Guardians of the Galaxy: The Grungy Avengers
Guardians of the Galaxy is not the special snowflake you may think it is. This film proves that even the mighty Marvel can do wrong. Based on audience reaction alone, I would have to give this movie five stars. People laughed out loud, gasped, even danced a little. However, this is all as a result of the conditioning of Hollywood. I am disappointed in the paper thin story. I am disappointed in the dull, unexceptional characters. But I am mostly disappointed in the choices, the usually responsible Marvel made with this film. With all this disappointment, how could I give it two and a half stars, then? Although Guardians of the Galaxy has many faults story-wise, visually, it is a stunning experience.
Let’s set the scene. Earth, 1988. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a young boy, sits in a hospital listening to his “Awesome Mix: Volume 1” as his mother lies in a hospital bed, dying of cancer. He is called into the room to say goodbye. She passes away and Quill rushes outside in grief, only to be abducted by aliens moments later. Twenty-six years pass, bringing us to present day, and we find our hero in the middle of a heist on an alien planet. After an intense, somewhat comical struggle, Quill retrieves the ‘orb’, an item of far greater importance than Quill is yet aware. We find that the villain, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), desires this item so he may destroy other planets. Ronan sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve the orb. In a central city area, we meet Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a bounty hunter duo who marks Quill as their next target. Chaos ensues when Quill is forced to escape from Gamora, Groot and Rocket. In the end, they are all arrested and brought to prison where we meet Drax (Dave Bautista), the final member of the Guardians group. From here, the group must work through their differences to keep the orb out of Ronan’s creepy blue hands, to ensure the safety of the galaxy.
In my opinion, the formula to a fantastic superhero film is a hero you cannot stop rooting for, plus a villain you love to hate, plus a situation that cannot possibly seem solvable, minus an excessive use of guns and explosions. Guardians of the Galaxy barely has one of those stipulations. Other than Quill and Groot, I did not find myself in love with any of the other characters. The story is weak, and the villain is unfortunately super generic. (Sorry Lee Pace, you’re great, the character is not.) In particular, I must point out how terrifying Rocket is as a character. First of all he is a little, fuzzy raccoon, obviously targeted at appealing towards children. This is far more frightening to think about once you delve deeper into to the layers of his character. Rocket talks about how he has been bullied, called names like ‘vermin’ and ‘hamster.’ He is powerless until someone puts a gun in his hands. He exclaims, “Ohh, yeahhh,” and commences to mow people down in a line of fire. This is the very personification of a bullied kid in high school who returns with a gun to massacre his peers, and this character is aimed toward children. I cannot in good faith praise a film that exploits this behavior.
On the other hand, Groot is the other character targeted towards children, and he is by far my favorite. Groot only has the ability to say one phrase, “I am Groot.” As a result, he must use different inflection and Rocket to translate what he means by each different, “I am Groot.” Groot is also a tree. That is a seriously bizarre sentence. Groot is a gentle creature who only uses violence when absolutely needed. For the most part, his purpose is to bring, quite literally, light into the darkness. In one instance, the Guardians walk by a group of poor children, and Groot is the only one to acknowledge them. He grows a flower in his hand and presents it to a little girl. This may be my favorite moment in the film because it is one of the only times someone is kind for no reason. I find it fascinating that Groot and Rocket, two polar opposites, are great friends.
This brings me to my confusion of the genre. What I have always loved about Marvel is the fact that their superhero films are much lighter than DC Comics. Iron Man is snarky, Spider-Man is quirky, even Loki is a fun-loving, misguided jerk. I rarely find myself feeling that true terror that something such as The Dark Knight Rises inflicts. My point is that Marvel usually does a stellar job combining both the seriousness of the situation, with the comedy of the characters. Marvel understands that superheroes are role models for children, no matter how much you may love them as an adult. Guardians of the Galaxy forgot this key fact. Although rated PG-13, the audience was filled with small children laughing at Rocket shooting down enemies and grabbing his crotch, Quill cranking his middle finger up at the police, Groot breaking into a wide grin after smashing a large group of people into the walls. I feel “PG-16” should be a new rating. Maybe if parents see that, they will not think seven is close enough anymore. If the film had not been so targeted towards children, I would not have found issue with most of those quips.
All issues aside, it is important to note the exceptional VFX and the perfection that is the soundtrack. Of course, being a Marvel film, it is only natural that the visuals would be brilliant. Three times I found myself in awe. The first came during the Guardians’ prison break. In order to escape, Rocket devises a plan to shut off the gravity inside the prison in all areas except the room they are in. Everyone and everything starts to float right off the ground around them. The second beautiful imagery is when the group is in the pitch black and Groot holds out his hand to let small flakes of light drift into the darkness, lighting their way. Finally, I was struck by this one perfect shot when Quill flies into space to save Gamora. Out in the middle of the galaxy, Quill holds Gamora, and they float there in the silence of space. Bravo to everyone involved in the VFX. As far as the soundtrack goes, it is easily the best part of the film. I wanted to burst into song at every track. My friend and I actually danced in our seats. That’s really all that needs to be said…
I unfortunately do not agree with the $94 million dollars’ worth of people who likely praised the film this past weekeend. It may seem as though I loathed it, but in all honesty, it was not the worst film I have ever seen. Being Marvel, I am hard pressed not to recommend seeing it, simply because their films have become cultural events. Isn’t it fascinating that Marvel was working out of a room above a Mercedes Benz dealership a mere six years ago? See the film simply to be informed. However, do not go in thinking this is the next Avengers. They’re far too grungy for that comparison.
(Chris Pratt, you’re still the greatest. See you in Jurassic World!)
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Run Time 2:02
Guardians of the Galaxy has a post credit scene which is not worth the stay. It does not tease any upcoming Marvel films.
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Guardians of the Galaxy Fandango
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) | Fandango
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Guardians of the Galaxy IMDB
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - IMDb
Directed by James Gunn. With Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana. Light years from Earth, 26 years after being abducted Peter Quill finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser.