VO: Disclaimer right now — I’m fairly certain in the next few days (hell, I’ve seen the articles already), we’re going to see a lot of opinion pieces about Guardians of the Galaxy. And some of them bring up good points about Marvel and the lack of female and POC-led movies. But for me right now? I’ll let them talk. I’m too busy dancing around to “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone.
I can’t lie, I’ve been on the GoTG train since I saw the first trailer and how they used Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” and knowing Chris Pratt was cast as Peter Quill. I know nothing about the comic books, but Pratt’s one of those people who is just a delight to watch with his goofball antics. He makes looking like a clueless slacker effortless (and if you’ve seen him on Parks and Recreation, you’ll realize that he’s improvised one of the greatest lines on that show). The man is smarter than he likes to appear and really, I feel like that played well into Quill’s character.
And the movie didn’t disappoint. For me it was deft — moving from comedy to action to tragedy and back to comedy in ways that didn’t feel jarring. Maybe it’s because it was so steeped in nostalgia (I am seriously disappointed not to see an Awesome Mixtape Volume 1 actually made as a mixtape) that the movie felt like it was paying homage — not copying — those great action movie beats.
Quill going through the temple reminded me of Indiana Jones, but with a spin of someone relaxed instead of tense and sweaty (also I must thank director James Gunn for including a close up shot of Pratt swiveling his hips to Redbone). The mentions of John Stamos and Kevin Bacon were also hilarious because for a kid who was kidnapped in 1988, Quill really reflects that time and the nostalgia of it. Who didn’t watch Full House back then?
KC: I’m actually not familiar with the comics either, and to be honest with you, I was not fully sold on the trailers, at the time. It is SO easy to get a film like that very wrong, and so easy to move from camp to insulting a viewers intelligence. I actually had no desire to see “Guardians,” until a bunch of people I trust had glowing early reviews and I knew I had to see it.
It had a tone that reminded me SO much of the first Star Wars trilogy; a sense of adventure, optimism and fun, a true popcorn film that’s not afraid to be silly or go for laugh, and most importantly a tone that understands the need to appeal to our love of true fantasy. So many SF/F films have gone into a dystopian route with its storytelling, and even comic book movies, especially DC movies, have moved into a very gritty, dark direction. “Guardians,” like “The Avengers” before it, it is just plain fun, but also relatable. We look at Star-lord/Peter and see a bit of ourselves, an ordinary person navigating an extraordinary world and we relate, we sympathize with his loss, we understand his motivations and we cheer for him, even as he plays the “rake and scoundrel” role. We cheer for all of the Guardians: Rocket, Drax, Groot, Gamora, because they are outcasts, underdogs that find their place. That feeling of not belonging, and finding your tribe, your chosen family, and then having exciting adventures with them, who doesn’t want that?
Tt’s so exciting to have a movie like this again, especially one that strikes a chord with the public. I felt that way about Pacific Rim but felt mostly alone with that. Heh.
VO: To me, that shows a lack of faith in the glory that is Chris Pratt — it’s easy to dismiss him as a dumbass thanks to Andy Dwyer, but he’s not Andy Dwyer. And hell, even Andy has had great moments of seriousness and sweetness mixed with the doofus thing and it just flows naturally out of him. I don’t know if it’s because I tend to be a supporter of everyone out of the Parks and Recreation stable, but there’s just something that worked for me.
To be honest, I was more unsure about Zoe Saldana as Gamora, aka “HER AGAIN? DUDE. THERE ARE OTHER WOMEN WHO CAN DO THIS.” But she also worked and got some great lines also (“pelvic sorcery” is one I’ll be saying for years to come). It wasn’t Uhura dolled up in green body paint — I feel like Gamora is a distinct, badass character by her own right.
Ain’t nothing wrong with getting your squee on. I totally agree on the optimism and just fun of it all. And how they’re good people — hell, even the last line “Some of it good, some of it bad” just sums up that they’re normal folks with normal motivations.
I liked the characters so much in this one because it was clear that they wanted to do good, even though they kept saying that they didn’t want to. Rocket still worked with Quill and bailed his ass out at the jail, even though he didn’t have to. Drax helped save them during the escape (maybe to kill Gamora, but well, he came around in the end).
And you’re totally right on the whole “heroic darkness” thing. I keep thinking of the essay about Captain America and how as we get older, it’s harder to do the right thing because the world can be so dark around us. Good doesn’t always mean goody two shoes, but it’s continuing to do right even though it’s the hard thing to do.
It was also gorgeous too. I want a book on the art and influences of this movie because it was just so beautiful to watch. I think that by being in outer space and a sci-fi film, they could play with colors and looks in a way that I haven’t seen in years. It felt comic book, but also so fresh. Not dark and dingy space, but the space that inhabits Fifth Element — like a pop culture mashup that was bright. Even the galaxies looked bright and gorgeous like in what we see thanks to Hubble.
But I think that brightness also translated into the overall optimism of the film. Space can be dark and dangerous and there’s always trouble, but there’s also these bright, dazzling moments where you sit back and go “whoa.”
As an aside, I don’t think you were alone with Pacific Rim. There’s a huge fandom from what I’ve seen online. You’ve just gotta find your people.
KC: Very true. I know there’s a fandom, just not as big as it deserves. With the discussion about casting diversity for comic book films, I did notice that while Guardians is not diverse in a traditional way, I did wonder if it was Marvel Studios’ backdoor way of bringing in a full-on diverse team of superheroes, as ⅗ of the actors on the team are POC – Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista – even if their characters aren’t (or are they? how do we process race and ethnicity in this universe?)
But also, as a Marvel girl that’s watched the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I certainly can’t help but notice how Marvel keeps getting this right, while DC keeps missing the mark when comes to films. I’ve seen pretty much all of the Marvel films in the theaters, and the DC films as well, and “Guardians” was the first time in many, many years where I saw such a genuine reaction at the end card that said “The Guardians of The Galaxy Will Return.” People reacted so happily, in anticipation of returning to this world and characters. I have yet to see that with any other Marvel or DC film, even Avengers.
Why does DC keep failing with this? Marvel Studios seems to embrace the idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a fantasy world, while the DC films seem to want to distance these films from the realm of fantasy; to “elevate” these films from being superhero movies in some way, ground them in a reality that’s not really appropriate (except for Batman, really). The Marvel Cinematic Universe has never shied away from the idea of aliens or magic or (cough) mutants, it’s not embarrassed to be SF/F, and I think DC’s insistence of trying to do some grand myth-making out of these stories and characters, trying to convince non-comic book fans that, “yes, these are ‘legit’ stories” is actually hurting them overall. They are trying too hard to be ‘universal.’
But anyway, back to “Guardians,” I actually love how this team interacts, part of the joy and pleasure of watching this group, is that it’s a group of characters that you want to get to know better, flaws and all. Groot was a favorite of mine, but I have to say Chris Pratt really won me over as a leading man. Chris Pratt has that “thing” that Chris Evans also has: an everyman kind of charm, but smarter than most give him credit for. I think Pratt goes more for humor while Evans has a bit of underlying danger, though.
VO: Marvel’s really got the Chris trifecta don’t they? Chris Hemsworth — who just seems like a good dude through and through; Chris Evans who is a giant goofball, but also a little more dangerous and then Chris Pratt — the everyman humor machine. I now want a Thor, Captain America and Peter Quill short of them doing something like playing poker or goofing around.
Here’s the weird thing — I understand why people aren’t happy about no Black Panther nor a Black Widow movie, but the upset I feel about that doesn’t translate over to how much I enjoyed this movie. I do wish they’d do one of those two instead of the smoking wreckage that Ant-Man is turning out to be, but that criticism is separate from how I feel about Guardians. Maybe it’s because as you said — there’s Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana in the movie. Not to mention Benicio Del Toro. Also this is the first Marvel movie penned by a woman, so I have to give props for that.
All the characters I really loved and want to know more about. I’m hoping HOPING we see Nebula again, because she’s got such an interesting background and rivalry with Gamora. Yondu better show up again with a troll doll in hand and a toothy grin for Peter Quill — I love the feeling that they love each other in a familial way. Having John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz show up also made me grin. Glenn Close also looked like she was having fun with this.
Really, I just want them to continue on this path of just a good action movie. I’m more concerned about the second movie — because that’s when sequels seem to want to go darker and they load up a ton of enemies and then it just gets to be a huge bloated mess. Anyone remember Iron Man 2? I don’t want that for my space rogues. But with Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I hope they can mix the drama with the comedy as well as they did with this — sure some of the exposition was a little long, but you know what? It’s the first movie, not many people are familiar with this, so you needed that. I want to keep the movie bouncing along to its own weird beat of comedy in strange moments that you don’t expect (dance off anyone?).
KC: Oh yeah, I don’t want a dark sequel either. I’ve heard that’s the direction for Avengers 2, and no thank you. As for Black Panther, we are LONG OVERDUE for a movie about him, but I have been pleased with how they’ve handled the MCU overall, and if Marvel Studios is dragging their feet in order to create the best possible introduction for him, then I will be patient (I know, I am being optimistic)
Or a Falcon flick. I’d take that too.
As for Guardians 2, if they can manage to maintain the chemistry and lightness of the first. These characters are our friends now, I hope they treat the sequel like the reunion it should be.