Best Quote from Audience Member:
"Wait, we have to wait for after the credits! It's a Marvel movie."
(five minutes later)
Peter Quill is kidnapped from earth the night his mother dies back in 1988. His mother leaves him two things pivotal to the plot: a mix-tape of her favorite 70's songs, and a need to hold females' hands.
Twenty years later, Peter Quill has grown into Chris Pratt, who is your typical Han Solo-esque scavenger for hire. He accidentally comes across an orb that is wanted by the bad guys, and off he is on his adventure. Following along is Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper as a pissed off raccoon, and Vin Diesel as The Iron Giant Redux ... I mean, Groot. He is Groot. We are all Groot, actually.
It's difficult, really, to explain how much I appreciate this movie and how much frustration I have with this movie. As someone who is a hardcore space opera fan (and writer), I will openly say I don't think this was the strongest story I've seen done in this genre. I do still believe A New Hope and the Firefly series did it better and clearer. However, it was so much better than it could have been.
There is one scene that encompasses my feelings for this movie. All of the characters sit around, hemming and hawing over whether or not they're going to "do the thing" or "not do the thing." The discussion goes on for so long, I actually spaced out in the middle of a space opera. However, the movie knows what cliche ground its treads. All of the heroes stand up one by one, pledging to "do the thing." Finally, Rocket Raccoon stands up and says, "There. Now I'm standing, too. Are you happy? We're all a bunch of jackasses standing in a circle."
It's self-aware and breaks cliches, just not as well as Whedon did in both Avengers and Firefly. Rocket doesn't meet the expectations of Hulk smashing Loki mid-monologue, nor does it live up to the memories of Mal Reynolds throwing a thug into his ship's turbine when the thug threatens the crew.
Beyond that, Chris Pratt's Quill is a well written character, but his bigotry toward women and his wavering character arch isn't enough to allow him to stand as a grown, fleshed out character. Perhaps that's part of his arch, that he is a boy as of right now, but I really wanted to like him as much as I like Andy Dwyer. Or hell, as much as I like Luke Skywalker or Chris Pine's Kirk. Luke's obsession with Leia in the first film comes off as kiddish, and we expect chauvinism from James Kirk. Quill is supposed to be a good, decent Southern boy. And yet he has a whole scene dedicated to showing off the literal scars left by women to whom he done wrong.
The other characters, Drax excluded, also felt like we'd seen them before. Groot was the Iron Giant, Rocket was Tony Stark and Jayne the Hero of Canton. Even Saldana's green lady felt like a less assertive version of Uhura. Perhaps the comics were a breakthrough, but we're coming up on 2014. It's kind of like trying to be surprised by The Lord of the Rings movies after decades of riffs from the original source material.
As for the plot, it was winding, complicated, and had way too many moving parts.
If you're a writer looking to study space adventures, this is a nice beginning, but please go watch Firefly. And then watch the first three Star Wars films. Then pick up some Ray Bradbury and read that to round it out. This is a good door opener, but the world is still in need of a real meaty epic in space.
Gamora is a lethal assassin, but that doesn't mean her neckline has to be anything but boob-tastic. The other girls are seen as slaves, servants, and forgotten one night stands. Oh, unless you count the mom, and then they're also seen as weak, wispy cancer patients on their death beds.
While it could have been worse, it did not pass the Bechdel test. While some male characters like Quill and Rocket are a softer sort of emotional male, there's just not much in the way of ladies. We do have Glen Close playing the head of an entire race, but she's in literally two scenes.
I will say, that Gamora's sister the cyborg was amazing and I would argue more ruthless than her male counterparts. But to say that Gamora is the lead in this movie is not seeing Quill for what he is and not giving an honest look as to who does what. While you watch this film, you decide for yourself who the "hero" is. Gamora is a hero, but Pratt is the protagonist.
This is all so very surprising, since the head writer was a woman. Although the director, James Gunn, was said to have had last say. And Gunn was the one who said Pratt shouldn't play Quill because he was "fat."
I would say that boys are gonna like this one. I would also say that space adventure fans will adore it, although please don't think it's the Star Wars of our generation. I was told that before going in, and it is not. Which I think accounts for my disappointment. I also believe that people who see themselves as outcasts will find a special place for Guardians in their hearts.
I also would recommend this to anyone who has lost someone lately, especially a parent. When you see it, you'll understand, but it is a therapeutic exercise to watch while you're trying to make sense of close death.
THE MOVIE ITSELF: The movie is a good movie, I'm not going to cheat it out of that praise. Is it the game changer we've been waiting for in the sci fi community? No. But is it better than Thor and The Phantom Menace? Yes. Do they do the comic justice? Of course. We're not talking about a Watchmen situation here. The special effects are wonderful, although Rocket doesn't really compare to Caesar in Apes. The acting is great. The script is funny. But it does lack that special legendary umph factor. A-
ENJOYMENT FACTOR: A lot of fun for everyone. There's the talking raccoon for kids, the romance, the heroics, the grief, the comedy. It's all here. Everyone involved had a good time. Just don't ruin it by waiting around after the credits. A-
VERDICT: Go see it. Go enjoy it. And then go home and write that game changing space opera. Please. I want to see it. A-
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
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I see a lot of them.