Just a few months ago, everybody was writing about how "risky" Guardians of the Galaxy was for Marvel, and what would happen if it tanked. But the crazy space movie with no big-name stars in it had one of the year's biggest openings instead. And here are 10 lessons that we hope people learn from this.
Top image: Patrick Brown
Of course, Guardians of the Galaxy could still deflate massively in its second weekend, the way so many other films have of late. But the signs are looking good — the movie has an "A" Cinemascore and nearly unanimous good reviews. I saw it again on Sunday night, and the movie theater was a mob scene. Its opening weekend was comparable to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but its Monday night take was nearly double that of Cap 2.
1. Superhero movies can be fun.
As fantasy authors Kameron Hurley and Harry J. Connolly observed, the success of Guardians of the Galaxy heralds "the sound of grimdark being over." Superhero movies have had to struggle to be taken seriously, and for a long time a lot of the best superhero films have eschewed any hint of lightness, for fear of seeming campy. (Obvious exception: the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films.) But Guardians proves that superhero adventures can be zany and fun, and have loads of humor, and still win out. Superheroes are basically about escapism, after all. You can even be kind of silly. We don't have to have endless shots of grayscale heroes brooding in the rain.
Image by P1xer
2. Young dudes want the same thing that women of all ages want
This movie hit two hard-to-reach audience groups. It got a surprisingly high proportion of males aged 17-34, an audience that Hollywood is increasingly having a hard time hitting with standard-issue action movies. And its audience was also 44 percent female — the highest proportion of any Marvel movie, ever. What sorcery is this? How can a movie appeal to both of these groups? Because they both want the same thing, more or less — fun adventures in which both the male and female characters are fully realized.
3. IMAX is the new 3D.
After Avatar came out, it signaled a few fat years for theaters, because any movie that came out in 3D would do better than other movies. The "3D premium" dried up eventually, and audiences got wise to the fact that this was just another added surcharge for no additional benefit. But more theaters have IMAX screens now, and IMAX is clearly becoming the new 3D — Guardians got $17 million globally from IMAX screens this past weekend, a new record for August, because the visuals looked cool enough that everybody wanted to see them blown up to massive size.
4. A good brand is more than just a bigger version of a franchise.
Everybody's been learning the wrong lesson from Marvel's success, basically — all of the other studios have been rushing to create "mega-franchises," with Sony trying to turn just the Spider-Man films into a whole shared universe. But Marvel's box-office onslaught isn't just thanks to the fact that these films cross over and the heroes team up sometimes — it's also just a strong brand, that people trust at this point. A brand that's not tied to any particular set of characters, or even one set style. Basically, the indispensible Scott Mendelson at Forbes is right when he calls Marvel the new Pixar. And announcing a release date for Guardians 2 at Comic-Con was a genius move — it signaled confidence, and created a lot of extra buzz in the entertainment press. GIF by Fishmas.
5. Remakes, reboots and sequels are missing the point.
Nobody wanted a somewhat generic new action movie called Total Recall or RoboCop, to name just two examples. They wanted movies that felt the way the original films did, back in the day. Too much of the desperation to mine the past of science fiction and fantasy hinges on "name recognition" and plundering basic concepts, and not enough of it actually focuses on why those movies worked in the first place. To use an 80s metaphor, people don't want New Coke, they want Coke.