That image above, ladies and gentlemen, is the future of cinema: a talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) riding a walking tree (voiced by Vin Diesel). It is beyond absurd. It's an idea so ludicrious that it's hard to imagine that anyone would spend the millions of dollars it would take to make it happen, yet thanks to Marvel it's a thing that will be in thousands of theaters across the country later this year.
While it might be foolish to go so far as to say that Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie that Rocket Raccoon (the raccoon) and Groot (the tree) are in, will be a game changer, one thing that most can agree on is that it's "The Gamble."
But if it pays off, it may just make Marvel Studios the most interesting major production house in Hollywood.
In the grand scheme of things, when someone writes the definitive history of superhero movies, The Avengers will always be seen as the moment when Marvel did the impossible and managed to make an honest to god superhero team epic. If the still untitled Batman vs. Superman movie -
Time out: does this thing really still not have a name yet? For the love of god DC get it together. As I was saying...
- becomes a major success, everyone will still point out that Marvel took the risk first. The Avengers really was a game changer for the entire genre of superhero film, one that's given Marvel a huge lead on the competition.
But was the success of The Avengers really that impossible? Yes, Iron Man wasn't a hot property before the movies came out, but by the time of The Avengers everyone knew who Tony Stark was. Captain America? Iconic. The Hulk? Also iconic. Thor? OK, so Thor was a bit of a wild card on the first go around, but Chris Hemsworth sure is dreamy.
That's a pretty stacked line-up, and although coming up with a story that puts them all together in a way that works may have been difficult, in hindsight it does seem a bit silly that anyone would have looked at what Marvel was doing and think "it'll never work."
But work it did, to the tune of something like a gazillion dollars.
And now Marvel is using that capital - both financial and fan-based goodwill - to get a little weird. Yeah, Thor 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier aren't that far outside the box, but consider what's also in the pipeline along with The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the currently untitled Avengers 3:
Guardians of the Galaxy - A big budget, sci-fi extravaganza featuring a talking raccoon and a walking tree, among other things.
Ant-Man - Director Edgar Wright (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) finally gets to bring the story of a superhero who can make himself real tiny to the screen. This is one of Wright's dream projects, so it should be stellar, but the world was not exactly clamoring for an Ant-Man flick.
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Dr. Strange - Lots of big names have been rumored to take the role of Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme, and Marvel seems gungho about bring more magic to their cinematic universe.
Now, these films being developed may not sound like a big deal, but can you imagine five years ago anyone taking a chance on any of these? Of course not; outside of Blade, the major comic book companies haven't taken a whole lot of chances when it comes to what properties get turned in to movies.
Now, imagine what kind of doors might open up if Guardians becomes a smash. At that point everything will be fair game. Can you imagine Squirrel Girl in a major motion picture? Or a Great Lakes Avengers flick in general? Could The New Warriors find a home in the Marvel Movie Universe? Can Black Panther finally get his own movie?
We don't know yet, if Marvel can keep the wheels rolling, who knows what might end up on screen. For now, all we can do is enjoy the ride... and drool over cool concept artwork that is leaking out. This Ant-Man image is amazing: