Review: Guardians of the Galaxy
So for ONCE I actually managed to get my ass to the cinema for the opening weekend of a major Marvel film. Hurray! And this one was the hotly anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy – a brand new set of characters for Marvel’s film franchise to play with.
In summary, the film starts c. 1988 when a young Peter Quill AKA Skylord is kidnapped from Earth by a bunch of space ravagers. Fast forward twenty years or so and our Peter is now an outlaw, stealing bits and bobs on commission, accompanied by a rather fantabulous retro soundtrack (children of the 80s you will LOVE this film).
Unfortunately for Peter, the orb he is set on nicking is also the object of desire for one particularly psycho member of the Kree empire, Ronan the Accuser who is dead set on using it to destroy the planet Xander. Not to mention the fact that in nicking the orb Peter pissed of Yondu, his former boss/foster father/pirate king type. In short, he’s in a whole heap of trouble with bounty hunters and assassins on his tail.
This all results in an almighty scrum which sees the bounty hunters, assassin and Peter himself chucked in the Kyln, a kind of alien high security prison, with the orb still in his possession. This crew of misfits manages to bond, decide to flog the orb and share the proceeds whilst kicking Ronan’s ass. Clearly, this doesn’t work out too well as along the way they realise that the orb is one hell of a weapon of mass destruction and, well, the future of the galaxy is at stake.
Then Ronan gets the orb, turns All Powerful and tells his master Thanos to take a hike. The Xanderians better watch out.
Cue some soul searching for Peter and Co.
Our misfit friends then decide that they are, well, friends, persuade Peter’s Ravager pals not to kill him but to help them and set off to save Xander. Which, after some twists, some turns, some noble self sacrifice and some nifty 1980s dance moves they do.
So that’s the film – is it any good?
Yes. It’s maybe not quite as good as Twitter would have you believe, but then tweets like: “GOTG definitely the best Marvel movie to date” and “Is #GuardiansoftheGalaxy the BEST movie of all–time? This one is worth watching more than twice!” take some living up to.
So why IS it so good? Well firstly, it’s laugh out loud funny. Second, it looks amazing. Third, the soundtrack is awesome. Fourth, they manage to take a tree, a racoon and a blue dude with no sense of humour and make them into characters you utterly adore. It’s an immensely likeable film, less dark than the X-Men, more tongue in cheek than the Avengers: kind of like Star Wars meets the Goonies.
Sound good right?
So it anything not so good?
Well, yes. Now don’t get me wrong, Guardians of the Galaxy IS likeable. I’d definitely watch it again. I’ll be first in the queue for a sequel. But that doesn’t mean it’s flawless and for me it has three major weaknesses.
1. Villains. They’re just, well, not that scary. Peter Quill is kind of a Luke Skywalker and a Han Solo rolled into one but Ronan is no Darth Vader. You’re told he’s mad and scary but you can’t help but agree with Thanos when he calls him a petulant boy. You never really feel the galaxy is under threat from someone who is so easily duped, provoked and basically, shat upon. Yondu is scarier, because he’s less predicatable. And has pointy teeth. Nebula – well, she just seems to have a bad case of sibling rivalry. For someone who’s supposed to be top assassin, that’s a bit disappointing. Which brings me onto…
2. Women. There’s been a fair bit of chat about the fact Guardians of the Galaxy passes the Bechdel test. Well, okay, if you say so. There ARE two named and major female characters and they do have a conversation which isn’t about a love interest (though in fact it is really about Ronan and the threat he poses to the universe) but they’re both woefully underdeveloped. The tree and the racoon have more character development than Gamora. We’re told she’s Thanos’ favourite daughter but it’s never revealed why (apart from as a motivation to his other daughter to kick her butt). She’s the Guardians moral core, acting as Peter Quill’s conscience, but we’re given no real insight into how she turned from being a top assassin to rebel. Has she been waiting all these years for this opportunity? We never find out. That’s disappointing. It’s tough to create vivid characters in an ensemble film and yet Guardians manages it with everyone but Gamora and the baddies. That’s a missed opportunity. Oh and hardly any of the incidental characters are female either, bar Nova Prime, unless they’re girlfriends or slaves. That too, is a shame.
3. Emotion. I didn’t feel that much. I laughed. I was entertained, but I didn’t feel that moved. There is a critical moment where Peter Quill recalls his mother reaching out her hand to him… he has to make a decision to take the hand being offered. It feels like it should be a major emotional moment but it’s not because, well, the stakes just aren’t high enough. He doesn’t have enough to lose. Compare to Iron Man in the Avengers shooting off into space, overcoming narcissm and selfishness in a terrifying moment of self sacrifice. You FEEL that. Guardians, to my mind, just doesn’t have that kind of resonance.
That doesn’t mean it’s not good. It is. It’s just not the emotional journey offered by some of the other Marvel films. That being said it’s one hell of a feel good ride, and certainly leaves you wanting more.
Top favourite moments:
Peter earnestly telling Gamora about the ancient Legend of the Warrior known as Kevin Bacon who teaches a whole town to dance. Just. Awesome.
Drax. Just. So. Literal. Love him.
Groot’s expression after he thwacks a whole bunch of Kree soldiers with one long root. Instant happiness.
Peter trying to involve Gamora in his dance to distract Ronan. And failing.
Baby Groot. Just awwww.
So what does the future hold?
Well, with a Doctor Strange film being in the offing and infinity gems being tossed about I’m hoping that the Marvel film franchise is heading in the direction of the Infinity Gauntlet story arc. That sees Nebula defeating Thanos to become an EPIC supervillain and a mixed bag of Guardians, Avengers and the odd Herald of Galactus (my fave, the Silver Surfer) teaming up to defeat her.
Definitely a Bechdel test pass. And awesome. So let’s hope that Marvel wrestle the rights to the Silver Surfer and the Fantastic Four back from Fox, because they deserve to be in the hands of a studio who knows that to do with them. And judging by the Fantastic Four films, that isn’t 20th Century Fox.
Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy? What did you think?