Monday, August 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy review, part 1: Character is what you are in the dark...of space

For the first part of my review, I'm going to look at the characters, with an emphasis on how they differ from their comics counterparts.

In fact, this is barely a review of the movie at all, but, if you want a look at the characters and some comics nerdery, read on!

Back in my day, both major comics publishers had ongoing series set in the 31st Century. DC published the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Marvel had the Guardians of the Galaxy, led by Vance Astrovik, an astronaut from 20th Century Earth. I don't think I ever read any GotG prior to working at the comic book store. I remember Vance, though, from my Gamer's Guide to the Marvel Universe, because he seemed like the most unplayable hero imaginable.

He was a thousand years old, and only alive because of his spacesuit. If he took more than 30 points of damage in one attack, or 30 cumulative points of damage from bladed weapons, his containment suit would rupture, and he would age to death in moments.


No amount of Pelvic Sorcery can make me cool again after writing that.

Fortunately, Vance Astrovik has nothing to do with this movie. He was a member of the old Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a movie about the NEW Guardians of the Galaxy, the 2008 comics series.  I'm pretty sure I never knew about this until every website online referenced the movie with a variation of the phrase "based on Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's critically acclaimed 2008 series."

Star-Lord: If you had asked me about Star-Lord, I would have made a bunch of tortured faces, trying to remember something, ("Starfox and Firelord used to be buddies...maybe he has something to do with them?") before I'd finally just say "Who?!" just like the guy in the trailer. On paper, Star-Lord looks awful. He's a combination of traits that are either boring (the normal human point of view on a team of super-powered weirdos) or easy to screw up (the lovable rogue).

However, Chris Pratt and James Gunn pull it off perfectly. I said of him in my review of the Lego Movie "Chris Pratt is about three picoseconds from superstardom, between this and Guardians of the Galaxy. I met him once, briefly, about ten years ago for a promotional event for Everwood. I understand that he's an actor and everything, but he really seemed like a genuinely nice guy who really was legitimately happy to be at the event."

Gamora: When I first heard that that Drax and Gamora were going to be in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I was pretty excited. I didn't know of the new comics series, so I assumed they'd be borrowing from the Infinity Watch, which included Drax and Gamora amongst its members. (The Infinity Watch was so neat, because each member of the team had a relic of almost unimaginable power that he or she was unwilling to use.)

I was living in the past, though, because it turned out that the pair were members of the second incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Zoe Saldana
does a fine job. My biggest complaint is that between this, and Star Trek, and Avatar, she should leave some action sci-fi roles for the other actresses out there!

Gamora has a cool look. I liked her fishnet patterned bodysuit in the comics, though that neckline is pretty ridiculous. It makes Power Girl's boob window look positively puritanical. It's a memorable costume that could have been vastly improved by closing it up. That exposed flesh should be black or gold material up to her neck, and then it would be just about perfect.

My initial post on Facebook about the movie was: I wanted to enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy, but I was just *acutely* disappointed by the changes to Gamora's backstory...oh, who am I kidding? Best Marvel movie I've seen since Spider-Man 2!

And I was mostly kidding, but I do prefer Gamora's original backstory. Thanos didn't kill her parents; she was orphaned by an unrelated attack. He wanted an assassin who would serve him of her own volition.  There are some very nice scans of one of my favorite stories at this link. I can understand why they would change it to what they had in the movie, it streamlines the plot rather than introducing another complication, it gives the audience another reason to hate Thanos, and it gives Gamora a reason to rebel. But, still, I feel like the story loses something without that element.

Drax the Destroyer: Comic book Drax has one of those convoluted 1970's Marvel Comics backstories that would just make no sense outside of that context. So they reimagined him as an alien whose family was fridged by Ronan. That's fine, I suppose. A little bit generic, but I like the dynamic of the excessively literal alien that Batista brings to the group.

Groot: I'm not that familiar with comic book Groot. Vin Diesel earned about fifteen years of good will for his performance in the Iron Giant, and he's been squandering that one Riddick sequel/xXx/Pacifier at a time. Just when it seemed like I could write him off forever, he comes back with Groot's voice, and is awesome. I just hope this doesn't mean another decade and a half of shitty movies.

Rocket Racoon: I thought I'd hate Rocket. When I went in, I was expecting him just to be Pip the Troll, whom I've never found funny. I was expecting unfunny comic relief, probably based around fart jokes, and he wound up being outstanding! For a CG character, he was flawlessly inserted into a number of complex environments, he was legitimately funny, and he had a number of really poignant scenes as well.

Thanos: Man, I love Thanos. He started as Jim Starlin's ripoff of Darkseid, but grew into something absolutely mythic and entirely his own. This is the page I always think of when I'm imagining Thanos:

He's boring when he's written as a nothing more than a cosmic-scale Doctor Doom, but I love him when he's the self-destructive death-worshipping demigod. I loved him in the old comics, in the Thanos Quest prelude to the Infinity Guantlet and in his capacity as a frenemy to the Infinity Watch.

The Infinity Gauntlet has a great cover

And then, seeing that Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet were popular, Marvel told successively less interesting variations (Infinity War, Infinity Crusade, Annihilation , The Thanos Imperative) on the same story for the next twenty years, which required that they undo all the character development Thanos had experienced.  I saw this coming, and stopped reading, and thus, still have fond memories.

NebulaNebula was awful in the comics. She was a blue space pirate who would show up every so often, and be boring before somebody kicked her ass and sent her on her way. She was always one of those characters that the company tried to promote as a bigger deal than she actually was.

She claimed to be Thanos' granddaughter, but I think that's been disproven or retconned. I liked her more in the movie. Karen Gillan did a nice job bringing the sibling rivalry to life.

Ronan the Accuser: I'm not sure what's more surprising. Ronan the Accuser in a major motion picture, or Lee Pace playing the role.

I've loved Lee Pace for a long time. I loved him in Wonderfalls,

I loved him in Pushing Daisies,

but, well, look at the dude. He would not be my pick for the supreme enforcer of justice for a warrior race. (Also, he's the Elf King in the Hobbit movies?! Dang! Who's his agent?!)

I never had a strong opinion on Ronan, probably because he never had a consistent characterization. Sometimes he was a shouty space asshole, sometimes he was a shouty space asshole, but with good reasons and sometimes he was a Hard Man making Hard Choices.

I like his look, and that counts for something in comic books. 

The Collector: I was really excited to see the Collector would be in the movie. I've always loved his design.

Behold: The Collector!

Except, when I checked,it turned out that I was thinking of the Possessor and not the Collector. (They're both members of the Elders of the Universe,  each of whom are the last survivors of their respective species, which is probably why I made the mistake.)

This guy is the Collector.

Behold: The Collector! For reals!

Ugh. The Collector. He's like Brainiac, if Brainiac looked like the creepy uncle to a child molester. He's not to be confused with the one Treehouse of Horror episode, where the Comic Book Guy played a character named the Collector. CBG had the same general schtick, but a much better design.

The Collector was best known for being repeatedly disintegrated and being brought back to life in the pages of the Avengers in the 1960s.

In case I haven't made it clear, I'm not a big fan.

I did kind of like him as a character in the movie, though. Benicio del Toro played him as an "outer space Liberace", which is actually kind of an interesting twist on a character that never really moved me. I enjoyed his brief appearance.

In the next part of the movie actual movie review!!!


  1. When I was a kid, I picked which comics to read based on their covers or how cool the characters' powers were. I didn't really absorb much of what I read, and probably spent more time thinking about fantasy battles based on trading-card power stats than I did actually enjoying stories.

    But in the past few years, I've decided to read comics as an adult, and that's meant seeking out characters I'd convinced myself I liked as a kid--just to see if I actually *do* like them. This, of course, led to reading about Thanos, because when I was a kid Thanos was AWESOME.

    I've since read Thanos Quest (in the REBIRTH OF THANOS trade paperback), Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, and some WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH issues to bridge the gaps there. I have more Warlock issues waiting to be read, but I don't want to dive into them until I have Infinity Crusade in my hands (as that's the major arc that follows them).

    Long story short, I kind of love both the Infinity Watch and Thanos. And after watching GUARDIANS, I find myself wondering why I haven't read any of those space comics in over a year. I need to get on that, especially since I've already started to forget where Infinity War left off . . .

    As far as the film goes, it was freakin' fantastic. I look forward to your review!

    1. Heh. My old boss at the comic book store said that he got into Marvel team comics like the Avengers because he thought that their faces in the corner looked really cool.

      I dug out my binder of trading cards after the movie. They're surprisingly well preserved.

  2. When Guardians of the Galaxy is firing on all cylinders, you'll think there's nothing better in this world, or any other.

  3. Laugh-out-loud funny and production-designed to death, Guardians of the Galaxy pops off the screen.

  4. Gunn makes this huge entertainment accessible to the converted and the neophyte alike, and he has only has one goal: To send you out of the theater with a fat smile on your face. Mission accomplished.

  5. Guardians bounces with the energy of pure invention

  6. Great movie!! I had not really kept up with or paid much attention to the guardians of the galaxy prior to seeing this movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw it with my son and wife and all three of us really liked it. It has a lot of good action and is quite funny as well. Very Enjoyable.