On Guardians of the Galaxy

Although Guardians of the Galaxy certainly is a fun movie, but does has some drawbacks. Thanos, the Dark Lord, has previously appeared in The Avengers. According to Salon‘s ““Guardians of the Galaxy” passes the Bechdel test, still fails women“:

Take a look at the rest of the Marvel Studios films. We’re 10 movies in, and every one of them is successful because it has mass appeal without resorting to lowest-common-denominator tactics. Each film also has a slightly different tone and audience, brought together in 2012 to make The Avengers a billion-dollar success. Iron Man has Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr.’s star power, the Captain America movies are more serious, political, and romantic, while Thor is a fantasy epic (and very popular with women, thanks to its wealth of female characters and a villain plot that stretches beyond people punching each other into submission).

Feminist comic book fans have more or less lost hope for DC efforts like Man of Steel, but supporting characters like Peggy Carter, Pepper Potts, and Black Widow mean that Marvel is still perceived as the girl-friendly option. And in general, that’s accurate, despite their continuing reluctance to launch a female-led franchise. Marvel Studios movies might not include many female characters, but they don’t actively exclude female audiences.

Both Iron Man and Thor see their main characters go through a kind of de-douchification process, as Thor and Tony Stark learn to be less selfish and cocky and eventually save the day. Peter Quill sees no such transformation in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is fine: his immaturity is part of his charm—and besides, it makes sense. He was orphaned at a young age and raised by space pirates for the next 20 years. Of course, he turned out to be kind of a dumbass. The problem here isn’t with Peter Quill (or the rest of that “bunch of A-holes”), but how the filmmakers engineered the world around him.

At the beginning of GotG, we get our first warning sign. Peter flees back to his spaceship to discover an old one-night-stand camping out onboard. He’d forgotten she was there: hilarious. So, what are we supposed to take from this? That he’s an idiot who leaves near-strangers onboard his beloved spaceship? That this woman is too much of a non-entity to do the interesting thing and try to steal said spaceship?

It would be OK if she gave any impression of having a personality for the duration of her 30-second appearance, but she really doesn’t. Instead, the punchline is that Peter Quill is a totally rad hetero dude who bangs alien chicks and then forgets about them because he’s busy with space business. This is the kind of tired “joke” that plagues the rest of the film.

Later on, we have Rocket Raccoon suggesting that Gamora seduce someone to get them all out of space jail. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because she already has a way more useful skillset—plus, everyone in the prison is terrified of her or wants her dead. Then toward the end, Drax just straight-up calls her a “whore.” This makes even less sense because Drax’s gimmick is that he takes everything very literally, indicating that he actually means every word he says. The coup de grace is when the final battle scene ends with Peter calling Ronan a “bitch.”

Combine this with the many shots showing off Gamora’s skin-tight, semi-transparent outfit, and GotG doesn’t compare well to something like The Avengers or Thor. And of course, it also suffers from the common Hollywood problem of making every single incidental character a man, from the Nova Corps officers to the space pirates to the prison guards to Ronan’s goons. The only background female character is the Collector’s assistant, whose role is to scrub things while wearing a mini-dress and then get blown up.

I don’t neccesary see this as a solution, but actor Chris Pratt has called on to “even things out” on men and women being objectified equally, as according to The Wrap article, “Chris Pratt Calls for Gender Equality: ‘Objectify Men Just as Often as We Objectify Women’“:

“There are a lot of women who got careers out of [their bodies], and I’m using it to my advantage,” beefed up “Jurassic World” actor says Chris Pratt is the hottest actor in Hollywood this summer — and even he says that has to do with looks, not just talent.

The “Jurassic World” actor told Radio 4’s Front Row (via Yahoo Movies) that having a muscled physique does aid the success of male actors, and that getting in shape has helped his star to rise.

“A huge part of how my career has shifted is based on the way that I look, on the way that I’ve shaped my body to look,” he said.

Pratt also addressed the need to even the playing field in the male-driven Hollywood industry. “I think it’s appalling that for a long time only women were objectified, but I think if we really want to advocate for equality, it’s important to even things out,” the “Guardians of the Galaxy” actor said, suggesting that we should, “not objectify women less, but objectify men just as often as we objectify women.”

“There are a lot of women who got careers out of [their bodies], and I’m using it to my advantage,” said Pratt, who recently revealed how he weighed 300 pounds two years ago. “And at the end of the day, our bodies are objects … We’re just big bags of flesh and blood and meat and organs that God gives us to drive around.”

According to The Telegraph UK‘s review:

The new Marvel Studios film, Guardians of the Galaxy, begins with a boy lost in the coldness of the universe. That both his feet happen to be planted on an American part of Earth in 1988 is neither here nor there: the boy’s mother is terminally ill with cancer, and he stands by her hospital bed, watching her faltering heartbeat bob on the monitor like a green comet trail.

Outside, the moon is full and low, and the grass is covered over with mist. The scene could hardly be further-flung from the digitised, hyper-polished spectacles you now expect whenever the Marvel logo pops up on a cinema screen; instead, you remember the Amblin-brand family films of that same mist-soft, moon-bright age.

Of course, the digital hyper-polish arrives soon enough: a spaceship descends and beams up the boy, Peter Quill, before whisking him off on an adventure that’s still unfolding 20-or-so years later, when the bulk of Guardians of the Galaxy takes place. But while Earth is never seen again, the importance of that quick opening sequence can hardly be overstated.

A brand new summer family blockbuster this may be, but it plays by old, half-forgotten rules; trimming out the clutter and cross-referencing for snappy, streamlined, Saturday-cartoon fun.

The film rejoins Quill as an adult, played by the increasingly busy Chris Pratt and going by the swaggering alias Star Lord, as he hunts for treasure. His discovery, in a dank ruin, of a mysterious orb sets a plot of superweapons and threatened cities in motion, even though the orb itself turns out to be little more than a galactic MacGuffin, much like the Maltese Falcon or Indiana Jones’s Ark of the Covenant. (Quill even describes it as “an Ark-of-the-Covenant, Maltese-Falcon kinda thing,” proving both he and the film are in on the joke.)

Fate bundles Quill with four uneasy allies: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a green-skinned warrior princess; Drax (Dave Bautista), an angry hulk with no apparent grasp of metaphor; Rocket, a sardonic raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper; and a kindly walking tree called Groot, motion-captured by the Fast & Furious star Vin Diesel with an unexpected tenderness that defuses any half-hearted jokes you might be hoping to deploy about wooden acting.

The fun of it – and Guardians of the Galaxy specialises in fun, served by the sugar-sprinkled ice-cream-scoopload – is in seeing this odd quintet bluster through space battles and alien brawls that would have defeated anyone smarter and better-equipped. Just as the team makes do with the junk they find around them, the film feels like a mound of gems culled from decades of pop-culture scavenging: essentially, the Guardians are two Han Solos, two Chewbaccas and a Princess Leia, pitched against Ming the Merciless and his cronies, in spacecraft from the video games Star Fox and Galaga.

The script, by the film’s director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, shares the jokes democratically and tends towards the quotable: in particular, the use of “pelvic sorcery” as a euphemism for slow dancing is a line worthy of Joss Whedon, the most favoured filmmaker in Marvel’s court.

Could Gunn now find himself similarly elevated? If so, the rise would be precipitous, but not undeserved. Gunn began his filmmaking career amid the scuzz and squelch of Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma studio, and there’s an abiding sense here that, however wild and glittering the cosmic backdrops become – and at one point, what we assume to be a planet turns out to be “the severed head of a celestial god” – the film will always find a use for a good pair of prosthetic horns and a tub of sparkly face-paint.

In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy’s cheerful, hectic aesthetic is closer to one of the crackpot fantasias of Guillermo del Toro than Marvel’s own increasingly house-styled output, which reassures you, even in the wake of the Ant-Man debacle, that the studio hasn’t entirely lost the will to experiment. Who could have guessed that, after six years of hawkish franchise-building, the new instalment in cinema’s mightiest serial would be such a delirious one-off?

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4 thoughts on “On Guardians of the Galaxy

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