THE GREAT MARVEL MOVIE CATCHUP part 10
Guardians of the Galaxy shows a lighter side of MCU but deals with some darker themes and sets up characters and plots for future movies. It lays on the friendship will conquer all evils theme a bit thick in places but does it in a tongue in cheek self aware way that makes it not too stomach turning. There are a number of deliberately cheesy lines and all for one type sentiment that still grate in places despite the self-referential humour. Still easily the most fun and entertaining of all the MCU films I’ve seen so far.
Self-appointed Guardians leader Starlord, original name Peter Jason Quill, is a human taken from the Earth by aliens as a child. He has been living with the group of space mercenaries/pirates who kidnapped him for most of his life. He is endearingly eccentric and listens to his walkman and dances to cool music through hostile situations. His ship is painted like a 1950s hotrod and even sounds like one at times. His situation reminds me most of The Last Starfighter.
He has total disregard for authority and most of the time for anyone other than himself. As the film progresses he has to come to terms with the realisation that there are things more important than he is, things that are worth fighting for albeit in his own irreverent style. Oh, and who calls him Starlord? He calls himself that of course!
The first Guardians member we meet (although she is not a member yet) is Gamora, an orphan trained from an early age to be an assassin by the main bad guy in this film, and perhaps of the entire MCU, Thanos. Gamora is supposed to be a complex character with divided loyalties in the process of making a switch between bad and good sides and atoning for undisclosed past evils. Unfortunately her character writing just makes it seem like she randomly changes her mind about what she wants. You never really get an impression that she is bad so when she reveals that she is actually a good guy it doesn’t feel like any kind of revelation.
She’s an important character in the big events of the film and a love interest for Starlord, she’s fun, feisty and empowered but it would have been great to see a more developed character and more robust back story for such an important character.
Rocket is a raccoon who has been modified genetically and cybernetically by an unidentified group of mad scientist types. He’s pretty pissed about being experimented on and being the only one of his kind. He works out his frustration with wise cracking and blowing the hell out of things. Working with Groot he is a bounty hunter who tries to capture Starlord after his one time pirate friends put a bounty on his head.
Rocket gets some of the best lines and some great action in this film and his relationship with his partner Groot is great fun to watch. The combination of a cute looking little furry creature with his hardbitten, sarcastic and violent personality is always amusing to watch.
Groot is a huge, sentient humanoid tree of uncertain origins and motives. Despite having a vocabulary consisting entirely of “I am Groot”, he is able to communicate effectively if only with his partner Rocket. Usually a bit of a pacifist, especially when compared to Rocket, he has enormous destructive potential and puts it to good effect at several points throughout the film.
The final Guardians member is a bit of an unlikely addition. Drax the Destroyer meets the rest of the crew in prison and forces them to take him with them on their escape. After he finds that they all have a common enemy he joins the group for an opportunity for revenge. Drax is impulsive and unpredictable and would rather punch something now than spend any time thinking or talking about how to fix the problem. He spends most of the film with his shirt off to show off his impressive muscles.
Of the bad guys, there isn’t really anything interesting to say about most of them. Ronan the Accuser is a generic mad villain motivated by racial hatred to commit genocide against the Nova Empire. Thanos has previously appeared (blink and you’ll miss him) as the mysterious benefactor of Loki in Iron Man. Here he is the mysterious benefactor of Ronan, assisting him in his scheme to destroy the Nova but actually just using him to get an Infinity Stone. Thanos looks like he is going to have a major role in future films and is probably left mysterious for future reveals. Ronan just gets a bit of a lazy treatment from writers and directors.
Nebula is worth a mention as she is essentially the same as Gamora. Given a similar back story of being an orphan adopted by Thanos and augmented and trained to make her a powerful fighter, she is also loaned to Ronan by Thanos and also rebels against her adoptive father. However she chooses the evil path and supports Ronan when he rebels against Thanos while Gamora chooses good and joins the Guardians. Again like Gamora, the reasoning behind these decisions is barely hinted at and it feels like the audience is just expected to shut up and accept that one sister is good and the other evil.
Both girls are rebelling against their father but disagree over the best way to do it and fight each other. Gamora’s motivation doesn’t make much sense as she is forced clumsily into odd actions by writers who want to make a big reveal of the fact that she is actually a good guy. This “surprise” is clumsily revealed and happens so quickly that it doesn’t feel worth the effort that was put into setting it up. Nebula’s choice gets even less explanation and her choices just seem arbitrary.
This film is great fun and spectacular to watch but deliberately doesn’t make much sense. It is tempting to dismiss it as a bit of a fun novelty but it also has some important details that link in to previous films and hints at things to come in future stories in the Marvel Universe. It introduces characters Thanos and the collector as well as mcguffins the Infinity Stones in detail where previously they have only had short and/or mid-credits, appearances in other films.
Given the light-hearted theme of the majority of the film, I wish they had gone for a less dramatic ending perhaps with just a flippant dismissal of the enemy rather than the standard dramatic showdown required by Hollywood. It also elevates Starlord and crew too far above their lovable, bumbling but somehow successful status that makes them endearing throughout the rest of the film.