8.06.2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

This IS a badass poster though.
"All heroes start somewhere."

Hello former friends and colleagues, welcome back to The Tagline! Originally I had planned to put off seeing Guardians until a little later (mostly just because I knew it would be in theaters forever and I wanted to see some other things that were less likely to stick around) but circumstances shifted and I ended up seeing it over the weekend. If you've lived in deep space for the past week or so... I imagine you still were picking up a lot of chatter about this movie, as roughly the entire internet has been orgasming about it basically since it was released, or some time that was significantly BEFORE that. Still, some background. Guardians of the Galaxy represents a relatively gutsy gamble on the part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, focusing on a group of interplanetary misfits who end up... guarding the galaxy I guess. First among them, as the unifying force that makes them a team, is Peter Quill, aka Starlord (Chris Pratt, having a busy year between this and The Lego Movie), who in the movie is abducted by aliens approximately 3 minutes after the movie starts, and 10 seconds after his mom dies from what looked like cancer. The movie jumps forward to his adulthood, where he has become a Ravager (who are like space pirates I guess? They are the guys who abducted him) and steals stuff from places while banging ladies who are interesting colors like pink why not. A particular salvage brings him into conflict with Ronan the Accuser, who if that sounds like a guy you don't want to be in conflict with to you, you've got a good sense for guys who hang out in giant space ships waiting to kill you with a fucking hammer. The guy's space fortress is called the Dark Aster for crap's sake. This is clearly a dude lacking a sense of humor, which is too bad for Starlord because that's one of his strongest attributes? I guess. Starlord's lot is tossed together with a motley group of cock-ups, including Gamora (Zoe Saldana gets green, maybe she liked the looks of her roomate at Starfleet Academy), who has betrayed Ronan and Thanos in order to prevent disaster, Draxx the Destroyer (Dave Batista, as in the pro wrestler) who seeks revenge against Ronan for the death of his family, and the duo Rocket (who is a talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (a humanoid tree voiced and motion captured by Vin Diesel). 

With Guest Star Benicio Del Toro, and Howard the Duck.
Together (ish) this group of very unlikely heroes attempts to keep an orb containing an infinity stone out of the hands of Ronan, because as you might guess from the above description, he's kind of a dick. Ronan's hired by Thanos to get the stone, in exchange for Thanos destroying Xandar, which is home to a bunch of people Ronan really hates because they beat his people in a war. Presumably once Thanos does that he will not just stop destroying planets, because Thanos is a really bad guy (if you remember he lent out the Chitauri to Loki in The Avengers, and appeared briefly in the after credits scene). To give you an idea of how bad he is, Thanos considers Ronan to be a punk, and treats him that way, even though Ronan has all that crazy shit I just told you about in the last paragraph. The take home is that any of these fucking guys having the power to blow up planets would probably be a bad thing for everyone. So Starlord and his new friends are trying to deliver the stone to someone else, but not for free, they're looking for a payday.

Must've been tough to frame this shot.
That's an important thing to understand here. These guys have a heroic streak, but otherwise they're kind of all assholes, and they're all operating for their own selfish ends. The whole movie is a lot less pure hero and more generally not bad guy, and it is also a lot lighter than some of the other recent Marvel stuff (certainly more so than the fairly serious and dark Winter Soldier). Most of the time the humor and camp worked for me, but there were definitely a few minutes when I just didn't feel it. This brings me to the part of this article that will probably get me thrown off a bridge in the middle of the night: I just thought this film was pretty good. Normally that is an acceptable feeling, but I could tell immediately as the movie began that I was not having the same experience as most of the people I knew who had already seen the movie. Having read a lot of Marvel comics when I was growing up, I had at least a passing familiarity with the Guardians and Kree, the Nova Corps and who Ronan the Accuser was, I just was never that into those particular comics (Sadly for the most part my favorite Marvel comics are not currently part of the MCU, I was all about Spider-man and the X-Men). I think this was probably an important demarcation point for audiences of this movie.

Karen Gillan as a blue cyber-killer.
Was the movie funny? Absolutely. Action packed? Sure thing. Did it look fantastic? Yeah they did a really great job making me feel like I was in some far away place in outer space. The movie was a love letter to fans for sure, but I didn't feel like it spent a lot of time trying to pull in anyone else. The movie begins in a really jumpy fashion that barely introduces characters or a premise before switching locales something like 3 or 4 times in the first 10 minutes, and I never really felt that invested in the fate of Xandar, a planet that you see in the movie for a few spare minutes before the climax of the film. It just felt to me like this movie knew it had something to prove, and so it tried to cram way too much into its run time, to the detriment of things like character development, which in turn undermines the payoff when you're supposed to be feeling invested in the fates of these characters when their lives are hanging in the balance. I frankly could not find it in myself to give a shit what happened to Xandar, because I barely even knew where that was. It sort of felt like this movie was trying to emulate what The Avengers did, only THAT film had 5 other movies leading up to it to do all the heavy lifting in the back story department. You can't just skip to the climax, you have to actually write the whole book first.

Also featuring Sly Cooper.
I've talked about this with some people and as excited fans are wont to do the typical reply is that "you're just not getting it" or that "Sure at first but then x y and z exciting things happen and you're totally invested in the movie?" Well no, I DO get it, I understand why (at least most) people are raving about the movie. Those are simply not things that I felt about it, and insisting that I did or will is not a constructive response. It's cool to be super excited, that's great, but don't act like that's mandatory okay? The take home here is that, If you are a fan of the Guardians already, or if you are just all in at the table for the MCU for its own sake, then this movie will probably be everything you dreamed it could be. If you don't fall into those two categories, you'll STILL probably have an okay time, but you might end up feeling a little bit like you're on the outside, and the movie is not going to take special lengths to let you in. Worse yet, this probably won't be the last time you feel that way at a Marvel movie, given that this gamble paid off big time. Guardians 2 is definitely happening, and I would be willing to bet big money that we see them again in Avengers 3, which the rumor mill has as an Infinity Gauntlet/Thanos situation.

That's it for today! Sorry there's only one post this week, but I am preparing to exhibit at Otakon in Baltimore this weekend, where if you find me I will give you literally the worst gift anyone has ever received. 

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