Guardians of the Galaxy

There’s a lot to not like about this movie. The plot is predictable, the characters are a collection of standard stereotypes. We have the lovable rogue, the grieving warrior out to avenge his family, the thoughtful, angry, engineered monster, the duplicitous femme fatale warrioress, the megalomaniac villain, We even have a nature spirit to save the day. The usual Dead Mom that haunts 90% of Disney films graces the opening.  And yet, I still love this film, deeply and sincerely. It’s beautiful, and I’m not just talking about the stunning CGI and other special effects.

After what seems like endless presentations dystopian tales of woe in recent years, we’ve finally made it back around to a vision of the future that is at least semi-hopeful. Random alien species live together in a bright, beautiful place. A giant kaiju skull/mining colony provides a home base for the misfits and miscreants who don’t want to live under semi-benevolent corporate rule. Evil can be defeated by teamwork. Technology doesn’t have to destroy everything.  It can be used wisely and for the greater good. Sure, there are blood feuds, not very humane prisons, unethical experimentations and some other Not Nice things going on, but all in all, this is a future I’d like to live in.

I miss these kinds of movies. I’m glad they’re making at least a small comeback. I even enjoyed the spins on some of the stock characters that populate this universe.

Peter Quill, Starlord, was definitely made by the lovable rogue factory. He’s Han Solo’s grandson, (the Han who shot first, of course!) full of womanizing swagger and frat-boy wit. He’s also a doofus with a heart of gold. Unlike many doofus with a heart of gold type characters, however, he’s got the chops to get it done. It’s an interesting mashup of a couple of tropes, and one that both the writers and the actor were willing to lovingly mock. He’s a hero with enough flaws to seem human without lapsing into the “save the universe by accident” thing that has been done to death. I like that he’s capable, and that occasionally, he’s even a decent human being.

Rocket. I love that Rocket is not just a cute anthropomorphized animal character to draw in the kids.  He’s angry at what’s been done to him, he’s not a nice person, except when forced to be by his friend and conscience minder.  How can you take a psychotic bio-engineered raccoon seriously? How can you not take him seriously when he’s killing everyone in sight and enjoying it thoroughly? He’s a bit like an evil Paul.  Rocket’s drunk scene is the perfect blend of pathos and bathos. His whole character is a commentary not on the evils of Science but on the problem of free will versus society, I think.

I didn’t like that Gamora and Nebula are both very shallow portrayals of the damaged, and yet kick-ass female assassin trope that seems to be the only role available for women these days apart from elegant elder statesperson. Both of these characters deserved much better than they got, and it’s a crime and a shame that the filmmakers eliminated the 3rd GoG female character, Quasar, who seems to have not only had more depth of character but also a really interesting story arc in the comic book. My writing buddy points out that there’s no decent reason other than subconsious racism to paint Zoe Saldana green for the character of Gamora. It does give her relations with Starlord a sort of Captain Kirk (TOS)  vs the Vina the Orion Slave Girl feel. I think Vina had more depth of character.

Even with its weak points, I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy beyond any hope or expectations. If only Gamora had possessed the depth of Pacific Rim‘s Mako, and Nebula had been more like, oh, I don’t know, Elysia from Warriors of Virtue, this would have gone up in my top ten SF movies of all time.

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