Saturday, August 9, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy review, part II: He'll have fun, fun, fun til Ronan takes the Soul Gem away

The second part of my review of Guardians of the Galaxy. The first part can be found here, and focuses on how the characters differ from their counterparts in the comic books.
I'll sometimes review the trailers I see as part of a movie review, because, hey, trailers are fun. I wasn't the only person to express the opinion that the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was extremely well put-together.

Here's my capsule review of the trailer that aired with X-Men: DoFP
Guardians of the Galaxy: I worked three years in a poorly trafficked comic store, and mostly just read comics for eight hours a day. Never once did I read a copy of Guardians of the Galaxy. Ah, this is Firefly done right. This trailer, and presumably, the movie that goes with it, remember that movies should be fun.
I'm not going to rehash my dislike for Firefly as part of this review. It's a fun Traveller campaign, marred by an excessively literal interpretation of the Western tropes, coupled with the whole "You can't tell me what to do!" Libertarian jerk-off fantasy. Guardians of the Galaxy keeps the good parts.

I've enjoyed Jame's Gunn's superhero movies since The Specials, which has a scene that cracks me up every time. Two super-heroes are watching the news together.

The word that gets tossed about the most in reference to Guardians of the Galaxy seems to be "fun".

What makes something "fun" is, of course, extremely subjective.  We can both look at the exact same thing at the exact same time, but come away with very different impressions of it.

I'm reminded of the Village Voice "Harlot" review.   A female writer wrote a negative piece on Guardians, the usual suspects break out their usual misogynistic language in the comments (I know, "Never read the Comments") , but then the paper takes the unusual step of addressing this in a separate piece.

However, and the awkward thing is, it's a terrible review. It's glib, smug, condescending, frequently wrong on points of fact (Groot's catch phrase is "I'm Groot!" -  Really?! Come on, that's just inexcusably sloppy), and every paragraph seems to be a variation of her thesis statement, which was "This movie wasn't amusing in a way I personally find entertaining, therefore it is objectively bad."

However, it's still not cool to call someone a harlot. I can't imagine that the word itself has a lot of sting, by itself, it's too ridiculously strange and antiquated to take seriously, but the intent is there. Meaning, that even though Falstaff, sorcerer of Light chose a ridiculous and inadequate tool,  he was still trying to silence a woman by projecting a certain sexual identity on to her, and that should always be called out.

And there is no contradiction between defending the reviewer and trashing the review. She wrote a terrible review, but this doesn't make her a terrible person, and even if it did, it wouldn't excuse someone calling her a harlot.

Oops, that was a larger digression than I was expecting.

 We open with Peter Quill's mom dying of cancer in a hospital death. She tells him to take her hand, but he bolts away and is promptly picked up by a team of passing space pirates. Presumably, his space dad is Ford Prefect.

We pick up twenty-six years later, where Peter, now calling himself Star Lord, is stealing this metal sphere. He's confronted by bad guys as he succeeds, and anyone reading this has already seen this part in the trailers.

He goes to sell it on Xandar, but his buyer get cold feet when Quill mentions Ronan. Quill exits, is ambushed by Gamora, and she takes the orb. Nearby Rocket and Groot join in the fight, and everyone is arrested. I thought this was a decent scene, though I think Gamora  "The deadliest woman in the whole galaxy" should have had a better showing against Quill. Not that she should have double-tapped him in the face or anything, but simply taken some kind of precaution to ensure that he didn't get right back up and steal the orb back.

Everybody's sentenced to the Kyln, a super prison. (A lot of science fiction names are bad, but, ugh, the Kyln is a terrible name, even by these standards.) They team up with Drax and break out. Scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy never go on too long. My last thought before they abruptly ramped things up and escaped was, "That was fun, but I'm getting bored now."

They escape, and go to Knowhere.The Collector makes them wait, and Gamora and Quill have a chat. Seeing a clip of this scene is what convinced Jen to come and see the movie.  If I recall correctly, the act on Nowhere had two of my favorite nonverbal bits in the movie. One on them is how Rocket's having his meltdown, and it looks like he's going to shoot the other members of the group, Quill interposes himself between the gun and the other people. It's a symbolic act; he's pretty squishy as outer space superheroes go, but it's an understandable, human, act, too.

The Collector calls the group in to finish the transaction. He opens the orb informs them that it's the container for one of the Infinity Gems. Just as they're about to sell the orb to the Collector, his assistant (who has the same name, Carina, as the Collector's daughter from the comics) picks it, in an attempt to free herself from her servitude, but she's unable to contain the power it holds, and she blows up. (This was the other scene I liked a lot. I love Groot's body language when he picks up Rocket to escape the explosion. He did it instantly, and the way he cradled Rocket was so protective.)

Drax had previously drunk dialed Ronan to come on down for an ass-whupping, and Ronan arrives now.  His forces kick the crap out of everybody, and he personally manhandles Drax. Ronan get what he came for, so he leaves. Star-Lord and Gamora are picked up by Yondu and his band of space pirates, Rocket, Groot and Drax hatch a plan to rescue them. Star-Lord fast talks his way out the situation by convincing Yondu that they can still retrieve the orb, then they ally with Nova corps on Xandar to stop Ronan from blowing the place up. (Also, the Nova Corps uniforms looks much better on screen than I ever could have expected.

This was another well assembled action scene. I've read criticisms that the tactics employed by both sides are kind of silly, but I think that's true of almost any sci-fi movie. Modern warfare just doesn't happen on a human scale anymore, to say nothing of what we could expect in the future. This is something I'm willing to accept for the sake of the movie. (Iain Banks showed you could tell a "realistic" outer space battle with the Culture stories, but they feature space combat between AIs that is over in seconds, and first strikes from outside solar systems, which really wouldn't fit with what's been established in GotG.)

Another thing I really liked was that everybody worked together and did the best than could do. Nobody sells out/panics/drops the ball. They stick together until Ronan overwhelms them. There is some back and forth, and Rocket hits Ronan with his ship, making people who have never seen a movie before believe that Ronan is dead. As the damaged ship is hurtling towards the surface, Groot sacrifices himself to protect the rest of the team. I liked this scene, it was moving and all, but I don't think enough had been done to set it up, so it felt really forced.

They land, Ronan pops out of the wreckage, and is going to destroy Xandar, and he says something like "Behold! Your 'Guardians of the Galaxy'!" Ugh, that was so forced and unnatural and unentertaining.  It sucks that the two worst moments come so close to the end. But then we get Star-Lord challenging Ronan to a dance-off as a distraction, and Josh is right back to loving this movie. The good guys kill Ronan, they're given a pardon for their crimes, and they fly away off to new adventures.

Even Groot is back. Yay!

Most of the stuff I've complained about was "Stuff I would have done slightly differently" rather than "Stuff I thought was bad". I am very satisfied with the movie.


  1. Thanks so much for The Specials shout-out! When James Gunn was brought on to direct, every single reaction I read was either "who's this asshole?" or dredging up that one regrettable, jockish superhero orgy article he disowned years ago. No props for directing the two funniest superhero movies I'd ever seen. Which is now three, I guess, counting Guardians.

    - Chance

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