I made two trips to the theater this weekend, two nights in a row, to see Guardians of the Galaxy. At least I watched it in Burlington instead of Boston, and thus offered my wallet some protection from the box office’s depredations. To be perfectly honest, I want to watch the movie again; the Guardians of the Galaxy’s punchlines are a delight, and I consistently missed the followup lines in the audience’s waves of laughter.
If you’ve enjoyed the previous high points of the Marvel movie franchise and are looking for more of the same with a good dose of silly, Guardians of the Galaxy is the movie for you. It hits its timing wonderfully well, with a great comedy-action plot well-leavened by stupid and/or greedy and selfish characters, without leaving me feeling that anyone had the idiot ball for too long (or even at the wrong time). On my first watch-through, I enjoyed myself but was almost disoriented by the movie’s pacing as I came time and again to totally new material (well, new to me). The second time, it felt like the film fairly well flew along, flowing seamlessly from scene to scene in a rush of drama, action, and excellent comedic timing. Like I said before, I’m interested in seeing it a third time, though next time I’d like to be able to hear the lines I missed the first two times around.
I liked the actors, I liked their interactions and side comments, and I thought that even the completely wooden Groot was wonderfully expressive. More tidbits after the break, including a few complaints.
There may be some *SPOILERS* after this.
So, what problems did I have with the movie?
There was a distinct lack of people of color in the film. Besides the notable (and awesome) exception of Zoe Saldana, I think I spotted two other people of color amongst the standard alien populace. It seemed like they tried to get away with this by having lots of pink or blue or other non-standard color aliens, but as best as I could tell they didn’t even try to have any of the pink or blue people be non-caucasians underneath the makeup. I might not have noticed, if it weren’t for the quite noticeable portion of actors in the prison scene who were just straight-up black. Not black people in pink or blue makeup, just black. I’d like to think that alien empires in the Marvel universe don’t mysteriously share the same racially biased prison populations that are standard in the US, but… thanks Hollywood. Or something. If you’re going to pretend that there are no black people, why put lots of them in your prison scene? At least it wasn’t as bad as the trailer for “Dawn of the Planet of Only White People Survived the Ape-pocalypse Despite the Movie Being Set in the SF Bay Area” (a cumbersome title for what seemed like an equally cumbersome movie).
Questionable race representation seems like a fairly standard Hollywood problem. The “protagonist who’s a lovable asshole, but mostly an asshole towards women” dynamic also felt uncomfortably familiar, as did Drax’s casual use of the word “whore” to describe Gamora when he was referring to her as his friend. Coming from a character who is introduced as taking all language literally, and used to describe someone whom we’ve never seen sell sex or use sex to acquire anything, I have trouble accepting that line in anything resembling good faith. Why the hell would Drax use that word if he didn’t mean exactly what he said? It was nice to have him blow up someone else for using other mean words to describe Gamora, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling aggravated.
Those qualms aside, I thought that the characterizations of the various protagonists were both well done and lots of fun. The villains were a little more “bwahaha” and less solid, but they served their purposes adequately for the most part. I do wish I knew what Nebula actually says near the end of the movie, but I as yet have been unable to hear her line.
Like I said above the break, this movie fits very comfortably in the niche that Marvel has chiseled out of the standard action blockbuster market. In fact, in many ways it epitomizes that niche, except that it has been given license to be even more zany than its predecessors by virtue of being focused on a series of characters who almost entirely lack the presumed gravitas of the other series. It bears all the markings of yet another one of Marvel’s inordinately popular successes, and I wholeheartedly look forward to more of the same fun in the future. Especially if they fix the things I just complained about.