People may forget, but James Gunn's original Guardians of the Galaxy was no slam dunk. When the movie opened on August 1, 2014, mainstream audiences were over the moon for household names like Captain America and Iron Man, but Gunn was rolling out a non-Avengers team that included a lethal tree and a mean-spirited, short-tempered raccoon. Would people care? This, as it turns out, was a major issue concerning Guardians star Chris Pratt, who spoke with us during a recent visit to the set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 about the anxiety and trepidation he felt going into the first movie. Pratt explained:
It's a different type of pressure that we're under now. Before, the pressure was, 'No one knows you, what's it going to be like to be the first Marvel movie that fails?' You know? [laughter] I can't even tell you how many times I asked [myself] that question. 'Oh God, this is not looking good.' [laughter]
Hindsight is 20/20, and we now know that James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy was a tremendous success, both financially and creatively. It expanded the scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which had ventured to Asgard but really was able to explore an important cosmic side that, up until then, hadn't been tapped by storytellers. This set the idea of Thanos into further play (though the Mad Titan was hinted at in the end credits of The Avengers). But it also was a vote of confidence in the Marvel way of telling stories, likely giving the studio the spine to make movies based on smaller (no pun intended) heroes like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Black Panther. After all, if it worked for the Guardians, why can't it work for these guys?
The pressure is on now to do the same thing, which is surprise you, do something different. So, in a way, there's a pressure, because a lot of times, people, when they make a sequel, they just play the hits. They're like, 'Let's tell the exact same story, strip it down, replace the jokes with new jokes, replace the bad guy with a new bad guy, and tell the same exact story, but just in a different way.' And that totally works fine. But that's not what we're doing at all with this movie. So hopefully we'll, you know what, I'm going to go ahead and shut up, so I can be a proactive part in defying your expectations.
We will see if Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 lives up to those lofty expectations when the sequel hits theaters in May 5.