Joy Buzzer #1: Guardians of the Galaxy
Not so great things about things everybody thinks are great.
***WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD***
first start off by saying that I liked this movie. I really did.
I’ve seen it twice in theaters. I’ve only done that with two other
movies: Avengers (also twice) and Winter Soldier (thrice). I can fondly recall the thrills of seeing
Star-Lord and his band of semi-merry misfits on a rollicking space adventure. I thought the casting was perfect: Chris Pratt,
of Parks and Recreation, perhaps the most on-point casting in a Marvel film
since Robert Downey, Jr; Cooper and Saldana excel in their roles and the
writers actually found a way to make Dave
Batista Bautista watchable
when he opens his mouth. (Also, if Vin
Diesel doesn’t get some kind’ve Academy nod, the Heavens are
indeed empty). The soundtrack, a
character in its own right, is flawless.
The humor and the special effects are great. All-in-all, Guardians is a positive entry in
the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There are some things about the film
that I picked up on my first viewing that became more problematic upon my
second. A year ago, these things wouldn’t
have bothered me so much. “Oh,
well, it’s just a comic book movie.
I’m just happy it wasn’t terrible.” That
was a legitimate state of mind for anyone who lived through the early dawn of
superhero films. But then, in April
of 2014, Captain America: The Winter
Soldier arrived in American theaters and showed everyone what superhero
films could actually be if they tried: smart, action-packed, nuanced,
emotionally-gratifying, compelling, earnest and whole. We’ve been shown that superhero movies
shouldn’t settle for good enough.
We now live in a post-Winter Soldier world. Obv. the Dark Knight and
Avengers were more colossal undertakings than this and had a significantly
greater impact on cinema in general i.e. an unpredictable thrill ride that
soils the pants of many a viewer, and an ensemble, franchise-uniting movie that
doesn’t crumble under its own weight, respectively. But those films were more the exception than
the rule: one was about DC’s only (apparently) marketable
superhero, and the other was about ALL the Marvel heroes. Winter Soldier was a follow-up to a film that
was decent, but not noteworthy. Few
expected it to be as enthralling as it was.
CA:TWS set the bar for how great superhero movies that weren’t
about a bat or more than five heroes at a time could be. So, as should be obvious at this point, every
superhero film I watch now is set against Winter Soldier. I’m less likely to let things slide
because it’s “just a comic book movie.” So,
as this is a potshot criticism of Guardians of the Galaxy and not Jake’s
Favorite Superhero Movies, let’s get on with the flaws.
Friendship is, Apparently, Magic
The Guardians all meet because they
want something for selfish-ish reasons.
Peter Quill wants to use the Orb to make a payday; Gamora wants to use
the Orb to keep it out of Thanos’s reach…and
make a payday; Rocket and Groot want Peter Quill, and later the Orb, to make a
payday; and Drax wants to kill Ronan by way of Gamora out of revenge. None of these characters are united out of a
sense of comradery or justice (Groot excluded because Groot is the best and a
sweetheart and is pulled along by Rocket).
The only one who performs selfless gestures for the others is Peter, who
does so because he’s “the hero.” Point
being, for a significant part of the movie, these characters are merely
acquaintances at best. And then all of a
sudden, they’re the bestest friends in the spaceways, apparently because
Christ Pratt said the word “friends” at one point. There’s no moment of emotional connection
or understanding. There almost is, when
Rocket tearfully reveals his tragic past from behind a loaded gun. But it’s quickly dismissed with “Rocket,
suck it up for one more night. You’re
drunk.” And the dismissal is mutual: “I
promise I’m not going to kill all of you once this is all over.” (Rocket’s
ableism is a discussion for another time).
no reason for anyone to befriend or even trust Gamora. “Hi, I’m
an assassin working for a genocidal maniac, but don’t
worry, I was totes planning to betray him just now, and you totally believe me
because I’m telling you this in such a forthright manner.” “Yes,
we totes believe you.” Drax only gets
brought along because he touched the walking tree on the shoulder and agreed he
had been an idiot. In summation, the
film at a certain point arbitrarily makes all of the protagonists friends
without organically showing us it on screen, because they have to be friends at
the end of the film.
Replace “love” with “friendship” and you’ve
basically got the sentiment of GotG.
Ronan the Underused
Who is Ronan? I bet if you asked the average movie-goer
this, the response would be “the bad guy.” Ronan
is the latest victim in the Marvel movies to suffer from what I’m
now calling Malekith-itis. Named so for
the would-be antagonist of Thor 2 (the real villain was the lack of a credible
antagonist to outshine the Thor/Loki drama).
For whatever reason, the Marvel
movies occasionally have a problem of not making their villains more than A)
evil, B) crazy, or c) Crazy evil. Loki
seems to be the exception to this rule, much to the delight of fangirls and
fanboys everywhere. I suppose the first
instance of this would be the Red Skull, but that’s
Johann’s schtick: he’s a Nazi and the evilest of the evil,
so he gets a pass. Next to fall for this
pitfall is the eponymous Malekith who, while just as banally evil as Skull in
the source material, is more underutilized and is thus given to the name of the
diseased. And then along comes Ronan the
Accuser who, for all intents and purposes is Judge Dredd in space. He is the (Kree) law. Rolling Order Neutral on the alignment chart,
Ronan is oft an antagonist but not truly a villain. The film, however, has other intents. Which is fine. It’s its own story and characters are
shuffled around, sometimes not even resembling their original incarnation
you, Yondu). But the film never does
anything with Ronan. He’s
just there to be Kree Dredd, sit in his scary ship, act scary and maybe kill an
entire planet. But Ronan’s
motivation for doing so, is explained away in his not-even ten minute
rebelling against a system that no longer holds his ideals. Hmm doesn’t
that sound like someone we met again in April of 2014?
That’s right! The Human Torch!
have to role with that, of course, but any attention to Ronan after his initial
monologue would’ve done wonders.
Ronan is such a rich and complex character that reducing him to the Big
Bad was a bit of a letdown. This movie
need an additional 30 minutes: 15 for protagonist bonding, and 15 for
His Species is Completely Literal…Except
When It Comes to Insulting Women
Hopefully by the title you all know
what I’m about to refer to.
Drax’s character is described as being of a species that has no
concept of metaphors; everything they say is completely literal. It’s used several times throughout the
film to humorous effect. During the
final assault on Ronan’s ship, Drax is declaring how
everyone there is his friend (because the plot says so). After declaring Star-Lord and Groot, the dumb
tree, as his friends, he turns to Gamora and calls her a whore. Even on my first viewing, I was perplexed by
this scene. Why would the literal Drax
say that? To the audience’s
knowledge, Drax hasn’t witnessed Gamora plying her
femininity for money at any point in the film.
In fact, the only time in which she’s vaguely seductive is when she meets
Peter Quill and semi-flirts with him to steal the Orb from him. Which Drax wasn’t
there for. Unless there’s
a deleted scene of Gamora exchanging sex for currency, Drax’s
mind, as defined by the rules of the film, wouldn’t
fathom to refer to her as such. All
roads of inquiry point to it being misogyny in the most casual and lazy way, so
much so that it’s disheartening.
There are a myriad of other insulting things that Drax could’ve
called her that don’t go for the dumb cheap shot of “hurrr
durrr promiscuous woman bad; similarly promiscuous man is stud and Peter Quill
a small thing in the grand scheme, but I think it was the initial tick that
made me take a closer look at the film.
Don’t get me wrong. I
like this film. But I wanted to love
it. I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching
it both times. But just because I like
something doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flaws. This was good, but Marvel has shown that it
can do much better.
Labels: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Comics, Drax the Destroyer, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Comics, Peter Quill, Review, Ronan the Accuser, Star Lord