When I was a kid, conventional wisdom held that DC Comics was the dominant force behind pop-culture penetration. DC characters got on TV, and became the stars of A-list Hollywood productions. Everyone knew who Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were; the Marvel characters were known mostly to comic-book fans, which at the time meant primarily children.
Wow, has that ever changed. Marvel Comics has been taking over pop culture with a carefully planned film offensive that played out like a military strategy (plus a heaping helping of good fortune that Marvel properties owned by different studios, like Spider-Man and the X-Men, have been doing extremely well.) I simply would not have believed, 10 years ago, that one day everyone would know who Iron Man was.
Now they’re gearing up for “Phase Two” of their big movie project, which means giving really obscure characters a chance at the spotlight. They’ve been canny about turning the weakness of obscurity into a strength, because it lets them do interesting things to make their properties appeal to a general audience, without having to worry about outraged hardcore fans screaming about creative betrayal. (In truth, the Marvel pop-culture assault did not begin with the success of “X-Men”; it was the “Blade” movies that got them off the launch pad, and I doubt more than 25% of the audience for the first two excellent Blade films knew he was a comic-book character.)
So here come the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it looks as though the filmmakers have thoroughly enjoyed themselves with the absurdity of the concept. (Think “Firefly” with a trigger-happy raccoon subbed in for Jayne.) Normally you get villains issuing operatic, blood-curdling threats to destroy our heroes, but in this movie, you get the villains dismissing them as “a bunch of A-holes.”
It looks like everyone behind this movie was forced to watch DC’s abysmal “Green Lantern” until their eyes bled, and told to do the opposite of everything that movie did, in order to get superheroes into space. How does anyone take a concept like “super-powered space cop” and churn out a cookie-cutter costume yawner that seems to mostly take place in back alleys and warehouses on Earth? At least the space crooks look like they’re ready to take the audience for a ride.