Marvel are famous for their ‘What Ifs,’ and just yesterday, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn pondered a big one: if Marvel Studios had always owned the rights to the X-Men, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, would Guardians have been greenlit?
The question came as part of a Twitter Q&A in which Gunn answered fan queries, and here was his response:
It’s a hard question. Kevin Feige was into the idea of Guardians because of his deep love of Star Wars and space operas. But the Marvel Studios schedule might have been too glutted with content/movies and it would have never been made.
It’s interesting to ponder, as Marvel Studios is arguably formed around not having ‘superhero A-list’ properties. It’s difficult to imagine now, but back in the mid-2000s characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor were familiar only to comic fans – and even then they were never the most popular.
But, given that they’d sold the movie rights to their biggest characters in an effort to dodge bankruptcy in the late 90s, that’s what they had to work with. And, as we all know, the MCU rocketed out of the gates with 2008’s Iron Man and hasn’t really looked back since.
Arguably, Guardians of the Galaxy is borne of the same situation. As Gunn says, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige loves space operas – and given that the two highest profile cosmic properties (Fantastic Four and X-Men) belonged to Fox, they greenlit Guardians of the Galaxy. That film’s success, together with hits from initially unlikely characters like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange has helped prove that the IP isn’t so much important as the quality of the script, the creative team and the reputation that Marvel Studios has established.
So, I’m with Gunn on this – if Marvel had had their pick of the entirety of their IPs from the word go, of course they’d have focused on X-Men, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four movies and it’d have been a real uphill climb to convince the execs that the bizarre comic Z-listers in the Guardians of the Galaxy could ever light up screens.
Let’s just hope that Disney and Marvel Studios don’t narrow their vision going forward and keep taking chances on the less obviously commercial corners of the MU.