Walt Disney Studios/Marvel
Guardians of the Galaxy grooved its way to a cool $94 million intake over the weekend, proving that Marvel can get as weird and silly as its wants and people will still flock to the theaters. It’s a huge moment for the studio, proof that Marvel is king of the superhero mountain top. But we have to wonder what the box office results would have looked like if anyone else had dared to make a Guardians of the Galaxy. What if the film didn’t have the big red Marvel stamp sewn into every inch of marketing? If Guardians didn’t tease its tenuous connections to the Avengers cinematic universe, would people have still coughed up nearly a hundred million dollars to see it? The answer: no way.
The truth is, if any other studio tried to make a film about a tree, a misanthropic raccoon, and two green people, it would have been laughed out of the theaters without making its money back. If the film were was just an original script with no ties to comic books, it would have a hard enough time just getting made, let alone becoming the biggest August opening of all time. But since this flick isn’t simply Guardians of the Galaxy but Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a talking racoon has suddenly become the key to box office success.
Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t look or feel like any of what Marvel has ever done before. The film is much more of a space opera than your standard superhero flick, but the film doesn’t need superheroes to be successful. In building its universe, Marvel has created a phenomenon of must-see movies. The studio has turned its films into a mosaic, a puzzle of films to be sorted out and put together by fans, pieces that come together to form one larger picture. Even though Guardians is the weirdest piece yet, it still has necessary connections to other movies. Marvel has created a fleet of unmissable films. If you want to understand everything that happens in Avengers: Age of Ultron, you better make sure to see Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a spectacular marketing plan, one helped by the fact that Marvel’s films are generally pretty good, but one that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for other blockbusters without recognizable source material or connections to larger franchises. Sadly, the only way an space opera like Guardians of the Galaxy could have survived in today’s film market is if it’s a part of a Marvel’s cinematic universe.
The sad truth is that big sci-fi blockbusters don’t do well unless they’re a part of some larger franchise or well established universe of films. It’s why the nearly great Edge of Tomorrow only managed to scrape together $28 million in its opening weekend. We bet if the Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner was proceeded by the page flipping Marvel title card, it would have made twice its opening weekend gross. We’re also willing to bet that if Marvel had created a story about giant robots beating back a swarm of monsters and set it in their cinematic universe, it would have made three times as much money as Pacific Rim, a film whose lifetime domestic gross amounts to what Guardians of the Galaxy made in half a week. Sadly, films like Edge of Tomorrow and Pacific Rim only prove to studios that there’s no use in tyring to produce blockbusters that aren’t already a part of recognizable franchises or universes. People aren’t interested anymore.