By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist June 29, 2012 at 1:39PM
After much speculation, it seems that we now know the identity of Marvel's secret film that's been long targeted for a May 2014 release. And it's not "Ant-Man," or "Black Panther," or "Runaways," or "Doctor Strange." It's "Guardians Of The Galaxy," the cosmic adventure that was a favorite in the 1970s before being revived recently.
Originally, the Guardians were a group of superpowered individuals from an alternate timeline in the 31st century, including human astronaut Vance Astro, humanoid crystal Martinex T'Naga, soldier from Jupiter Charlie-27, and Yonda Udonta, a savage from Beta Centurai. The team (whose lineup would have other shifts), battled a number of adversaries, including alien race the Badoon, and teamed up with The Avengers before the series was cancelled in the 1990s. A more recent 2008 update relaunched the property with a new lineup, including long-time characters like Star-Lord, Adam Warlock, Gamora and Quasar, and it's been suggested that the film will incorporate members from both incarnations of the team, including some of the more bizarre ones (see below).
A script, from newcomer Nicole Perlman, and featuring plenty of comedic elements, has apparently already won approval from Marvel. The film will apparently feature Thanos (the purple-skinned being teased in the closing credits of "The Avengers") as the villain, and would then lead directly into "The Avengers 2" a year or two later. An official announcement is expected at Comic-Con this year, and we think it's likely that a helmer will be announced around the same time, given that "Captain America 2," which will open only a few weeks earlier, already has the Russo Brothers in the director's chair.
So who might that director be? Marvel have made some bold choices, but mostly shy away from the A-list, preferring to find helmers who are happy to fit within a pre-existing universe, and take creative input from them; names like David Yates or Brad Bird are probably too big at this stage. At the same time, this should be a pretty huge film, as major in scope as "The Avengers," so they'll need someone capable and confident with action and effects on a grand scale. With all that in mind, we've selected five candidates who we think would have a good shot of filling all of these criteria. Of course, these are only our suggestions: you can let us know your own picks in the comments section below.
Why He Could Do It: Although Joss Whedon's return for a second "The Avengers" move is as yet unconfirmed, the success of the first film means that it's safe to assume that he's going to play a major part in the future of the Marvel universe. And who better to launch the company's next big franchise than Whedon's frequent collaborator Drew Goddard? He got his start as a screenwriter on Whedon's series "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," before working as a writer and producer on "Lost" for three of its first four seasons. That gig led to a job penning "Cloverfield" for J.J. Abrams, but it wasn't long before he was reunited with Whedon, co-writing and directing this year's intoxicating horror "Cabin In The Woods." It showed Goddard to be a more-than-capable helmer, as he displayed an impressive facility for effects on a budget that didn't break the bank, and its meld of humor with the fantastical will likely fit a "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie nicely, and his facility for writing for ensembles on TV can only help too. Plus, if 'Guardians' does, as has been suggested, lead directly into "The Avengers 2," having someone so close to Whedon involved would be an undeniable plus. He's not going to be wildly expensive at this point, either.
Why He Might Not: He's likely fielding plenty of offers at this point, and may choose to pursue his own projects rather than taking gigs for hire. Still the most promising choice, though.
Why He Could Do It: Between Whedon and "Iron Man 3" helmer Shane Black, Marvel are showing a new penchant for hiring writer/directors even if they're often working from and rewriting a pre-existing script. For "Guardians Of The Galaxy," there is a well-liked script already -- from newcomer Nicole Perlman. But as Whedon and Black did with scripts by Zak Penn and Drew Pearce respectively, Marvel may be looking for someone to put a distinctive stamp on the script, albeit perhaps not one that's going to break the bank. One such possibility is Australian Stuart Beattie. The screenwriter/director has a long history of work in the blockbuster field, including credits on the original "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Collateral," "Punisher: War Zone," "Australia" and "G.I. Joe," but made his directorial debut back home a few years ago with the "Red Dawn"-style "Tomorrow When the War Began," which became the biggest home-grown hit of 2010 in Australia. Its blend of action, unexpected humor and a large ensemble cast seems to have good building blocks for a superhero team movie, and Beattie's stepped up to a bigger canvas for comic-book adaptation "I, Frankenstein," starring Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy, which opens next February. That should be even more effects- and action-heavy, and if audiences take to it, Beattie could find himself very much sought-after for big tentpoles like 'Guardians.'
Why He Might Not: "If" is the key word there; the film is from the writer of the "Underworld" movies, and while we'd like to be optimistic about it, we're certainly cautious that it might turn out just to be a mid-level programmer. Marvel are thrifty in their hires, for sure, but they also make fairly interesting, risky choices -- Whedon, Black, Kenneth Branagh, Alan Taylor, the Russo Brothers. Beattie feels more like someone who might end up with a "Green Lantern" or "Die Hard" sequel. The performances in "Tomorrow When The War Began" weren't so hot either, which might be a cause for concern, and unless "I, Frankenstein" really wins over fans, it's not a choice that would excite many.