Pick up on that ’80s vibe from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy trailer? Wait until you see the toy line…
My, my, my, it would appear that seeing is believing after all. I know that we all SHOULD realize by now that Marvel’s at the top of their game and know exactly what they’re doing, but that didn’t stop most of us from scratching our collective heads when they announced one of the headliners for “Phase 2” would be… “Guardians of the what now? And one of them is… a tree? And a TALKING RACCOON?!!” Hmm, in hindsight I can’t understand how I could’ve EVER been skeptical. And sure, I may lose some serious geek-cred for never even having heard of them, but I’m certainly not the only one. Don’t deny it.
Fast-forward a week and the raccoon’s out of the bag, with the trailer for James Gunn’s quirky little flick setting tongues wagging all over the internet. Seems the tides have turned and now everyone’s “Hooked On A Feeling” (forgive the pun, but I had to) that it’s going to be something special. What really stood out for me was the overwhelming ’80s movie vibe that I was getting: A smart-ass, musclebound anti-hero with a heart of gold, a wisecracking anthropomorphic animal sidekick, strong, silent types providing backup muscle in the form of bizarre, hulking creatures, sexy alien ingenues, and some spaceship dogfights set to a classic rock soundtrack. It’s like they threw Star Wars, Buckaroo Banzai, The Last Starfighter, and a dash of Howard the Duck into a blender and set it to “awesome.”
But the ’80s connection doesn’t stop there. No, as soon as I saw the trailer, naturally wanting to know a little more about the property, I started digging a bit. With this being a summer tentpole flick, and Toy Fair going on, I suppose it was inevitable that the obligatory toy line would pop up on my radar. And when it finally did… my Nostalgia-ometer achieved critical mass.
Now obviously, Marvel’s dabbled in toys of all shapes, sizes, and gimmicks over the years, with varying degrees of both quality and success. Since partnering with Hasbro however, their film & comic toy lines have pretty much fallen into two categories: Marvel Legends, the 6″ highly-detailed figures aimed squarely at the collector’s market, and the standard G.I. Joe-style 3.75″ figures aimed more at the kiddos. So imagine my surprise when I saw that Hasbro was deviating from the formula when it came to the Guardians, and in an awesome way, at that.
Harkening back to yesteryear, in a formula that was successful for companies such as TYCO and Kenner throughout a good portion of the ’80s, they’re releasing a 2.5″ action figure line, which allows for many more characters, vehicles, accessories, and perhaps even playsets to be produced and sold for significantly lower costs. That’s right, we’re getting Marvel’s equivalent of M.A.S.K. or Dino Riders toys! Which, in my humble opinion, is not only a perfect fit for a film that already has “retro” written all over it, but a great way to for kids to amass an armada of badass ships & vehicles like we all had back in the day.
Action figures that are hyper-detailed, look like miniature carbon-copies of their respective characters, and have 10,000 points of articulation are great, don’t get me wrong, but the harsh reality is that the economy pretty much sucks right now. There are thousands of Marvel figs collecting dust on the shelves because people like me really feel that paying between $9.99-$13.99 for ONE damn G.I. Joe, much less trying to collect MANY, is just a little bit ridiculous. And don’t get me started on the vehicles or playsets, which cease to be toys and become freakin’ investments, usually running somewhere between $40-$90. And that’s my opinion both as a big kid who still loves to play with some toys AND as a parent.
No, the beauty of toy lines such as M.A.S.K. and Dino Riders was that you were getting the maximum amount of toy for your money. You got a figure (or sometimes a few), a buttload of accessories, a functional & nifty vehicle (usually with numerous special features), and hours of entertainment at an affordable price. That’s why we look back on these toys and remember them so fondly, because we all had them. Why? Because our parents could afford them!
Sure, the details are nice, all the extra time & money spent on the scanned sculpts and beautiful paint jobs do pay off. But we seem to forget that a child’s imagination, the same thing that turns a cardboard box into an interstellar battle cruiser, is more than capable of filling in the gaps of where the toy differs slightly from the character it’s based upon. We didn’t care how realistic they looked, we were simply too busy using them to create our own worlds and our own adventures. That’s why we remember them, and that’s why we still love them.
I truly hope that this strategy works for Hasbro and Marvel, especially with their films becoming increasingly ensemble-based. Who knows? Today’s children could be reminiscing 20 years from now about how much cooler the toys were when they were growing up, when they could fit the entire Marvel Universe on their playroom rug.
MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY BATTLE GEAR 2-Pack Action Figure Assortment
Ages: 4 & up /Approx. Retail Price: $5.99/Available: July 2014
“Kids can re-create the excitement of the film MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY with these 2-packs of 2.5-inch scale, mini-action figures inspired by the characters in the film. The 2-packs feature the film’s signature alien heroes and villains, plus an assortment of customizable BATTLE GEAR weapons! All of the figures are compatible with the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY SPACECRAFT vehicles, sold separately. There are five two-packs to collect, each sold separately.”
MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY MILANO Starship
Ages: 4 & up /Approx. Retail Price: $24.99/Available: July 2014
“The GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY MILANO Starship features electronic lights and battle sounds, firing missiles, and comes with a 2.5-inch scale STAR LORD action figure. The MILANO Starship is also compatible with all the 2.5-inch scale figures in the BATTLE GEAR 2-Pack line (sold separately), and can fit three figures inside the cockpit.”
MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Spacecraft Assortment
Ages: 4 & up /Approx. Retail Price: $14.99/Available: July 2014
“Each PURSUIT SPACECRAFT features a surprise reveal battle mode and comes with a 2.5-inch scale pilot figure from the film. The PURSUIT SPACECRAFT assorted ships are compatible with all the 2.5-inch scale figures in the BATTLE GEAR 2-Pack line (sold separately). There are three PURSUIT SPACECRAFT ships to collect, each sold separately.”