11 Days of Marvel: Guardians of the Galaxy


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:

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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 It feels a bit like tak­ing the piss out of a trope from Jacobean drama: out of date and irrel­e­vant.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Bill’s Ranking:

1Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2Captain America: The First Avenger

3The Avengers

4Iron Man

5Iron Man 3

6Thor

7The Incredible Hulk

8Guardians of the Galaxy

9. Iron Man 2

10Thor: The Dark World

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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).

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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.

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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.

Erin’s Rankings:

1. Captain America: The First Avenger

2. Iron Man

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

4. The Avengers

5. Iron Man 3

6. Thor

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

8. The Incredible Hulk

9. Iron Man 2

10. Thor: The Dark World

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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.

Bill: Lord.

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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.

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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.

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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!


Bill Coberly

About Bill Coberly

Bill Coberly is the founder and now Editor Emeritus (that means he doesn't really do anything any more) of the Ontological Geek. He currently studies law at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he lives with his wonderful wife and a pair of small and snuggly terriers.