The scenario almost sounds like the start of a sci-fi joke: A child of the 1980s, the deadliest woman in the galaxy, a tattooed green warrior, a talking raccoon and a sentient alien tree walk into an intergalactic prison.
Instead, it's the start of a new space saga, Guardians of the Galaxy, due Aug. 1 from Marvel Studios. Directed by James Gunn, the film is based on the cult comic book and continues to explore the Marvel Cinematic Universe of the Iron Man and Avengers films but in an entirely different way.
The first trailer will be in theaters Friday and premieres on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Tuesday night (11:35 ET/PT), with a special intro by star Chris Pratt.
Gunn likens the movie to someone's favorite indie band finally hitting the big time.
"All of a sudden, Arcade Fire becomes incredibly popular: 'I don't know if I like them that much anymore.' I'll happily deal with the cool people not thinking I'm cool anymore and making bigger movies!" the director says with a laugh.
The movie teams five disparate personalities: Peter Quill (Pratt), aka Star-Lord, was taken from Earth as a 9-year-old, possesses a mysterious orb artifact and pilots the Milano, a muscle car of a spaceship. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is connected to Thanos, arguably the cosmos' biggest baddie. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is a muscular dude you don't want to upset. And then there are the aliens Rocket Raccoon and Groot (computer-generated characters voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively), who are best pals and potentially the biggest things to happen to pop culture since Chewbacca.
Their stories converge in the space prison Kyln. After the characters break out, they venture to Knowhere (the severed head of a celestial being that serves as a hangout for aliens) and visit the weird menagerie of the Collector (Benicio Del Toro). They also have to avoid two villains, Ronan (Lee Pace) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), who are in hot pursuit of Quill's orb, which has the power to destroy the galaxy.
"There's a whole lot to this movie - it's not a stage play," Pratt says. "You couldn't make Guardians of the Galaxy the play and put it on Broadway. It really wouldn't work."
Yet even with all that sci-fi mayhem, Gunn adds, the movie is about "these characters, their emotions and their relationships."
The director is aiming for a mix of drama, romance and humor. Heroic Quill, with his '80s references and stunted social graces, provides some of the comic relief.
"Being stuck in space with no accountability makes for a strange combination of youthful vibrancy and cluelessness in a childlike man," says Pratt, whose character has a Han Solo-esque rogue quality in the beginning.
"He does some things that most people wouldn't get away with. But part of his arc is being willing to essentially sacrifice himself for the greater good of other people."
If anything, Guardians of the Galaxy is a fresh diversion for fans of superhero movies, Pratt says. "They know what to expect at every turn. So that's why it's important now to do a comic-book movie that no one's ever seen before.''