Sorry for the delay, but now, Day 10 of 11 Days of Marvel is here! In this project, Bill and Erin go through every single extant film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and write their reactions to them! The project started here, with Iron Man, or you can click here to see all the articles in the project so far. Today is about:
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Bill’s Response: Too Apathetic to Write a Witty Title
I have tried so hard to like this movie, you guys. I tried to be excited for it when I saw the wildly underwhelming trailers that everyone else was ecstatic about. I tried to like it while I was watching it in the theaters. I tried to like it when I watched it again several months later, in light of everyone’s rave reviews. And I tried to like it the other night when we watched it for this project. But I don’t like this movie, friends. It is a silly movie. It is Boring, Hackneyed, and Not Funny.
I cannot bring myself to care about most of these characters, but I also don’t hate them enough to say much of anything witty about them. Chris Pratt does the best he can with a dumb script, but his Peter Quill/Star-Lord is such a generic Heroic Manchild that there’s absolutely no grip to him whatsoever. He slides off of my consciousness like water off of a duck’s back. His love for the pop music of the ‘70s and ‘80s feels like a cheap attempt for the movie to score some Tarantinite cred. His casual womanizing and general grossness (“If I had a blacklight in here, it’d look like a Jackson Pollock painting”) fail to land. The intention is presumably to make it clear that he’s Not A Traditional Hero, but there are so few Traditional Heroes in contemporary media that it’s utterly unremarkable. It feels a bit like taking the piss out of a trope from Jacobean drama: out of date and irrelevant. He’s not as charming as Tony Stark, nor as completely out-of-control as Sterling Archer, and so I just don’t care at all.
Ronan the Accuser is the second-worst villain in the franchise. Lee Pace plays him with a bizarre pouty petulance that is utterly at odds with the writers’ attempts at grandiose dialogue. He comes off more as a toddler throwing a temper tantrum than as a menacing villain. His introduction is a decent scene, but the rest of the movie fails to deliver on his speech. Also, he wants to blow up the world, which as I’ve said before, is the Most Boring Thing, and I never want to see it again. He wants to chew scenery with the big boys, but whether because of bad direction, crummy acting, or a lousy script, he feels like a B-movie villain wearing a silly hat.
Gamora is incredibly disappointing. I want to like this ostensibly badass space assassin, yet she spends the whole movie being rescued or upstaged by the rest of the crew. Her dialogue is laughable (she literally says something like “stop it you fool, you’ll be the death of us all” at one point, apropos of nothing). Gamora’s voice breaks constantly, as though she’s always just on the edge of tears, and her utterly generic tragic backstory is almost as boring as the completely predictable romantic tension between her and Quill. I don’t care about this chick or her problems.
Yeah, Groot and Rocket and Drax have some pretty decent moments, but the movie rests on the shoulders of its two leads and the villain, and those shoulders are not up to the task. So the plot and characters don’t make any sense, which might be okay if it was visually nifty or well-choreographed, but the movie’s action scenes are entirely forgettable. The final confrontation between Gamora and Nebula should have been one of the coolest scenes in the movie, but I defy you to remember what happens in it. Unlike The Avengers’ wonderful end fight, where the team finally coheres and works together to defeat a faceless alien army, the Guardians just keep doing the same stuff they have been doing all movie, interspersed with yet more forced, unfunny quips.
You know what this movie feels like? It feels like a truncated D&D campaign. Five characters is about right for the average D&D group, and the movie’s “look how funny and goofy we are” approach squares pretty neatly with many of the D&D games I’ve played in or run. But even most of my favorite D&D games wouldn’t translate very well to the big screen without tons of editing. The sort of wacky, improvised antics and off-the-cuff banter that characterizes many D&D sessions doesn’t have to hold together in retrospect. It just has to be fun at the time and propel the characters forward. Drax’s decision to call Ronan feels like exactly the sort of thing a mischievous player does to speed up a dragging session. I can pretty easily see the DM pausing for a moment and realizing her entire campaign outline has just been derailed.
But listening to other people tell stories about their D&D sessions is often one of the Least Interesting Things a person can do: events and plot twists which felt alive and original in the heat of the moment become predictable and unimpressive in the uncaring light of the next day.
So, I give up. I don’t like this movie, and I’m going to quit trying to.
Favorite Moment: “We’re just like Kevin Bacon” is a pretty solid brick joke. I like the idea of Knowhere, the floating, disembodied head of an Ancient God, which feels very Astral Sea to me. But Rocket weeping over Groot is probably the only moment of genuine emotion in the entire movie, and is thus easily my favorite moment while also sticking out like a sore thumb.
Least Favorite Moment: I don’t care enough about this movie to hate any individual moment of it with particular ire. Drax randomly calling Gamora a “whore” comes to mind, though.
Character I Would Rather Watch In A Feature Film: John C. Reilly’s space-cop, just trying to make ends meet and get home at the end of the day to see his hot alien wife and adorable alien daughter. He just wants to be a pleasant, local cop, but goofy would-be swashbucklers keep dropping out of the sky and messing up his day.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2. Captain America: The First Avenger
3. The Avengers
4. Iron Man
5. Iron Man 3
7. The Incredible Hulk
8. Guardians of the Galaxy
9. Iron Man 2
10. Thor: The Dark World
Erin’s Response: Evil, Generic Space Assassin
Hello, everyone! We are BACK and better than ever! Sorry for the delay in writing – we had many super fun (and very tiring) activities in the past few weeks which delayed the writing of these. Luckily, the spell lasted long enough for us to see Ant-Man, which I think we can all agree is a fortuitous event.
Without delay, I still don’t understand why Guardians of the Galaxy received so much praise. I didn’t understand it the first time I watched it, and I don’t really understand it now. Gamora is so boring (we never see her conflicted – why has it taken her until now to break free from her father? Why don’t they play with the ambiguity of her position, I don’t know, AT ALL?), Chris Pratt is cute but boring (strong guy confronting his feelings – yawn), and as far as I can tell the villain is made out of evil applesauce and jiggery-pokery (a little Supreme Court humor for you there).
I think I know why this movie struck more of a chord with people – after Captain America and Thor, it is fun to see good-ish guys who are interested in saving the galaxy as well as turning a profit. After excessive do-gooders and morally unambiguous plots, it is interesting to have heroes who don’t really want the LAWFUL GOOD title. The problem, of course, is that by placing them opposite an unabashedly homicidal maniac none of their CHAOTIC NEUTRAL tendencies have the slightest chance of prevailing.
In line with this problem, why does every story need to have as its main protagonist a white, human man? The fun part about Guardians is that this story really could have been about developing any of them. Gamora is (in my mind) the obvious choice for an alternative protagonist (after all, her life changes far more radically than Star-Lord’s). Furthermore, by focusing on her we could have actually developed the alien races, and by extension done a bit of world building with the galaxy. Who were her people? Why did her “father” take her? What does “being turned into a weapon” mean? (Why is this phrased used twice, with exactly the same verbiage?) What are the customs of her new people? Why has there been an eons long war between the Kree and Xandar? For a movie that actually passes the BechdelTest (two named female characters have a discussion about something other than a man), Gamora as a character is barely a piece of cardboard. By focusing on the Terran (male, white) Star-Lord, the galaxy remains completely unknown. This was a squandered opportunity, particularly because the goings-on of the galaxy are starting to make a much bigger impact on the rest of the franchise.
Favorite Moment: When the Nova star fighters (deliberately left ambiguous because we don’t really learn anything about these people) form the badass light-net that fends off the huge spaceship bent on total annihilation of life on the planet while our heroes spend time looking at fireflies and talking about how Gamora is a wh—. Just kidding, maybe this is my favorite moment inextricably linked to inexcusable sexism. Particularly because this sexism is coming from the world’s most literal man. There is no reason for it, unless she was actually a prostitute.
Least Favorite Moment: The whole “pelvic sorcery” moment between Gamora and Star-Lord. I enjoyed the reference to Footloose as much as anyone (and the later brick joke it inspires – “We’re just like Kevin Bacon?” was quite funny and unexpected!), but this scene is dumb. Gamora is BAD ASS and Star-Lord is way outclassed. Instead of making it about how she has never listened to music or danced (which could have developed her character in an interesting way) Star-Lord’s sad attempts at seduction almost work. Boring, trite, and hollow. Particularly because these two might just end up as friends– just kidding, she is his alien sex-kitten and we all know it.
Favorite Soundtrack thus Far: As far as I can tell, the whole point of this movie is to use a fun ‘70s/‘80s soundtrack. It does help you get your groove on.
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
2. Iron Man
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
4. The Avengers
5. Iron Man 3
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
8. The Incredible Hulk
9. Iron Man 2
10. Thor: The Dark World
And Now, A Conversation
Bill: Do you think we don’t like this movie because we HATE FUN?
Erin: No– I just think we have different understandings of the word “Fun.” See, I think fun means “enjoyable,” which apparently the writers of this movie don’t. I actually still don’t understand why everyone liked this movie. On the second viewing it was even worse because I knew all of the jokes and Groot wasn’t doing it for me.
Bill: Yeah, I feel you. Groot is funny, but he can’t carry the whole movie. It just feels very forced. The movie feels like it’s trying very hard to be wacky and irreverent, like a Hot Topic T-shirt or a teenager who is super proud of being “random.” (Is that still a thing? It was a thing teens did when we were in college. Maybe that’s an old reference.)
Erin: It is old. They now all try to be “salty.” I think.
Erin: Parts of this movie are okay. I do like the soundtrack, and I think that having a whole group of antiheroes makes the MCU a bit more interesting and diverse. But I can’t help but feel that everyone is wasted on this script.
Bill: Agreed. I think that a Guardians of the Galaxy movie made a lot of sense for the franchise as a whole — group of antiheroes to contrast with the Avengers, wacky space adventure, etc. But it’s just not a very good script. And so most of the people are just super boring videogame character cliches. And the villain is so dumb, you guys.
Erin: SO DUMB.
Bill: arg i want to destroy everything because of some nonsense look at my silly hat
Erin: LOOK AT THE HAT
Bill: It is really the silliest of hats. I mean, I get that it’s an attempt to adapt the comic book costume, but it was a silly hat there, too.
Erin: I just wish that Gamora had been more interesting or that any of the space stuff felt more real. I still feel like the galaxy is alien. And not in a fun way. More of in an Avengers “Deus Ex Villainus” way. Like the whole universe is not an end-in-itself. Which is such a waste!
Bill: Yeah, it’s really unclear how the galaxy works out there. It doesn’t have its own identity — it just feels like Star Wars Lite. You’re right, though, that the most disappointing thing about the movie is that Gamora is so boring. Her backstory really ought to make her super cool, but she’s one-note, flat, and dreadful. Also, I’m not really clear on what her superpowers are — I guess at one point she jumps really high?
Erin: I am not sure she really superpowers. So, once again, the woman’s only real power is her ass, and that she is a generic “femme fatale.” Boring.
Bill: Yarp. A lot of other people really like this movie, so I feel like I ought to spend a lot of time explaining why I don’t like it, but I really don’t have very much to say. This movie doesn’t inspire funny rants from me. I don’t hate it, it’s just boring and silly. Silly in a flighty and trivial way. I just don’t care about this movie.
Erin: I think that is the takeaway, yes.
Well, that’s it for Guardians of the Galaxy! Come back tomorrow for our thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the day after for our super nifty bonus round first-day thoughts on Ant-Man!