Guardians of the Galaxy: Five Observations About Marvel’s Most Surprising Movie Yet
Saw GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY this weekend, but hey, I bet you could figure that out from the title of the post. As promised, five thoughts:
1 – It takes your skepticism and challenges you to hang onto it over the course of the film. Count me among the skeptics. I’m not familiar with the comics, and the trailer, while fun, lit up the skeptic in my brain. Talking raccoon? Humanoid tree? A WWE wrestler in a vital role? Haven’t we had enough CGI and wooden (literally and figuratively) summer performances? As I watched, and laughed, and grew to love the characters, including a CGI tree voiced by Vin Diesel, I noticed I had to work extra hard if I wanted to remain skeptical. The movie strips away the critic inside of you until it gets to your gooey, childlike center. I challenge you to not have a great time with this movie.
2 – We haven’t seen the last of Dave Bautista in blockbuster movies. In a movie where you could make the case that just about anyone “stole” the movie, my pick goes to Dave Bautista. As a wrestling fan, one of his criticisms in WWE was the lack of charisma and character, but in that realm you’re always getting compared to guys as electric as the Rock or as polished and psychotic as Ric Flair. His style and delivery was absolutely pitch perfect for the role (an alien who does not get sarcasm and takes everything literally) and he generates some of the biggest laughs in the film.
3 – The “Star Wars” comparisons are appropriate. It occurred to me in the final act, when there are battles taking place on multiple fronts and fighter spaceships are blasting a hole in an enemy warship, that the scope of the conflict, the stakes, and the sheer lunacy of everything going on at once was reminiscent of some of the climactic and iconic Star Wars scenes. I couldn’t help but smile thinking that there were thirteen-year-old kids in the audience slack jawed at the spectacle–this was their Star Wars. Sure, this film is snarkier, and probably funnier, but I don’t think you can make the case it’s better than Star Wars, mostly because of the presence of Darth Vader. You could compare Thanos to the Emperor, sure, but then Ronan=Vader? No way.
4 – James Gunn was the right man for the job. When I think of Gunn, I think of Slither. That flick was derivative of one of my favorite childhood horror movies, Night of the Creeps, but Slither eclipsed it with humor and execution. That is what I think of when I think of Gunn, and that is what he brought to Guardians–humor and execution.
5 – A blow has been struck to the brooding, heavy, gritty-realism superhero trope. If Chris Nolan ushered in the golden era of heavy, dark, brooding, gritty, realistic, gravity-baked superhero movies, Gunn has struck a blow for having fun and taking chances. When you try for too much gravity, you end up with a dirge like Man of Steel. This was the perfect balance of emotional heft and smile generation. Gunn has these guys skipping and whistling through the graveyard, and we’re right along with him.
My final thought is, I love that this part of the Marvel universe is opened up. Without rooting it in the key Avengers franchises and Earth itself, they have so much freedom to push the limits of filmmaking and taking chances with story beats. There is the severed head of a god being mined for tissue, aliens of all races and neon skin colors, and for once we actually need the supers on the screen to let us know the awesome places we’re visiting. The universe is an awfully big iceberg, and Earth is just one cell on the tip. Guardians showed us a lot more and has me excited to ride along for another adventure.