Last year Fandango was lucky enough to visit the set of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, in theaters August 1. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, the comedic space adventure follows a ragtag group of otherwordly warriors who join forces in an effort to defeat a seemingly unstoppable villain.
But who are the Guardians of the Galaxy, and why should you be excited about the next superhero movie from the folks over at Marvel Studios? Here are eight reasons why we think this movie is going to rock.
1. If the Avengers are the Beatles, the Guardians are the Rolling Stones
They’re rough around the edges; a motley crew of outer space misfits who come together to defeat an intergalactic evil. There’s action, suspense and of course humor, but what drives Marvel’s latest superhero adventure most of all is its heart. Its soul. And its family.
“This is a story about a group of people who are finding out that they’re not the pieces of dirt that they think they are,” director James Gunn told us. “They all think they’re pieces of dirt at the beginning and throughout the movie they learn that maybe they’re a little bit different than who they think they are.”
2. Rocket Raccoon and Groot are your new best friends
If it isn't obvious from the trailers, these characters--a gun-wielding raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper and a treelike humanoid whose very few words are spoken by Vin Diesel--are easily going to be two of the year's most memorable.
"Groot is really the only friend that Rocket has, but Rocket bosses him around and treats him like his slave," director James Gunn says about the two dysfunctional friends. "He’s not always that nice to him. But Groot has an innocence that none of the other characters really have, so their relationship is very codependent."
Director James Gunn on Rocket: "He’s this tortured little beast who’s completely alone in the world and has been torn apart, put back together and turned into this... little thing."
Director James Gunn on Groot: "[He's] a pretty threatening, powerful dude and he’s also like a puppy. He’s more of an animal than Rocket is."
3. Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan are warrior rock stars
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are two of the fiercest female warriors you’ll see on-screen all year, hands down. Not only are they estranged sisters with serious family issues, but they operate on opposite sides of evil, with Gamora fighting alongside the heroic Guardians and Nebula with the monstrous Ronan, an alien radical on a "holy mission to cleanse the galaxy of all that is weak," explains Karen Gillan.
What she looks like: bald, dark eyes, part robotic (she has a cybernetic eye and arm)
The Character: Gillan describes her as "a lieutenant running the Accusers; the daughter of Thanos, sister of Gamora." She's running with the wrong crowd, but they've brainwashed her, Gillan tells us.
The cool way she prepared for the role: Gillan says she researched Spartans (remember 300?) and the Spartan lifestyle while getting ready to play Nebula. “She is fighting not to have any emotions because that is as strong as you can be," she reveals. "But there’s an internal conflict going on there."
What she looks like: Green skin, long hair, fearless eyes—a true warrior.
The Character: She's an orphan who, like Nebula, has worked with the triuphantly evil Thanos. Saldana describes the Guardians as a group of "lost kids" who ran away from the families they were brought into only to meet each other, creating "a very beautiful family unit."
Zoe Saldana was coached by an 11-year-old: Saldana wound up turning to the only Guardians comic reader in her family for advice, and that happened to be her young nephew. “He goes, ‘Not only is she an assassin and very lethal, but what saves her is the same thing that can doom her,'" she tells us, adding, "'She has a real sense of righteousness.’ And that was coming from an 11-year-old boy!”
Their big "sister fight"
As sisters out to defend very different causes tend to do, they fight... each other. And they fight hard. Their battle sequence is so intense and so intricate that Gillan had to train for two months with a fight coordinator--just for this fight. “I’ve never done anything like that before," she reveals. "That’s when I felt for the first time that I was in a real Marvel movie.
4. There are a rockin' number of Marvel characters scattered throughout the movie
Lee Pace as villain Ronan the Accuser
Guardians of the Galaxy features a record number of Marvel characters, the most in any of Marvel Studios' movies so far. From classic comic characters like Ronan the Accuser, the Kree, Thanos and Cosmo the Dog (wait till you see what they do with Cosmo) to tons of other random blink-and-you'll-miss-'em alien races, hard-core Marvel fans will have a field day discovering the film's nerdy little nooks and crannies.
“There are a ton of characters from the comics in this movie in little tiny roles,” director James Gunn says. “The most Marvel characters that have ever been in one movie--I would imagine times four! Almost every little character is named after somebody in the comics.”
5. The film's soundtrack... well, you know
When Guardians' leader Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord, aka Chris Pratt) leaves Earth as a kid, abducted in the 1980s by a group of alien thieves and smugglers, the only posessions he manages to take with him are a old-school Walkman and a mixtape full of some great classic songs. Not only will those songs fuel much of the movie, but they also make up its rockin' soundtrack.
Here, give a listen:
6. This one scene will rock your socks off
It's the sequence that gave Chris Pratt "goosebumps," when the Guardians first meet in this massive prison called the Kyln. Picture the Star Wars cantina--with its various, nefarious-looking aliens--as a prison full of the scum of the galaxy. That's the Kyln, pictured here.
And those aren't computer renderings. That's a very real--and very large set--that was built specifically to house one of the film's most elaborate moments.
There are some terrific shots--including one epic long take of the entire prison--dropped into this particular sequence, where the Guardians meet and initially clash. "Eventually they all team up for this big prison break," explains producer Jonathan Schwartz, who says the Kyln prison set is "probably the coolest set we've ever built on our own movie."
7. Dave Bautista's arms are the size of giant rock boulders
That's because he's playing a guy named Drax the Destroyer, whose mighty muscles and knife-wielding badassery mask a deep, dark sadness. Etched into his pale blue skin are a series of red tattoos that tell the story of his life, including an ode to the family he lost at the hands of Ronan the Accuser. Drax is a man out for vengeance..."and yet he's also a very damaged and tender soul" who "gets a lot of the funniest lines in the movie," director Gunn tells us. "And Dave's able to do all of that and still be a gigantic bald dude!"
8. Your kids will have a rocktacular time with this one (sidenote: Is "rocktacular" a word? If not, can we make it one?)
Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely a movie that boasts all the latest tricks of the trade, as far as technology goes (trust us when we recommend seeing this one in IMAX 3D), but it's also this sweet throwback to a generation of action-adventure movies that had everything: action, romance, humor and a ton of heart. "I just think it’s a fantastic visual world," Gunn says. "I think about the movies that I saw when I was a kid that drew me in in a visual way."
Chris Pratt adds, "I think all the best adventure movies have good comedy, like Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone. The name and the title and the characters are from different incarnations of the Guardians of the Galaxy... but this is its own thing."
ICYMI, see part one of our set visit: Chris Pratt on Guardians of the Galaxy: "It's Better Than Star Wars!"
See Guardians of the Galaxy in theaters on August 1, and check out a few minutes of the movie in this extended clip below.