Muppets Most Wanted - Miss Piggy

Guardians of the Galaxy (In Production)

Need For Speed

Guardians of the Galaxy - Nebula

Noah - Russell Crowe

Guardians of the Galaxy - Gamora


Galaxy guardians: It used to be that by the time we hit August, all the summer's high profile movies had already hit theatres, but times have definitely changed.

One of this summer's highest profile 3D sci-fi action adventures arrives Aug. 1 and tracking reports suggest it could be among the season's biggest openings. And that could translate into a late summer shot in Hollywood's boxoffice arm.

Marvel Studios and Disney's much anticipated "Guardians of the Galaxy" is tracking in double digits as an overall first choice. It's a substantially bigger first choice for 25-plus males and only a bit less for under-25 males. There's also double digit interest from under-25 females. With that level of enthusiasm, a powerful opening weekend seems likely.

Directed by James Gunn ("Slither"), "Galaxy" boasts an all-star cast with very impressive credits -- including Chris Pratt ("Zero Dark Thirty,""Moneyball") as Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana ("Star Trek Into Darkness," "Avatar") as Gamora, Dave Bautista ("Riddick") as Drax the Destroyer.

It features Vin Diesel ("Fast and Furious") as Groot, two-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper ("American Hustle," "Silver Linings Playbook") as Rocket, Lee Pace ("The Hobbit," "Lincoln") as Ronan theAccuser, Michael Rooker (AMC’s "The Walking Dead") as Yondu, Karen Gillan (BBC-TV’s "The Walking Dead") as Nebula and two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou ("Amistad," "Gladiator") as Korath.

Plus, Oscar nominee John C. Reilly ("Chicago") as Rhomann Dey,six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close ("Fatal Attraction") as Nova Prime and Oscar winner Benicio DelToro ("Traffic") as The Collector.

"Galaxy" follows in the footsteps of such Marvel blockbuster franchises as "Iron Man," "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Avengers."< /p>

While the new film is clearly part of the Marvel brand, there's one huge difference between it and the studio's earlier hits – it takes place in space rather than on earth.

That difference is one of the key points Marvel and Disney make about "Galaxy" in the film's press notes, calling it, "an action-packed, epic space adventure (that) expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe.

"To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits -- Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand -- with the galaxy’s fate in the balance."

Created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, the Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced in 1969 as a team of31st century heroes with each member being the last of its kind. Marvel saw tremendous potential in turning that concept into a movie. Not only was there a unique group of characters operating within a unique universe, but there also was the opportunity to explore another side of the Marvel Universe that was contemporary with "Avengers," while maintaining the scope, action, humor and sense of high stakes that all been part of "Avengers'" success.

"Avengers" opened May 4, 2012 to $207.4 million and went on to gross $623.4 million in domestic theatres. It did another $895.2 million internationally, bringing its worldwide theatrical cume to $1.5 billion.

Marvel wanted to do a space epic film through which it could expand the studio's Cinematic Universe in a new direction.

"'Guardians of the Galaxy' is the riskiest movie we've done since 'Iron Man,' but in many ways that makes it the most exciting movie we’ve done since 'Iron Man.' It means we can surprise people and exceed expectations," observes producer Kevin Feige, who's also president of Marvel Studios.

"When I was a kid and I would go to the movies, most of the characters -- Indiana Jones, Marty McFly, the Gremlins -- I had never heard of before. I love the notion of being able to introduce some originality and although all of it is based on the great work that was done in the comics, because so few people are aware of them, I hope it feels like something very new and very fresh in the way that almost all those movies in the ’80s were when I was a kid."

One of the things Marvel found most exciting about "Guardians" is that "the characters are not heroes, but a group of outlaws and misfits who meet in prison," according to according to Jeremy Latcham, an executive producer of the film and senior vice president of production and development at Marvel Studios.

"They're mostly a selfish and self-interested group who care little about anyone. Yet this team of people is thrown together with the stake of the entire galaxy on the line and come together to save it."

Getting the right tone for the story was particularly important to the filmmakers, who wanted to achieve a balance of humor, emotion and action.

"We wanted to find a director with something to say, who had already done a great job saying it on a smaller scale, and give him a huge Marvel canvas to play with," explains Latcham.

"James Gunn had made a couple of really interesting films ("Slither," "Super"), had written some really interesting screenplays, but had never been given the keys to a gigantic vehicle. From the outset I think he understood it couldn’t be an R-rated James Gunn film, but it needed the wit, humor and charm that imbued his films. In many ways 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a lot edgier than some of our films, the stakes seem a little more real, the characters are rougher around the edges and James embraced that right away and brought that real world aesthetic to it, which is so right for this story."

"It is important to us," adds Feige, "that a filmmaker bring a vision and have a handle on the characters and be able to bring them to life in an unexpected and unique and three-dimensional way. We wanted a director who could bring those elements and a slightly skewed sense to the film, and James Gunn has that voice and that vision." At first, Gunn says, he "wasn't certain about it, but when I went home that night (after meeting with Marvel) and thought about it, I could really see the movie in my head. I could see what it was visually -- not so much from a story standpoint, but visually. I just started writing how I saw this movie, what the visuals would be like, what would it look like, what would the shooting style be. I wrote 10 pages and I sent them back to them that night."

After it was clear that Gunn and Marvel were on the same page in terms of their vision for "Galaxy," Gunn signed to direct the film and got approval from Marvel to post this announcement on his Facebook page:

"For a month or so there’s been a lot of Internet speculation about my involvement with Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' Until now I haven’t said anything, because I'm trying to be less expulsive about this project than I am about the rest of my life. But last night I got the go-ahead from Kevin Feige to let you all know that, yes, indeed, I am rewriting and directing 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' As a lifelong lover of Marvel comics, space epics, AND raccoons, this is the movie I've been waiting to make since I was nine years old. Kevin and all the folks at Marvel have been amazing collaborators so far, and we're committed to bringing you something majestic, beautiful, and unique…."

Gunn says he also was excited to introduce "Galaxy's" characters into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and to introduce a global audience to the Guardians: "I think 'Guardians of the Galaxy' gave me more freedom simply because there aren’t as many rabid fans of Guardians as there are of say 'The Avengers,' or as many Guardians comic books, and so I have been able to recreate the Guardians more for the screen without worrying that the audience will have a different expectation of the characters."

Although there had been a number of approaches to "Galaxy" over the years, Marvel planned from the film's early development stages to draw from the 2008 Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning version of the comic. Gunn, who embraced that choice, notes, "We’re using the characters that Abnett and Lanning used and their tone is both humorous and dark, an interesting mix, which I think we have in the film too."

The film's delicate balance is, Gunn explains, "really between the drama and the comedy and the action and finding the right balance between all of those things. I see the movie overall at its center as an action-adventure film. That’s what it is. But within that there's a hell of a lot of comedy and a hell of a lot of drama. People see the comedy coming but I don't think they realize the dramatic aspect to this movie and that's going to be a big surprise for people."

Bottom line: "Galaxy" should blast off with some out-of-this world ticket sales.