Perlman began working on the screenplay in 2009. Producer Kevin Feige first publicly mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy as a potential film in 2010 and Marvel Studios announced it was in active development at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2012. Gunn was hired to write and direct the film that September. In February 2013, Pratt was hired to play Peter Quill / Star-Lord, and the supporting cast members were subsequently confirmed. Principal photography began in July 2013 at Shepperton Studios in England, with filming continuing in London before wrapping up in October 2013. Post-production was completed on July 7, 2014.
In 1988, following his mother's death, a young Peter Quill is abducted from Earth by the Ravagers, a group of alien thieves and smugglers led by Yondu Udonta. Twenty-six years later on the abandoned planet Morag, Quill steals a mysterious orb but is attacked by Korath, a subordinate to the fanatical Kree militant, Ronan. Although Quill escapes with the orb, Yondu discovers his theft and issues a bounty for his capture, while Ronan sends the assassin Gamora after the orb.
When Quill attempts to sell the orb on Xandar, capital of the Nova Empire, Gamora ambushes him and steals it. A fight ensues, drawing in a pair of bounty hunters: the genetically and cybernetically modified raccoon Rocket, and the tree-like humanoid Groot. Nova Corps officers capture the four, detaining them in the Kyln prison. A powerful inmate there, Drax, attempts to kill Gamora due to her association with Thanos and Ronan, who killed his family. Quill convinces Drax that Gamora can bring Ronan to him, though Gamora reveals that she has betrayed Ronan, unwilling to let him use the orb's power. Learning that Gamora intends to sell the orb to the Collector Taneleer Tivan, Quill, Rocket, Groot, and Drax work with her to escape the Kyln in Quill's ship, the Milano.
Ronan meets with Gamora's adoptive father, Thanos, to discuss her betrayal. Quill's group flee to Knowhere, a remote lawless outpost in space built in the giant severed head of a Celestial. A drunken Drax summons Ronan while the rest of the group meet Tivan. Tivan opens the orb, revealing the Power Infinity Stone, an item of immeasurable power that destroys all but the most powerful beings who wield it. Tivan's slave Carina grabs the Stone, triggering an explosion that engulfs Tivan's archive. Ronan arrives and easily defeats Drax, while the others flee by ship, pursued by Ronan's followers and Gamora's adoptive sister Nebula. Nebula destroys Gamora's ship, leaving her floating in space, and Ronan's fighters capture the orb.
Quill contacts Yondu before following Gamora into space, giving her his helmet to survive; Yondu arrives and retrieves the pair. Rocket, Drax, and Groot threaten to attack Yondu's ship to rescue them, but Quill negotiates a truce, promising the orb to Yondu. Quill's group agrees that facing Ronan means certain death, but that they cannot let him use the Infinity Stone to destroy the galaxy. On Ronan's flagship, the Dark Aster, Ronan embeds the Stone in his warhammer, taking its power for himself. He contacts Thanos, threatening to kill him after first destroying Xandar; hateful of her adoptive father, Nebula allies with Ronan.
The Ravagers and Quill's group join with the Nova Corps to confront the Dark Aster at Xandar, with Quill's group breaching the Dark Aster with the Milano. Ronan uses his empowered warhammer to destroy the Nova Corps fleet. Drax kills Korath and Gamora defeats Nebula, who escapes, but the group find themselves outmatched by Ronan's power until Rocket crashes a Ravager ship through the Dark Aster. The damaged Dark Aster crash-lands on Xandar, with Groot sacrificing himself to shield the group. Ronan emerges from the wreck and prepares to destroy Xandar, but Quill distracts him, allowing Drax and Rocket to destroy Ronan's warhammer. Quill grabs the freed Stone, and with Gamora, Drax, and Rocket sharing its burden, uses it to vaporize Ronan.
In the aftermath, Quill tricks Yondu into taking a container supposedly containing the Stone, and gives the real Stone to the Nova Corps. As the Ravagers leave Xandar, Yondu remarks that it turned out well that they did not deliver Quill to his father per their contract. Quill's group, now known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, have their criminal records expunged, and Quill learns that he is only half-human, his father being part of an ancient, unknown species. Quill finally opens the last present he received from his mother: a cassette tape filled with her favorite songs. The Guardians leave in the rebuilt Milano along with a potted sapling cut from Groot, which grows into a baby version of him.
In a post-credits scene, Tivan sits in his destroyed archive with two of his living exhibits: a canine cosmonaut and an anthropomorphic duck.[N 1]
The cast of Guardians of the Galaxy promoting the film at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con. From top to bottom: Pratt, Saldana, Bautista, Pace, Rooker, Gillan, Hounsou, and del Toro (Scrollable image)
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill / Star-Lord: The half-human, half-alien leader of the Guardians who was abducted from Missouri as a child in 1988 and raised by a group of alien thieves and smugglers called the Ravagers. About the character, Pratt said, "He had a hard time as a kid, and now he goes around space, making out with hot alien girls and just being a rogue and a bit of a jerk, and through teaming up with these guys, finds a higher purpose for himself." He also added that the character is a mix of Han Solo and Marty McFly. Pratt, who was mostly known for playing supporting characters, including Andy Dwyer on the television series Parks and Recreation, initially turned down the role. Pratt had lost weight to portray fit characters in films such as Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty, and had given up ambitions to play the lead role in action films after humbling auditions for Star Trek and Avatar. Casting director Sarah Finn suggested Pratt to Gunn, who dismissed the idea despite struggling to cast that role. Despite this, Finn arranged for a meeting between the two, at which point Gunn was immediately convinced that Pratt was perfect for the role. Pratt also won over Feige, despite having gained weight again for Delivery Man. Prior to filming, Pratt underwent a strict diet and training regimen to lose 60 pounds (27 kg) in six months. Pratt signed a multi-film contract with Marvel, and was granted a temporary leave from his work on Parks and Recreation in order to accommodate his participation in the film.Wyatt Oleff portrays a young Quill.
Zoe Saldana as Gamora: An orphan from an alien world who seeks redemption for her past crimes. She was trained by Thanos to be his personal assassin. Saldana said that she became Gamora through make-up rather than computer generated imagery (CGI) or performance capture. On taking the role, Saldana said, "I was just excited to be asked to join by James Gunn and to also play someone green. I've been blue before [in Avatar]." Saldana described Gamora as "... a warrior, she's an assassin and she's very lethal but what saves her is the same thing that can doom her. She has a sense of righteousness. She's a very righteous individual."
Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer: A warrior who seeks to avenge his family's death at the hands of Ronan. On relating to the character, Bautista said, "I can just relate to Drax so much it's not even funny. Just the simple things that we have in common. Simple things like the tattoos, the tragedy—because, you know, I had a bit of tragedy in my life as well. So it's really easy for me to pull from that." Bautista also said that there was "a lot of comic relief to Drax", but the character was not aware of it. Bautista stated that he did not do much preparation for the role, because "Luckily, for me, I'm a lifelong athlete and I adapted real quick." Bautista's makeup took approximately four hours to apply, though it could be removed in just 90 minutes. Drax has various scarring patterns on his body, which replace the simple tattoos from the comics, each having a specific story. Additionally, his skin tone was changed from the bright green in the comics to a muddier grey, to avoid visual similarities to the Hulk.
Vin Diesel as Groot: A tree-like humanoid who is the accomplice of Rocket. Diesel stated that he provided the voice and motion capture for Groot, after originally being in talks to star in a new Phase Three Marvel film. Diesel also provided Groot's voice for several foreign-language releases of the film. Krystian Godlewski portrayed the character on set, though his acting was not used in the final character CGI. On the character, which Gunn based on his dog, Gunn said, "All the Guardians start out the movie as bastards—except Groot. He's an innocent. He's a hundred percent deadly and a hundred percent sweet. He's caught up in Rocket's life, really." Gunn added that the design and movement of Groot took "the better part of a year" to create. Gunn added, "The ways in which Vin Diesel says, 'I am Groot,' I am astounded. All of the 'I am Groots' that were earlier voices didn't sound very good at all ... Vin came in and in one day, laid down all these 'I am Groot' tracks, and he's a perfectionist. He made me explain to him with ever [sic] 'I am Groot,' exactly what he was saying ... It was amazing when we first put that voice in there how much the character changed and how much he influenced the character." Regarding the limited words used by Groot, Diesel said in many ways this was, "... the most challenging thing to ask an actor to do." Diesel found an emotional note in his performance, invoking the death of his friend and Fast and Furious co-star Paul Walker, saying, "This was in December , and the first time I came back to dealing with human beings after dealing with death, so playing a character who celebrates life in the way Groot does was very nice." Groot's form and size-changing abilities are seen, with Gunn stating that he has the ability to grow in the film.
Bradley Cooper as Rocket: A genetically-engineered raccoon-based bounty hunter, mercenary, and master of weapons and battle tactics. Gunn worked with live raccoons to get the correct feel for the character, and to make sure it was "not a cartoon character", saying, "It's not Bugs Bunny in the middle of the Avengers, it's a real, little, somewhat mangled beast that's alone. There's no one else in the universe quite like him, he's been created by these guys to be a mean-ass fighting machine." Gunn also based the character on himself. Describing Rocket in relation to the rest of the Guardians, Cooper said, "I think Rocket is dynamic. He's the sort of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas guy." Cooper voiced Rocket, while Sean Gunn (James' younger brother) stood in for the character during filming. James Gunn said that for the role of Rocket, some physical movement from Cooper, including facial expressions and hand movements, was recorded as potential reference for the animators, though much of Sean Gunn's acting is used throughout the film. Sean noted they "kind of stumbled" into the process of him performing on set since they "weren't sure how we were going to create that character". The same process would continue to be used for all subsequent appearances of Rocket. Before Cooper was cast, James Gunn said that it was a challenge finding a voice for Rocket, that he was looking for someone that could balance "the fast-talking speech patterns that Rocket has, but also can be funny, because he is really funny. But also has the heart that Rocket has. Because there are actually some pretty dramatic scenes with Rocket."
Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser: A renegade Kree commander and zealot who agrees to retrieve an artifact for Thanos in exchange for the annihilation of his mortal enemies, the Xandarians. Ronan and his Sakaaran army hunt down the Guardians when they interfere with his goals. Describing Ronan, Gunn said, "He is the primary villain, and he is a really twisted guy, he has a really religious bent in this film. He has a very sick and twisted view of what morality is; strength is virtue and weakness is sin and that is what he lives by, and I think he is very scary because of his beliefs, which are real to him." Pace, who originally auditioned for Peter Quill, described Ronan as a "psycho" and a "monster".
Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta: A blue-skinned bandit who is the leader of the Ravagers and a paternal figure to Quill. Yondu helps Quill to steal the orb before Quill betrays him, leaving Yondu and the Ravagers to chase the Guardians. On the character, Rooker said, he has "some interesting issues—not a good guy, not a bad guy. There's hope and there's a heart inside Yondu." Gunn created the film's version of the character specifically with Rooker in mind, while borrowing the character's mohawk and use of a whistle-controlled arrow from the comics. Rooker fully committed to the role once he knew his role on the TV series The Walking Dead would be ending. Rooker's makeup took approximately four hours to apply.
Karen Gillan as Nebula: An adopted daughter of Thanos who was raised with Gamora as siblings and is a loyal lieutenant in the employ of Ronan and Thanos. About the character, Gillan said, "She is the female villain of the film ... She is very sadistic and evil, but I like to think for a very valid reason." She also added, "I think she's a really interesting character. What I like to play around with is how jealous she is. She's Gamora's sister, and there's a lot of sibling rivalry. That's the most interesting aspect to me, because jealousy can consume you and turn you bitter, and ugly. And she's a total sadist, so that's fun too." Gillan researched the ancient Spartans, shaved off her hair, and trained for two months for the role. The character's makeup took approximately four-and-a-half hours to be applied.
Djimon Hounsou as Korath: A Kree ally of Ronan who is a feared intergalactic hunter. As to why he took the role Hounsou said, "I have a four-year old son who loves superheroes from Spider-Man to Iron Man to Batman. He's got all the costumes. One day he looks at me and says 'Dad, I want to be light-skinned so I could be Spider-Man. Spider-Man has light skin.' That was sort of a shock. This is why I am excited to be a part of the Marvel Universe, so I could hopefully provide that diversity in the role of the superhero."
Glenn Close as Irani Rael: The leader of the Nova Corps, known as Nova Prime, whose mission is to protect the citizens of the Nova Empire and keep peace. Close stated that she "had always wanted to be in a movie like this", and that it would be "the most fun to play something like the Judi Dench [as M or] Samuel L. Jackson [as Nick Fury] role". She said that she took the role because she "love[s] to do stuff that's different" and wanted to show that she "[has] always been up for anything." She also stated that her contract has "several" films on it, and that she would be open to working on other Marvel Studios films in addition to returning for Guardians sequels.
Benicio del Toro as Taneleer Tivan / The Collector: An obsessive keeper of the largest collection of interstellar fauna, relics, and species in the galaxy who operates out of a place in space named Knowhere. Describing del Toro's performance, Gunn said, "He's like an outer-space Liberace. That's what it says in the script, which he's kind of doing." On bringing the character to life, del Toro said, "What James [Gunn] wanted, that I found out little by little as I was doing it, is that he wanted me to explore and just keep pushing the character and keep creating [him] as I was in front of the camera."
I think anybody ... who would have said that this would make a great main movie would have been laughed off. It's such an unlikely thing to do. So I think it's lovely to work on something and expose its potential to the point where a company like Marvel will say, 'Yes, this makes sense.'
—Dan Abnett, co-writer of the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch, on the project
Feige announced that the film was in active development at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International during the Marvel Studios panel, with an intended release date of August 1, 2014. He said the film's titular team would consist of the characters Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Groot, and Rocket. Two pieces of concept art were also displayed, one of Rocket Raccoon, and one featuring the entire team. In August 2012, James Gunn entered talks to direct the film, beating out other contenders, including future MCU directors Peyton Reed and the duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.The Avengers director Joss Whedon, who signed a deal to creatively consult on all of the films leading up to The Avengers sequel, was enthusiastic about the selection of Gunn to direct, saying "James [Gunn] is what makes me think it will work ... He is so off the wall, and so crazy, but so smart, such a craftsman and he builds from his heart. He loves the raccoon. Needs the raccoon ... He has a very twisted take on it, but it all comes from a real love for the material. It's going to be hard for [the human characters] to keep up."
Nicole Perlman, who was enrolled in Marvel's screenwriting program in 2009, was offered several of their lesser known properties to base a screenplay on. Out of those, Perlman chose Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Guardians of the Galaxy, due to her interest in space and science fiction, adding, "I think [Marvel] were a little taken aback when I chose Guardians, because there were ones that would make a lot more sense if you were a romantic-comedy writer or something like that." Perlman spent two years writing a draft, immersing herself in the Guardians universe, and was asked in late 2011 to create another draft, before Gunn was brought in in early 2012 to contribute to the script. Gunn eventually rewrote the script entirely because "it didn't work" for him; he would use the film The Dirty Dozen as a reference to convey his ideas of the film to Marvel. Gunn later explained that Perlman's draft was very different from the script he used during filming, including a different story, character arcs and no Walkman; he stated, "In Nicole's script everything is pretty different ... it's not about the same stuff. But that's how the WGA works. They like first writers an awful lot." In August 2012, Marvel Studios hired writer Chris McCoy to rewrite Perlman's script, however, it is unclear what contribution he had to the final script, since he did not receive production credit.
Gunn revealed that character introductions were the "hardest scenes to crack", with Thanos' introduction being the most difficult. He felt that "having Thanos be in that scene was more helpful to the [MCU] than it was to Guardians of the Galaxy," yet he still wanted Thanos in the film, without "[belittling] the actual antagonist of the film, which is Ronan." To solve his dilemma, Gunn chose to have Ronan kill "The Other", Thanos' vizier, saying, "I thought that was interesting, because we've had the Other, who's obviously very powerful even in comparison to Loki, and then we see Ronan wipe his ass with him. So that I liked, but even that was sort of difficult, because it played as funnier when I first wrote it, and the humor didn't work so much."
In January 2013, filming was scheduled to take place at Shepperton Studios in London, United Kingdom, and Marvel Studios announced that the film would be released in 3D. Victoria Alonso, an executive producer on the film, said that filming would begin in June. She also said that both Rocket Raccoon and Groot would be created through a combination of CGI and motion capture, going on to say that "You can't do any motion capture with a raccoon—they won't let you put the suit on. But we will do rotomation, probably, for some of the behavior ... we definitely will have performers to emulate what James Gunn will lead to be, the behavior and the performance. He's very clear on where he wants to take the characters." In March 2013, Feige discussed Guardians of the Galaxy in relation to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying, "It's much more of a standalone film. It takes place in the same universe. And when we've been on the other side of that universe in other movies, you might see those characteristics in Guardians, but the Avengers are not involved with what's happening out there at this time." Feige also stated that 95% of the film would take place in space. In mid-March, Dave Bautista was signed to play Drax the Destroyer. Other actors who had been considered for the role included Isaiah Mustafa, Brian Patrick Wade, and Jason Momoa. By the following week, sculptor Brian Muir, who sculpted Darth Vader's mask for the Star Wars films, was revealed to be working on the film.
Special effects makeup designer David White took head and body casts of actors, such as Bautista, to experiment with materials used to create the characters. White said, "James always pushed for practical and makeup effects. He wanted, like me, to see the real deal there on set." White was careful not to use "modern" creature designs to ensure they did not fall short in Gunn's uniquely envisioned world. White and his team created upwards of 1,000 prosthetic makeup applications and 2,000 molds of different-colored aliens. For the specific aesthetic look to the film, Gunn wanted to create "a colorful science-fiction world", and include elements of 1950s and '60s pulp movies, citing the Ravagers' spaceships, which he compared to muscle cars, as an example of the latter. Science fiction artist Chris Foss inspired and helped design the final look of some of the spacecrafts that appear in the film. The Mass Effect video game series, Flash Gordon, Farscape, and Star Wars were primary inspirations for Gunn on the film.
Principal photography began around July 6, 2013 in London, United Kingdom, under the working title of Full Tilt. Filming took place at Shepperton Studios and Longcross Studios. Later in July, Gunn and the film's cast flew from London to attend San Diego Comic-Con International, where it was revealed that Pace would play Ronan the Accuser, Gillan would be Nebula, del Toro as The Collector, and that Djimon Hounsou had been cast as Korath. Close was later revealed to play Nova Prime Irani Rael. Also at San Diego Comic-Con, Feige stated that Thanos would be a part of the film as the "mastermind". On August 11, 2013, filming began at London's Millennium Bridge, which was selected as a double for Xandar. In August 2013, Marvel announced that Bradley Cooper would voice Rocket. On September 3, 2013, Gunn said that filming was "a little over half[way]" complete. Also in September, Vin Diesel stated that he was voicing Groot. However, Marvel did not confirm Diesel's involvement in the film at the time. On October 12, 2013, Gunn announced on social media that filming had completed.
Director of photographyBen Davis used Arri Alexa XT cameras for the film, saying, "I'm traditionally a photochemical fan, but going with the digital format was the right way for this movie ... the Alexa [provided] the right look for this particular film." During the opening scenes in the 1980s, Davis chose JDC Cooke Xtal (Crystal) Express anamorphic prime lenses because they "had more anamorphic artifacts and aberrations, which [he] felt added something." Davis used spherical Panavision Primos for the rest of the film. Additionally, Davis worked closely with production designer Charles Wood in order to achieve the correct lighting looks for each scene. Dealing with two fully CGI characters forced Davis to shoot scenes multiple times, usually once with the references for the characters and once without them in the shot.
Gunn revealed that his brother, Sean Gunn, took on multiple roles during the filming process, such as standing in for Rocket, which he noted was beneficial for the other actors, including Saldana, Pratt, and Bautista, who responded positively to Sean and his on-set performances. Special effects makeup designer David White made two life-size versions of Rocket and a bust of Groot as aids for visual effects, with White saying, "it gives [the filmmakers] a good indication of where visual effects needs to pick up and whether Rocket can actually reach certain things or use certain devices." These busts were also used to see how the on-set lighting would affect the characters, to assist with the visual effects lighting process.
In January 2015, Disney revealed that the film came in "slightly over the agreed budget" at $232.3 million, with Disney receiving a rebate of $36.4 million from the British government. It was previously estimated to have had a $170 million budget.
In November 2013, Gunn stated that he attempted to use as many practical effects as possible while filming to aid the use of CGI and motion capture during post-production, saying, "Our sets are enormous. We have a prison that is 350,000 pounds of steel. Anybody who knows me knows I love the mix of practical and CGI effects ... I can't wait for people to see it, because it's astonishingly beautiful." After the release of Thor: The Dark World, Feige stated that the Infinity Stones would be a focus in the film, as well as going forward into the Phase Three slate of films within the MCU. In a separate interview for The Dark World in November, Feige added that a third, unknown Infinity Stone would be seen in the film, referred to as the "Power Stone" by the Collector. The mid-credits scene in The Dark World revealed Lovibond's role as the Collector's slave, later named Carina. In December 2013, Marvel confirmed that Diesel would voice Groot.
A few weeks of additional filming, involving the film's main cast and crew, occurred in March 2014 at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. In April 2014, Gunn described Thanos as the "head of the snake" in the film, and confirmed he would appear via performance capture. In May 2014, Gunn stated that the film features an "enormous" amount of smaller and minor characters from the Marvel Universe, adding that he felt the film had the most characters overall of any Marvel Studios film to date. Costume supervisor Dan Grace added to this by saying, "We really, really get the feeling of the scale and scope of the galaxy. We visit five planets, we see a hundred different races." The film introduces the alien race Sakaaran, who act as Ronan's mercenaries, as a replacement to the Badoon, as the Badoon film rights belonged to 20th Century Fox.
By the end of May, Josh Brolin was revealed as the voice of Thanos, with Feige confirming in July that Brolin also provided the performance capture for the character. Thanos communicates via hologram for much of the film, though he does appear in a scene with Ronan and Nebula. In June 2014, Feige added that Thanos and his followers are "the biggest piece of connective tissue that will eventually lead us back into Avengers films in the future." On casting Brolin, Feige said,
We reached out to him and it was one of those things that does not happen all the time but when it does it's very nice, where he was totally intrigued. He was a fan of what we did, he met with Jeremy Latcham in a hotel in London and learned about the characters a little bit. I spoke to him on the phone a few times. We ran it by James who loved it, ran it by Joss [Whedon] who loved it because Thanos is in this universe because of Avengers. Then we shot him and recorded for it.
On July 7, 2014, Gunn announced on social media that he had completed work on the film. In August, regarding the post-credit scene, Gunn revealed that the scene did not involve Howard the Duck when it was originally filmed, rather he was added during post-production, a decision made by "some combination of [Gunn] and the editor Fred Raskin". As the decision to add the character was made late in the post-production process, he had to be designed that day, before being handed off to Sony Pictures Imageworks to animate. Also in August, regarding the pre-credit scene of Baby Groot dancing, Gunn stated that he himself danced to provide motion reference for the animators, and that the decision was made to place the scene before the credits, rather than during or after them, because of positive responses from a test audience, which made Marvel and Gunn feel that they did not want "people walking out and missing this thing". Marvel used design firm Sarofsky once again for the film's title sequences, after liking their work for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Sarofsky developed a custom typeface based on the font used in the teaser posters for the opening credits, which was tinted orange to offer a better contrast to the film's blue and grey imagery. One of the typography solutions offered before the final product wound up being repurposed as the locator cards seen throughout the film.
The film featured 2,750 visual effects shots, which make up approximately 90% of the film. The visual effects were created by: Moving Picture Company (MPC), who worked on creating Groot, as well as Morag, Xandar, the Dark Aster and the final battle on Xandar;Framestore, who worked on creating Rocket, extending the Kyln prison set and constructing Knowhere;Luma Pictures, who worked on Thanos;Method Studios, who worked on creating the Orb opening and revealing its powers, as well as the holographic displays at the Nova Corps command center; Lola VFX; Cantina Creative; Sony Pictures Imageworks, who worked on Howard the Duck and creating the Dark Aster shots with MPC; CoSA VFX; Secret Lab; Rise Visual Effects Studios; and Technicolor VFX. Pre- and post-visualizations were done by Proof and The Third Floor, with Proof also contributing to the creation of Rocket and Groot.
Producer Nik Korda noted how helpful it was to have Sean Gunn and Krystian Godlewski portray Rocket and Groot on set, as it provided references for lighting and on-set performances to the animators. When creating Groot, MPC realized early on that his eyes would be essential in maintaining the character's human qualities, as his face couldn't move in the way that humans' do. MPC visual effects supervisor Nicolas Aithadi explained that, "When you look at humans what makes the eyes interesting is the imperfections—trying to make these two irises not aimed at the same place—trying to make them strange and look more human." Textures for Groot came from a number of sources, including inspiration from a botanical garden in London, and the character was modeled as individual branches, rigged individually, to simulate a muscle system for the character.
One of the major challenges for Framestore in creating Rocket was his fur. Framestore's Rachel Williams explained that, since "raccoon fur is made up from a layer of short fine hair and a layer of longer thicker hairs", these layers were separated and animated individually, removing the need to use "guide hairs" to control the movements of thick sections of fur. Framestore and MPC worked closely sharing assets, to ensure shots of Rocket at MPC would match the Rocket created by Framestore, and vice versa for when Groot was needed by the other studio.
In order to give Thanos "the performance and the weight that he deserved", Luma Pictures created a new facial animation system to re-create Josh Brolin as a fully CG character, using his "eyes, some of his cheek, how his muscles move when he talks". The character's large jaw, and the deep groves that run down his face, had "to be carefully planned out with the movement of his face."
In August 2013, Gunn revealed that Tyler Bates would be composing the film's score. Gunn stated that Bates would write some of the score first so that he can film to the music, as opposed to scoring to the film. In February 2014, Gunn revealed that the film would incorporate songs from the 1960s and 1970s, such as "Hooked on a Feeling", on a mixtape in Quill's Walkman, which acts as a way for him to stay connected to the Earth, home, and family he lost. In May 2014, Gunn added that using the songs from the '60s and '70s were "cultural reference points", saying, "It's striking the balance throughout the whole movie, through something that is very unique, but also something that is easily accessible to people at the same time. The music and the Earth stuff is one of those touchstones that we have to remind us that, yeah, [Quill] is a real person from planet Earth who's just like you and me. Except that he's in this big outer space adventure."
When choosing the songs, Gunn revealed he "started the process by reading the Billboard charts for all of the top hits of the '70s", downloading "a few hundred" songs that were "semi-familiar—ones you recognize but might not be able to name off the top of your head" and creating a playlist for all the songs that would fit the film tonally. He added that he "would listen to the playlist on my speakers around the house—sometimes I would be inspired to create a scene around a song, and other times I had a scene that needed music and I would listen through the playlist, visualizing various songs, figuring out which would work the best." Most of the songs were played on set to help "the actors and the camera operators find the perfect groove for the shot", with David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" the only song chosen and added during post-production. Gunn also said that the opening scenes were designed with "Hooked on a Feeling" in mind; however, once Gunn discovered "Come and Get Your Love", the song used in the sequence, Gunn felt it was a "better fit."
Three albums were released by Hollywood Records on July 29, 2014: The film's score, Guardians of the Galaxy (Original Score), which features the music composed by Bates for the film;Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), which comprises the twelve songs from Quill's mixtape; and a deluxe edition featuring both albums. By August 2014, the album which mirrored Quill's mixtape had reached the top of the Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first soundtrack album in history consisting entirely of previously released songs to top the chart. Hollywood Records also released a cassette version of the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack on November 28, 2014, as an exclusive to Record Store Day participants. The cassette, which is the first cassette Disney Music Group has released since 2003, comes with a digital download version of the album.
At Disney's D23 Expo in August 2013, Feige presented footage first revealed at the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2013. The first trailer for the film debuted on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on February 18, 2014, with a special introduction by Chris Pratt. The Los Angeles Times said the trailer delivered "some spirited alien action, with exploding spaceships and muscled bad guys, not to mention a few purely comedic moments," while spotlighting "a number of the offbeat characters."Total Film noted the similarity of the trailer's opening clip to the 1981 film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, which Gunn stated was a big influence for Guardians, and made note of the "edgy" humor used throughout.Total Film also noted the similarity of the trailer to the one debuted at Comic-Con and D23, with a few new shots featuring Nebula and the Collector. Social media response to the trailer was strong, with 88,000 mentions across Twitter, Facebook and various blogs in a 12-hour period. Those numbers were comparable to trailers for other superhero films like Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and noteworthy for the late night-time period in which it premiered. The trailer received 22.8 million views in the 24 hours after it debuted. After the debut of the trailer, Blue Swede's version of "Hooked on a Feeling", which was prominently used throughout the trailer, went up 700% in sales the following day. The line from Serafinowicz's character, "What a bunch of a-holes", was only intended to be featured in the trailers, but due to its positive reception, was included in the final cut of the film. Gunn noted that a different teaser was almost released "that was very cheesy [and] sold the movie as something different than what it was", as it tested better than the version that was ultimately released. Gunn credited the marketing teams at Marvel and Disney for having faith in the latter version, despite how it tested, over choosing the version that would have mis-marketed the film.
In March 2014, the Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "T.A.H.I.T.I." introduced the Kree race to the MCU, which began a storyline that recurs throughout the series and involves finding a hidden Kree city. Also in March, ABC aired a one-hour television special titled, Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe, which included a sneak peek of Guardians of the Galaxy. Starting in April 2014, a two-part comic was released, titled Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude. Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with art by Wellington Alves, the first issue focused on the background of Nebula and her bond with Thanos; the second issue featured the adventures of Rocket and Groot before they join forces with the other Guardians. In June 2014, Mike Pasciullo, senior VP of Marvel Studios, described the marketing approach for Guardians of the Galaxy by saying that Marvel had "built a robust marketing program for the theatrical release that carefully integrates traditional advertising, social media, digital marketing, strategic promotional partnerships, organic entertainment integrations [and] publicity."
In July 2014, Marvel launched a viral marketing campaign for the film called "Galaxy Getaways", a fictional travel website that allows users to book passage to some of the planets depicted in the film, including Xandar, Morag, and Knowhere. Beginning July 4, 2014, a sneak peek of the film was presented at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios in the Magic Eye and ABC Sound Studio theaters, respectively. Approximately 14 minutes of the film was screened on July 7, 2014, in IMAX 3D in the United States, and 3D theaters and IMAX 3D in Canada, along with two trailers. The screening was met with positive reviews, praising the humor, the 3D and IMAX conversion, and Cooper's portrayal of Rocket. However, it was criticized for beginning partway through the film, not allowing viewers to easily acclimate to the film's tone, and for how the general audience might respond to a film within the MCU without established characters making appearances.
On July 12, 2014, Gunn and the actors from the film promoted Guardians of the Galaxy at the Lido 8 Cineplex in Singapore. On July 17, 2014, Disney Interactive released an action RPGvideo game titled Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon for iOS, Android and Windows devices. The game's original story was written by Dan Abnett, and was meant to complement the film. On July 21, Pratt, Saldana, Bautista, Diesel and Cooper appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to promote the film and debut some additional exclusive content. On July 29, Pratt and Saldana rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange as part of the film's marketing strategy.
On August 14, Marvel released the scene of Groot dancing, which was shortly followed by an announcement from Funko that they were releasing a toy "Dancing Groot". The Hollywood Reporter noted that the quick release of the scene from Marvel two weeks after the film's theatrical release, along with the rush announcement from Funko, indicated the popularity of both the character and the scene. The scene also produced the word "grooting", coined by Michael Rooker, in which a person dances similar to Groot, with the word entering the social media lexicon. Also in August, Marvel held a special screening of the film at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where Pratt dressed as Star-Lord to entertain the patients.
In June 2012, Marvel filed eleven trademark applications for Guardians of the Galaxy, covering a variety of consumer products, from video games to cosmetics.Disney Consumer Products partnered with Mad Engine, C-Life, New Era, Hasbro, Disguise, Rubies, Sideshow Collectibles, Lego, KIDdesigns, iHome, Funko, Freeze, Fast Forward, and Innovative Designs to produce merchandise for the film, with releases starting in June 2014. Mad Engine and C-Life were partnered as the core apparel outfitters, producing a line of T-shirts and fleece jackets, while New Era produced headwear and hats. Hasbro produced toys for the film; Disguise and Rubies produced the costumes; and Sideshow Collectibles was given charge of the collectibles. Lego announced three toy sets based on scenes from the film, while iHome created character speakers, Funko made vinyl bobbleheads, Freeze crafted 1980s-inspired apparel, and backpacks and stationery were made by Fast Forward and Innovative Designs. Despite first films in a potential new franchise usually being off-limits to licensees, Marvel used Iron Man's success as evidence of unknown characters becoming hits with audiences to attract partnerships. Licensees embraced Rocket as the film's potential breakout character, with Drax and Gamora being used for older demographics; Star-Lord's obsession with 1980s nostalgia, including his "Awesome Mix Vo. 1" cassette, has also served as a basis for tie-in products. In August 2014, Funko announced a toy based on "Dancing Groot", while in October 2014, Marvel and KID designs announced a replica of dancing Groot, for release in December 2014.
In December 2014, Disney made a second marketing push, to coincide with the film's home media release with additional merchandise. Merchandise partners included: KID designs with its replica dancing Groot; Funko's Fabrikations line with a plush Rocket; Mattel's Hot Wheels character cars; C-Life, Hybrid-Jem Sportswear, Freeze, MZ Berger, Accutime, AME and Her Universe with apparel; ThinkGeek with jewelry and watches; American Greetings with cards; Jay Franco with homegoods; and Vandor with drinkware. Additional partners included Mad Engine, Just Play, and Dragon Models. Paul Gitter, senior vice-president of Marvel licensing at Disney Consumer Products said, "The demand for Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise has been truly out of this world. Our merchandising and retail partners are doing a tremendous job of providing creative and innovative ways for fans to continue interacting with these popular characters and showcase their fandom year round."
Karen Gillan at the London premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy
The world premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy was held on July 21, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The film was released theatrically in the United Kingdom on July 31, 2014, and in the United States on August 1, in 3D and IMAX 3D. The film was released in 4,080 theaters in the United States, making it the widest August release, breaking the five-year record held by G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (4,007 theatres). The breakdown of venues was: 354 IMAX screens, 3,200 3D screens, 350 large format screens and 240 D-Box screens. In its sixth weekend, Guardians of the Galaxy was playing in 69 territories, its most.
In June 2014, Gunn stated that the film had always been planned as a 3D film, and "Unlike many directors, I've been actively involved with converting every shot to 3D, making sure it works perfectly for the story and the film, making sure it's spectacular and immersive without being silly, distracting, or overly showy." Gunn also revealed that the IMAX 3D version would include shifting aspect ratios, to make the viewing experience "even fuller and more encompassing. I've personally chosen all the places where the changes occur ... The changing aspect ratios in this case are actually a part of the storytelling." In July 2014, Gunn revealed that there were multiple scenes he had cut from the film, and he was investigating how to release them, either in an extended cut of the film, or as bonus features on the film's home media release.
"We wanted to do a space movie, and we loved the Guardians comics. Just the ridiculous pairing of a tree and a raccoon. It was before Star Wars came back with a vengeance. It was like, “Let’s try a big space movie, the kind of which hasn’t been around for a while.” The audience is following us to these places. The success of Ant-Man and Doctor Strange helped us go, “Hey, the audience is with us,” and Guardians is probably the best example of how far they [the audience] are willing to go."
—Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, on the success of the first Guardians of the Galaxy film.
Guardians of the Galaxy earned $333.2 million in North America and an estimated $440.2 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $773.3 million. The film became the third-highest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, behind The Avengers and Iron Man 3. It was the third-highest-grossing 2014 film (behind Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) and the highest-grossing superhero film of 2014. It had a worldwide opening weekend of $160.7 million.Deadline Hollywood calculated the net profit for the film to be $204.2 million, when factoring together "production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs, with box office grosses, and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV," placing it fifth on their list of 2014's "Most Valuable Blockbusters".
Guardians of the Galaxy earned $11.2 million on its Thursday night pre-opening, surpassing Captain America: The Winter Soldier's gross ($10.2 million) for the biggest Thursday evening start for a movie in 2014. IMAX accounted for 17% of the total gross ($1.9 million), which was the biggest August pre-release in IMAX format. On its opening day, the film earned $37.8 million, including the Thursday night earnings.Guardians of the Galaxy was the number one movie during its opening weekend and grossed $94.3 million, setting an August weekend record. During the opening weekend, IMAX earnings amounted to $11.7 million and 3-D showings accounted for 45% of ticket sales. The film's success was partially attributed to its appeal to both genders: the opening-weekend audience was 44% female, which is the biggest proportion ever for a MCU film; 55% of the opening-weekend audience was over the age of 25.
Although the film fell to second place in its second and third weekends, behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the film was number one in its fourth, fifth, and sixth weekend. By doing so, it became the first film in 2014 to top the domestic box office in non-consecutive weeks, the first film of the summer (May–August) to be the number one film in three weekends and the first MCU film to be the top film for four weeks, surpassing Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers, both of which were number one for three weeks, and tied The Dark Knight for the most weeks at number one among comic book-based films. Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst of BoxOffice.com felt Guardians success was "unconventional" and was "shattering expectations". The film remained in the top 10 for ten weekends.
Guardians of the Galaxy was released in 42 international markets and grossed $66.4 million on its opening weekend. The biggest debuts came from Russia ($13 million), the United Kingdom ($10.8 million), Mexico ($6.5 million), Brazil ($6.5 million), and South Korea ($4.7 million). The film topped the weekend box office two times, in its first and second weekends. In its eleventh weekend, the film opened in China, earning $29.8 million, its largest, and became the third-highest opening in the country for any Disney release, behind Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and was an all-time industry record opening in October. The following weekend saw an additional $21.3 million from China, making China the highest-grossing market with $69 million. The film's three biggest markets in total earnings were: China ($96.5 million), the UK ($47.4 million), and Russia ($37.5 million).
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 91% approval rating with an average score of 7.81/10, based on 322 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Guardians of the Galaxy is just as irreverent as fans of the frequently zany Marvel comic would expect—as well as funny, thrilling, full of heart, and packed with visual splendor."Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 76 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".CinemaScore audiences gave Guardians of the Galaxy an "A" grade rating on an A+ to F scale, while earning an "A+" among under-18 and 25- to 34-year-old viewers.
Scott Foundas of Variety said "James Gunn's presumptive franchise-starter is overlong, overstuffed and sometimes too eager to please, but the cheeky comic tone keeps things buoyant—as does Chris Pratt's winning performance", and praised the film's look created by cinematographer Ben Davis, production designer Charles Wood, and special effects makeup designer David White. Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter also praised the film's look, and felt "A well-matched ensemble rises to the challenge of launching a heroic origin film with distinctive style, abundant thrills and no shortage of humor."The Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin said, "A brand new summer family blockbuster this may be, but it plays by old, half-forgotten rules; trimming out the clutter and cross-referencing for snappy, streamlined, Saturday-cartoon fun". Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, "Blessed with a loose, anarchic B-picture soul that encourages you to enjoy yourself even when you're not quite sure what's going on, the scruffy Guardians is irreverent in a way that can bring the first Star Wars to mind, in part because it has some of the most unconventional heroes this side of the Mos Eisley cantina."Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said, "While Guardians takes you down one after another crazy narrative turn, it also pulls you into—and, for the most part, keeps you in—a fully realized other world."Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times said, "Guardians of the Galaxy is a late summer treat—a mostly lighthearted and self-referential comic-book movie with loads of whiz-bang action, some laugh-out-loud moments and a couple of surprisingly beautiful and touching scenes as well," calling it "a refreshing confection of entertainment."Jim Starlin, creator of Drax, Gamora, and Thanos, said it "might be Marvel's best movie yet".
Jake Coyle of the Associated Press was more critical of the film, calling it "terribly overstuffed and many of the jokes get drowned out by the special effects ... The pervasive movie references detract from the stab at freshness, and Guardians depends all too much on the whimsy of '70s anthems for an original beat." He also felt that Close, Reilly and del Toro were underused in the film.Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "In place of wit, Guardians offers a sort of generalized willingness to be amusing, an atmosphere of high spirits that feels like lots of people pumping air into a tire that has a hole in it. Everyone is clearly working, but nothing is really happening–and yet the effort is so evident that there's an impulse to reward it." Kyle Smith of the New York Post also had a negative response to the film, comparing it to Howard the Duck and Green Lantern, and criticizing the dialogue, villains, soundtrack, lack of suspense, and the characters of Quill, Rocket, and Drax. The film received mixed reviews in China, where viewers complained that the film's "poor subtitle translation not only spoiled the fun of watching it, but also made it difficult to understand its humor."
In April 2017, Gunn announced he would return to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. However, in July 2018, Disney and Marvel severed ties with Gunn following the resurfacing of old controversial tweets surrounding topics such as rape and pedophilia. Production was put on hold a month later. In March 2019, Disney and Marvel Studios reversed course and reinstated Gunn as director. Filming will begin once Gunn has completed work on the Warner Bros. film The Suicide Squad, in 2020.