Stop me if you've heard this one before: Wealthy new ownership group takes over beloved franchise steeped in tradition and filled with iconic characters. They make boatloads of money by trying to find as many revenue streams as possible. They also set about creating a long-term vision for the franchise that stresses consistent performance over an extended period of time.
Finally, the franchise makes a decision to use a relatively little-know cast of characters as part of their strategy, pinning a great deal of its future success on them. Fans and critics alike were skeptical upon hearing news of the plan, but eventually came to accept its inevitability. But then, upon seeing the finished product, the rave reviews were nearly unanimous.
So...does that sound familiar to you? Except for the final sentence, it pretty much mirrors what the Cubs have been doing for the past several seasons. However, it's also what Marvel Studios has done. And while the comic giant still has many more movies to make, their recent entry, Guardians of the Galaxy, is my focus today.
When I first heard that Marvel was planning to make a GotG movie, my first thought was "wha...." I mean, there are so many popular characters and storylines to draw from; you could make a boatload of money by just slapping something together and putting it out there (for proof, see Sony's Amazing Spiderman 2).
Why try to essentially start something from scratch with characters only fanboys knew and actors without a proven track record in a carrying a blockbuster (with the possible exception of Zoe Saldana)? After all, they'd done so well paying Robert Downey Jr and Co. hundreds of millions of dollars to put up summer tentpoles.
Make no mistake, Marvel spent plenty on Guardians. The marketing efforts were vast and they took pains to push the characters and make this film something that was still a part of the Marvel Universe, despite being a complete departure from the tone and feel of past films.
And you know what? It worked. I found myself having compassion for the characters, seeing bits of myself in their imperfect and disparate personalities. The dialogue was snappy, filled with biting satire, sarcastic and sardonic humor, and some absolutely brilliant sight gags. I can't remember the last time I had that much fun watching a movie.
I wasn't alone either; my fellow moviegoers actually clapped when the closing credits rolled, something I've only experienced once before (Inglorious Basterds). Guardians of the Galaxy exemplifies what an experience at the movie theater should be; it was highly entertaining and left you wanting more.
So great was its early reception and buzz that Marvel green-lit a sequel prior to the movie's wide release. The studio too, a risk with this picture and it's paying off big time, both in terms of its inevitable box office returns and what it means for the franchise as a whole.
Now, coming back to the Cubs, we're still in the pre-release portion of the analogy. The marketing portion has been there, to be sure, with all the hype surrounding (possible) stars of the future in Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, et al. But it remains to be seen whether this group can carry the Cubs into a successful future.
But by all account, these kids are going to be really fun to watch, and I think that's something that we can all agree has been sadly and desperately lacking at Wrigley these past few years. When all is said and done, winning brings the most enjoyment though, and the new iteration of the Chicago Cubs must be successful on the field.
We're starting to get glimpses of the future too, with Arismendy Alcantara forcing the Cubs to keep him in Chicago and Kyle Hendricks looking like he's the real deal as well. In fact, I was able to watch his fantastic outing soon after getting home from my GotG experience.
It's likely that we'll get some more sneak previews coming up in August and September, as Soler and Baez appear to be prime promotion candidates. But a wide release probably won't be scheduled until late April or early May of next year, just prior to summer blockbuster season. Interesting enough, that would line up with the May 1 debut of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In the meantime, I highly recommend taking in Guardians of the Galaxy this afternoon or evening. And when that's over, you can turn on CSN Chicago to see if the Cubs can provide similar entertainment to last night's beatdown of the Dodgers. I can't guarantee that you'll have fun watching the Cubs, but I'll bet the house that you'll enjoy the movie.
Soon enough, we may be talking about the Cubs' rebuild as a big risk that paid off, paving the way to even bigger success. And that's a movie I'm really looking forward to watching.
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