Forget Thanos, his snap, and the disintegrating catastrophe that climaxed Avengers: Infinity War, the darkest and most punishing question in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now is the future of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The fallout of Disney’s firing of director James Gunn is still an unknown, and the only certainty is that fans of those particular characters are queasy over the notion of another filmmaker coming in to play in their sandbox. Gunn is a creator of odd sensibilities and he was allowed to take control of the far reaches of MCU space and miraculously crafted a massively successful brand. Simply throwing the trusted Peyton Reed or Taika Waititi behind the camera just will not do.
Considering that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was at one time expected to launch the next phase of stories for the MCU, overlord Kevin Feige needs a sure-fire bet steering these beloved A-hole characters, not to mention a group of actors who cherished their experience working with Gunn. The DisInsider is reporting a rumor that Laika CEO and Bumblebee director Travis Knight is being closely considered for the chair. Who knows the validity of such whispers, and while nine times out of ten, I would not fall for such clickbait daydreaming, this particular possibility struck my fancy.
Knight is an incredibly earnest and genuine creative entity. As a producer, animator, and director behind such films as Kubo and the Two Strings, Paranorman, Coraline, and The Box Trolls, he has brought life to childhood adventures fueled by empathy. Laika’s philosophy has always been to highlight and celebrate the odd. Similar to what Stan Lee birthed within Marvel Comics in the sixties, Knight pushed his company and his stories to reveal how our human flaws and eccentricities are the very characteristics that will aid in our triumph.
Victory thrives in partnership with others. Star-Lord bouncing around the universe by himself would only lead to emotional suppression and alienation. In battling banter with Gamora and Rocket, Peter Quill is allowed to confront the death of his mother, the absence of his father, and the doubt that has consumed his existence since fleeing Yondu and his ravagers. The internal fight waged by the external clashing of personalities is at the center of ParaNorman and Kubo and the Two Strings.
Knight certainly does not share the same sense of humor as Gunn. The first two Guardians of the Galaxy films are peppered with gross and gnarly sight gags and a whimsical reliance on the bent or outright perverted. Would Knight conceive of a Baby Groot collecting severed toes for Rocket and Yondu? Probably not. But maybe. ParaNorman, The Box Trolls, and Coraline are not the family-friendliest bits of Disney fluff. Body parts have been known to get detached. Laika definitely knows when to delight in the grotesque.
While it is hard to slam down the stamp of approval on Knight as the next champion of the Guardians of the Galaxy until we’ve seen his first live-action directorial debut, I am confident that he would be the best-case scenario to replacing James Gunn. Well, other than Disney coming to their senses and rehiring the creative that revolutionized their universe in the first place. Knight is a deeply passionate artist, and one scroll through the special features of any Laika DVD or Blu-ray will reveal that to be true. Several of those characters’ expressions, from their winks to their smiles to their joyous outbursts, wer crafted by Knight himself. He’s not just a money man. He’s a believer in the human spirit.