I remember, when the title was first announced, seeing articles predicting the fate of Marvel’s new film, Guardians of the Galaxy, both that it woudl be a huge success and a huge failure, sometimes from the same website. It was a long shot, true: none of the established, recognizable characters. It was set in an alien environment. It had a talking raccoon, for crying out loud.
Personally, I saw all of these as selling points, but I’m a geek.
After much hype, promotion and months of dodging trailers, I got to see what James Gunn had brought to Marvel’s table and I have rarely been as jazzed as I was walking out of a theater. There were parts of the movie that left me grinning, jaw dropped and dancing in my seat.
Beyond here, there be spoilers!
From the getgo, the use of music makes the alien environment relatable. Getting ancient civilizations and complex planetary politics is a lot to ask of an audience, but asking them to relate to a guy dancing by himself is pretty simple.
We get a McGuffin, another Infinity Gem, and the comic book nerds in the audience are all nodding their heads and saying “I see where this is going”. Then it’s straight into action and adventure.
As characters are added, they are presented as people first and their respective odd racial quirks second. The raccoon is a bounty hunter and that’s what we focus on. His walking tree companion is likewise presented in a rather straightforward manner. We get to relate to them as people before we’re challenged with their peculiar visual quirks.
Each character gets a little bit of the spotlight. Rocket is a competent tactician and planner. Groot is a lovable goof, but also a solid warrior. Gamora is deadly and determined. Drax, perhaps the weakest written character, is driven and guileless.
The movie had a decision to make and I think that when we get the DVD, we’re going to find a lot of extra footage on it. The movie is already two hours and they managed to pack in the backstory for seven or so characters, to various degrees of depth. They could have delved more into the “Kree Fanatic” Ronan the Accuser, but instead relied upon his intimidating looks to convey that he was to be taken seriously. They could have spent time making Drax a little more sympathetic, making us care for his fallen family a bit more, but I don’t know they could have spared the cinematic real estate. They could have added depth to Gamora, Nebula and their relationship to Thanos, but again, that would have involved pushing the length out a bit farther.
I know I could have stood more backstory, but I think most people came for the explosions.
The story suffered some flaws, specifically in the shallowness to which it examined its principles and handwaving things like why Xandarians look pretty much human (and are the potential chief victims of the Big Bad’s wrath), but as spaceships bounce off one another and the main protagonist saves the world by being goofy and vulgar, the less refined points of the movie are easy to overlook. A lot of these gripes are likely to be addressed in the sequel(s), I’m sure, and that I’m glad to say are now scheduled.
Here endeth any spoilers.
Even if you haven’t been up to your neck in the Marvel universe, either in the comics or the movies, Guardians of the Galaxy is worth watching. It’s been favorably compared to Star Wars and I think that’s fair, not in that it is as transformative, but in that it is just that much fun.
And stay for the scene after the credits. Especially if you’re a child of the 80’s.