Sun who promised to turn one of them into the intergalactic hero Star Lord. Peter’s potential was tarnished due to previous fights with another candidate, but Peter ended up stealing the spotlight and role from his co-worker at the last minute and became Star Lord. After being allowed to deal with his rage, Star Lord was given a sentient shapeshifting star named Ship, and a powerful space suit to help him fight evil, including a cool-looking helmet. He forms the Guardians to be proactive in protecting the galaxy, after the events of the comic arc Annihilation: Conquest. Despite being a bit of a jerk, Star Lord is a brave and just leader and genuine superhero to boot. He is going to be played by Chris Pratt.
Drax the Destroyer: A green-skinned superhuman hellbent on destroying Thanos (more on him later), Drax was once a human named Arthur Douglas whose family were cruelly murdered by Thanos when he briefly landed on Earth. Arthur’s daughter Heather actually survived and was adopted by Thanos’ father Mentor and became the psychic being Moondragon. Arthur’s conscience was captured by Mentor and his father Kronos, and placed into a superhuman body, creating Drax. Drax has a strong sense of justice but an equally strong desire to destroy Thanos, caused by the will placed upon him by Kronos. He is a dangerous being, possessing great strength and durability, and can fire energy blasts by bending cosmic energy. Drax is to be played by wrestling legend Dave Bautista, though his vengeance is aimed at Ronan the Accuser rather than Thanos, though he may well be the recipient of more than a little splash-back
Gamora: This green-skinned space babe has the title of “The Most Dangerous Woman in the Universe”, which makes sense considering she is the adoptive daughter of Thanos. Gamora is the last of her species, exterminated by the evil Universal Church of Truth, who is “adopted” by Thanos and moulded into the perfect killing machine with the intent on using her to destroy the Church’s leader, the Magus, who is the evil version of Guardians’ member Adam Warlock. After some time, she managed to destroy the Church and Magus was defeated, only for Thanos to reveal himself as an even greater threat, prompting Gamora to realise how evil her step-father really was and sided against him with Adam, Drax and the Avengers, eventually dying while fighting him but was restored into a new body. She is a skilled martial artist, and has many enhanced superhuman factors courtesy of Thanos. Gamora is going to be played by Zoe Saldana, which is appropriate how she spent the whole of Avatar painted blue. Gamora starts off as an ally to Ronan, but will swap sides at some point to follow her own path.
Groot: No, Groot is not from Middle Earth. Groot is an sentient alien tree who is the last of an extinct civilization. He doesn’t talk much, in fact only usually saying “I am Groot.” He is a scientist, coming to Earth at first to experiment on humans but meets resistance and eventually join Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos. He eventually teamed up with Star Lord during Annihilation: Conquest to fight the Phalanx alien species, but died in battle, only to be revived by Rocket Raccoon as you would with a plant – regrow it. Groot can absorb wood to regrow his body, is somehow fireproof and can control trees. Groot will be played by Vin Diesel, who will also use motion capture to enhance the character. It’ll be kind of surreal seeing/hearing Riddick running around as an alien tree.
Rocket Raccoon: When I first saw the concept poster for Guardians of the Galaxy and saw the gun-toting Rocket Raccoon, my jaw hit the floor. But he is such an awesome concept of a character. Rocket is a crusading expert marksman who comes from a sealed off part of the galaxy called the Keystone Quadrant and was genetically enhanced by robots as a defender of the system. He does have the natural traits of a raccoon, an accomplished space pilot, and uses two laser pistols in combat. Rocket has a good relationship with Groot, helping to revive him after he died in Annihilation: Conquest. Rocket will be voiced by Bradley Cooper, who played Face in The A-Team movie, so there might be some similarities between them.
Glenn Close and John C. Reilly will appear as high-ranking members of the Nova Corps, a space police and military force who have connections of the Guardians. As for the bad guys, we have Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), Nebula (Amy Pond herself Karen Gillan), and Korath (Djimon Hounsou, who has had previous experience in the superhero genre in Push). All of them are associates with Thanos. Ronan is a Kree, and is basically a superhuman law figure, who normally follows the orders of the Kree leader, the Supreme Intelligence, but became more a heroic character in the comics and had Star Lord as an ally on more than one occasion. Nebula is a space pirate with connections to Thanos, while Korath is also a Kree soldier who developed cybernetic soldier for the Kree army.
Then there are the two more enigmatic characters who were introduced at the respective ends of The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World – Thanos and The Collector (Benico del Toro). The details surrounding them might spoil possible future events of upcoming Marvel films, and diving into a deep part of the Marvel mythos. The Collector is a member of the Elders of the Universe, who are a group of last-of-their kind aliens of have magical powers, obtained from the cosmic energy left over from the Big Bang. Just run with it. Other Elders including Ego the Living Planet and the Watcher. Most of them are immortal and stay immortal as long as they have a focus in life, thus usually have pretty extreme hobbies. In the Collector’s case, whose actual name is Taneleer Tivan, he collects stuff, including very dangerous items that usually serve as MacGuffins – like the government warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
At the end of Thor: The Dark World, Sif and Volstagg visit the Collector and give him the Aether energy item for safekeeping. When the Collector queries them why not just keep it in Odin’s vault, they admit they don’t want to put it in the same place where the Tesseract is, which is also an energy-based item that holds untold powers. They do not wish to put two of the “Infinity Stones” in the same place, and after they leave, the Collector cryptically says “One down, five to go.”
Oh, boy! This is where Thanos comes in – he’s the mysterious purple guy you see at the end of The Avengers and the one who gave Loki the alien army and new powers. He is one of the Marvel universe’s most powerful supervillains and has earned the title of “Thanos the Mad Titan”, and wants to destroy most of the universe so he can win the affections of Death, the female incarnation of the Grim Reaper – yes, he wants Death to be his girlfriend (hinted at during the end of The Avengers where his minion said challenging the humans would be “to court death.”) Thanos is a pretty powerful guy, having conquered and destroyed countless worlds before, but to achieve his goal, he eternally searches for six magical reality bending gems called the Infinity Gems – which are be renamed and adapted into the Infinity Stones in the Marvel films.
Instead of magic gems it seems they will at first be forms of energy, and both the Tesseract and the Aether are two of them, so perhaps when Thanos gains the Infinity Gauntlet (a golden glove that was glimpsed briefly in Odin’s vault in Thor) he will reshape them into gems. Each Infinity Gem is colour-coded and represents some sort of reality or control – Mind Gem (Blue), Power Gem (Red), Reality Gem (Yellow), Time Gem (Orange), Soul Gem (Green) and Space Gem (Purple). If Thanos can collect the six gems and place them into the Infinity Gauntlet, he will become basically god of the universe. We can expect to see the rest of the Infinity Stones appear in the next few films and tie-in TV shows, and the whole thing will presumably pay off in The Avengers 3. Until then, we still have Guardians of the Galaxy to look forward to and all the zaniness that will come with it.
Are you looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy? Will you be open to the different types of characters and genres that the Marvel films have succeeded in creating in the past? Sound off in the comments section below.