So Guardians of the Galaxy came out recently. Evidently, it’s great. Like so great. Which is weird because having no context on this particular slice of the Marvel universe, the entire concept seemed like an overextension. You’ve got Vin Diesel and Chris Pratt running around along with an anthropomorphic raccoon. At a certain point, I’m hoping Marvel understands that there will be a disbelief we are unwilling to suspend.
It’s like, you got away with Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. Let’s not tempt fate, you know?
But, again, the numbers and the responses indicate the movie is great and it’s full speed ahead for the Marvel movie-making machine.
The biggest narrative to come out of this movie though is the rise of Chris Pratt. Everything the light touches in the pop cultural landscape is his for the taking right now. But why?
The Appeal of Normal
In the lead-up to Guardians, stuff like this….
…all trickled out into the pop culture ether and it made us like him because, let me tell you, nothing gets normal people like you and I all hot and bothered like a celebrity acting non-celebish. We eat that up so hard and then lick the plate.
Jennifer Lawrence belly flopping on her way to accept an Oscar? EAT.
Kristen Bell sobbing about a sloth? EAT.
We love feeling like the line between them and us isn’t quite so blurred, when deep down, we all super know that it is.
The Appeal of Familiar
In addition to his normalish appeal, part of his rise is also because he’s been a peripheral existence to most of us for a while now. Thus, this gives him some credibility but this credibility is nuanced, guys. That’s right. I’m about to explain the finer points on an intangible thing like it’s an art exhibit or something. My college tuition at work, Mom and Dad!
The following is self-evident: we like things we know, right? The barrier for entry on anything is easier if its familiar than if we’re flying blind. It’s why studios want known quantities in their shows / movies. It’s why brand names matter.
I know. I just realized it too. I’m explaining to you that brand names matter. Look at me here dispatching wisdom like the Dalai Lama of obviousness.
ANYWAYS, the point here is that we know Chris Pratt. We’ve seen him in movies and we’ve seen him on TV.
The corollary to this though is that it’s problematic if we know someone TOO well. Because then, that super-familiarity colors the audience’s sense of the character and their response to the movie.
It’s why Lindsay Lohan can never be Cady Heron again. She’ll always bring the baggage of being insane, drug-addled and authorship of an actual bang list to every single role.
Understanding all this, Guardians clearly was the perfect storm for Chris Pratt. So the question thenbecomes, what led to Chris Pratt being in this position?
If we consider the idea of market correction, then we can extend this notion to the movie industry in the sense that certain cultural climates demand certain types of content. And within this content, certain types of movie stars are sought after.
Let’s look at this in a more specific way and consider 1996 – 2006. For the most part, this period looked primed to be a Dark Ages as it relates to male superstardom. Tom Cruise had hit an artistic lull, Tom Hanks was trending down after an insane run and for all intents and purposes the throne had been abdicated in terms of dude superstars.
But the market can’t tolerate a world where no dude superstars exist. So, in the void left by Cruise and Hanks, someone filled it.
Will Smith’s 96 – 06 run, featured a vast array of genre and type: franchise, Sci-Fi, Action, Drama, Animated, Biopic, Comedy and even TV.
In terms of the market, was Will Smith SUCH a movie star talent that he would have emerged regardless of what the leading man situation was? OR was Will Smith’s 10 year run a function of the leading man vacuum needing to be filled?
As interesting as that conversation may be, we’re here for Chris Pratt, you guys. Stay focused.
Contingency Plan for Who?
So understanding that the market demands certain types of characters, we can apply this idea to Chris Pratt and assume that he’s the contingency plan for a few other people. But who are these people? Who are these mystery actors that were going to be mostly supporting, mostly comedic, mostly white and charming but not TOO charming so as to step on the leading man’s charm dealings? I have some thoughts…
+ Guys Who Popped
Steve Carell and Bradley Cooper
Both unexpectedly became marketable as leading guys with charisma and charm in spades so they leveled up.
+ Guys Who Flopped
Jason Sudeikis, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman
For me, the Jasons are better on TV. What they have hasn’t translated to movies…yet. This partly explains why I really didn’t like Horrible Bosses because to me, the entire cast aside from Colin Farrell all belong on TV.
Reynolds is different though. He’s the one that I think has most clearly Butterfly Effected Hollywood and has most clearly underachieved to the point that someone like Chris Pratt could get this movie. It’s almost like Reynolds is too handsome to be funny, but yet his humor doesn’t allow him to have enough presence to be “The Guy”. Further, he’s naturally funny to be serious, but yet there’s a part of him that stays serious enough to where he can’t entirely give himself over to comedy.
Regardless, Chris Pratt appears to be here to stay for a while and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing.