And now, the pros and cons of the latest Marvel feature film: Guardians of the Galaxy (dir. James Gunn, 2014)…[SPOILERS AHEAD]
Summary: Guardians of the Galaxy follows the whizz-bang adventures of the most ragtag team of assassins, destroyers, human dudes, tree-creatures and genetically-modified bounty hunters ever assembled as they procure and protect the universe’s most dangerous and destructive MacGuffin.
– The soundtrack: It works unbelievably well as commentary on the action, nearly becoming a character on its own. Rarely has a soundtrack been so engaged with its film; unlike similar pop soundtracks in Tarantino films, which seem to exist only to show off the director’s extensive knowledge of music, or in a Wes Anderson piece, where the soundtrack just kind of lies there on the screen like a shiny relic.
– A surprising balance between humor, action and heart: Guardians is more or less a comedic adventure with the occasional moment of beauty and emotion. Reference: Rocket’s drunken speech in which he reveals his painful past as a laboratory experiment; Gamora discovering pop music for the first time; the lead-up to and including “We are Groot.”
Bradley Cooper as Joe Pesci as a genetically-modified raccoon.
– The phrase “the city’s been evacuated”: All for naught in the end, perhaps, but THANK YOU NOVA CORPS.
– Rooker playing Rooker playing Yondu: Michael Rooker has built a kind of career and a persona of being this charming, shady, redneck motherfucker, and Gunn gives him license to do the same here. I’d never imagined Yondu Udonta like this, but sonofabitch, it works.
– Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!: Like Pacific Rim (dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2013) and The Lego Movie (dirs. Chris Miller and Phil Lord, 2014), Guardians places an emphasis on teamwork and friendship above all. It’s refreshing to see a film not try to awkwardly shoehorn in a romantic (and heteronormative, let’s face it) subplot between its leads, even more refreshing when a film decides that having adventure pals is pretty rad. This is established early in the film, when the characters have to work together to escape from space-jail.*
– Thanos: Really. What a pointless waste. I get it; he was teased in the post-credit scene of the Avengers movie, but were Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman under some obligation to put him into the film? Which leads me to…
– The thinnest of villains (and heroes): Ronan the Accuser is a pretty badass bad guy in his own right, but here he gets to do little else that feels really threatening outside of a fight scene with Drax. I never felt like our heroes were in much peril; the film’s other two villains (Nebula and Korath the Pursuer) barely register. In fact, all the characters are pretty lean. Here’s my useless suggestion: cut Thanos entirely and give that time to fleshing out the baddies and Our Heroes. Give them something more to be than cardboard cutouts. Which leads me to…
– What’s the deal with Xandar and the Kree?: We get, in a throwaway line early on, that there’s a tenuous peace treaty between the people of Xandar, home of the Nova Corps, and the Kree. However, we don’t get much background on either, particularly the Kree. What happened before that led to this treaty? They fought, sure, and then made up, and Ronan didn’t much care for that, apparently. There’s…not a lot of meat behind Ronan’s outlier status in this context.
– Where’s the plot?: Don’t get me wrong, I love Guardians of the Galaxy. But there was an awful lot of things that just happen in the film with so little motivation. It’s basically a series of stuff that happens. What’s going on here? I also felt like the film was a little TOO dependent on the audience knowing who the characters are, especially when it came to introducing the Infinity Stones to the story. Sure, we get a brief description from The Collector, but…who’s The Collector, anyway?
– The post-credit tag: Please god. No. Just…no.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE ALREADY-ANNOUNCED SEQUEL:
– Groot’s backstory: We know a bit about everyone except for lovable lug Groot. He’s not just a sentient plant. Did you know he’s royalty?
– Peter Quill’s dad: What seems like a convenient plot device at the end of Guardians is actually true to the comics. So will we see J’son of Spartax in the next film? Probably.
– More plot: A plot. Any ol’ plot will do.
*Escape From Space-Jail, my new feature film, coming out in 2114.