On the Set with the 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Kara Warner
Senior Reporter

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is not your typical superhero movie. Sure, it’s the story of an Avengers-like group of protagonists, it’s got action figure tie-ins, and it’s got big-bang CGI effects by the truckload, but there is also a talking tree, a machine gun-wielding raccoon, and a lot more comedy than you’d expect in a superhero franchise film. 

Guardians revolves around a group of extraterrestrial misfits being hunted through space by menacing supervillain Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). The ragtag bunch of would-be heroes is led by half-human/half-alien Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt); green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana from Star Trek and Avatar); imposing, vengeance-seeking Drax the Destroyer (former WWE champ Dave Bautista); towering tree creature Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel); and the ferocious Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper).

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Yahoo Movies got an early look at this cinematic frontier when we visited the set at Shepperton Studios outside London (the same used for The Avengers) last September. Taking a break from shooting, director James Gunn (Super, Slither) told us he’s using audiences’ unfamiliarity with Guardians to his advantage.

"One of the great things about Guardians of the Galaxy,”hesaid, “is there aren’t as many expectations as with The Avengers. There’s a lot fewer fans in general of Guardians of the Galaxy. Those types of expectations I think are easier with a movie like this.”

[Related: Chris Pratt on Guns, Goosebumps, and Goofing Around on the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Set]

Referring to the whimsical sets, Gunn said it would be the visual qualities that set Guardians apart from other popular sci-fi properties. “When Blade Runner came out, and even when Alien came out, it kind of changed how all science-fiction movies were designed after that. And that was a really great thing. Now we’re watching a lot of movies that are Xeroxes of Xeroxes of Xeroxes of Xeroxes of Blade Runner. The way that you can be a serious science-fiction movie is by being dark and then sometimes kind of Japanese. It’s just been too much stuff like that, and then there’s a certain sort of white look that’s like the utopian science fiction, that’s a completely different thing that’s gotten equally boring.”

Gunn hopes to inject fresh energy into the genre with a spin on pulp fiction. 

"I really wanted to keep the grittiness of those movies because I like that," he said. "I like the — especially in Alien, how these guys were working in outer space and [we saw] what they’re doing in their daily working lives. I like keeping the grittiness of it, but I wanted to bring back some of the color of the 1950’s and 60’s pulp science fiction movies and inject a little bit more of that pulp feel into things. There’s the pulp mixed with the grittiness, and that’s throughout the whole movie — the beauty mixed with the ugliness.”

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With the film is set entirely in space, Gunn and production designer Charlie Wood were able to let the creativity fly, creating dozens of alien races, planets, and space vehicles, which we observed walking through Ronan the Accuser’s cold, dark, and extremely detailed spaceship. No matter how far out the visuals and the film’s setting, however, Gunn believes the film’s true selling point is the Guardians themselves. 

"The most important part of the movie is the relationship between the characters and where they’re going in terms of their emotional lives," he explained. "This is a story about a group of people who are finding out that they’re not the pieces of s—- that they think they are, and it’s really that simple. They all think they’re pieces of s—- at the beginning, and throughout the movie they learn that maybe they’re a little bit different than who they think they are."

Big-budget sci-fi movie vet Zoe Saldana, taking her break from shooting, chalked up the Guardians’appeal to their devil-may-care, rebels-with-a-cause attitude.

"It’s sort of like a dark comedy; we’re like the Rolling Stones of the whole Marvel comics, and I find that so appealing," she said. "We’re like the ones who always fail in class, but for some reason we can burn the house down, and I like that."

Watch the Guardians of the Galaxy teaser trailer: