Marathoning for Avengers: Guardians of the Galaxy

Kick back and relax boys and girls. You have made it. We have reached the conclusion of our Marvel Cinematic Universe Marathon in preparation for Avengers: Age of Ultron. Take in the sights and smells. Yes, I do believe that is the faint but distinct tinge of Schwarma tickling my nostrils. And, do you hear that? Could it be the sound of Iron Man’s repulsor beams beginning to charge. I believe it is. Ahhh! Is that Kevin Feige performing a karaoke rendition of “Back in Black” with Stan Lee? This is paradise. We have arrived.

How do we get to celebrate this arrival. How about with epitome of Marvel’s brilliance? Guardians of the Galaxy is proof that Marvel has reached an unparalleled level of success. They made you sit through two hours of a talking raccoon, a talking tree, and what is–at its core–just the same skeleton of the plot for Avengers. And you ate it up. You loved it. I know you did. You know you did. You can try to nitpick and convince yourself that this movie based off of comic characters that you had never heard of wasn’t one of the most entertaining movies you saw in 2014, but I simply will not believe you. Get a counselor or something.

The fun of this movie is slightly confusing though. Its parts don’t really seem to add up to much. They landed Chris Pratt as a leading role, who at this point was mostly known for his role as Andy on Parks and Rec. In case you aren’t familiar with that, here’s a taste.

Yeah. That’s your leading role. You then have Zoe Saldana, which is pretty much the best piece of casting I have seen in a while, so no complaints here. But, you then have Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, and a WWE/MMA star. One of these people appear in this movie as more than just a voice actor. Guess who? Bradley Cooper, right? He’s been nominated for four Oscars. His face has got to be in this. Nah, brah. James Gunn ain’t ’bout that life. Ok, then it’s gotta be Vin. The dude is built, and he does those movies with cars and explosions and family–NOT JUST FRIENDS AND DON’T YOU DARE CLAIM THAT THEY ARE (it kinda gets on his nerves). Lolz. That dude is gonna be a tree. Gunn wants to see the WWE guy act. And, then we are going to cast Lee Pace. It’s hard to do sarcasm in such refined journalism, but I think Pace leaves much to desired in the talent department. Top all of that off with a crazy amount of universe building with a bunch of planets that aren’t named Tatooine, and a bunch races that aren’t Vulcans. This movie probably should have tanked.

Yet, as soon as I saw the first teaser for Guardians, I knew that this was going to be something special. Nobody casually throws in “Hooked on a Feeling” without being serious about what is about to go down. Throw in that sick drum line right before the chorus, to get all of the people who think fun in superhero movies is dumb. Baby, you got a stew goin’.

This movie delivers on that promise, as well. It has the heart that became such a hallmark of so many of the original great superhero movies. Rather than riding action-packed fight sequences from one interaction to the next, this movie is fueled by character development. There are only five fight scenes in this movie that I can think of:

  1. Starlord vs. Machine Dudes
  2. Starlord vs. Gamora vs. Groot/Rocket
  3. Guardians vs. Prison
  4. Guardians vs. Ronan (Part I)
  5. Guardians vs. Ronan (Part II)

The first three don’t even take up that much time. And good thing too, because there’s far too much essential information to be absorbed in this universe to waste time punching people who don’t matter. The only returning characters from past movies are Thanos and his right-hand man. Servant dude is taken care of pretty quickly, making Guardians of the Galaxy completely new territory. Yet, by the end of the movie, I feel like I know each of these characters more than I know half of the Avengers, and one of the characters is just telling you his name the entire time. The more I talk about it, the more confounded I become by this movie.

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I don’t want to leave the action sequences feeling unappreciated. Because, they are some of the best of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, rivaling the famous one-take fight scene from Avengers, Cap vs. Winter Solider fights, and literally anything from Netflix’s Daredevil. The spectacle of the final fight over Xandar is some of the coolest dog fighting I have seen in a long time, which we hadn’t seen from a Marvel film yet.

Unfortunately, do have to talk about the weaknesses of this movie. I alluded to the only one worth noting earlier. At times, Guardians does just feel like Avengers in space. Not seeing the comparison, here are some that are just off the top of my head.

  1. Power Gem (The purple rock that was making people trip hard) = The Tesseract
  2. Starlord = Captain America (men stuck in a time that no longer really exists)
  3. Gamora = Black Widow (ughhh…because women can’t kick ass AND be emotionally available)
  4. Rocket = Iron Man (yeah, this one seems like the most obvious)
  5. Groot = Hulk (kinda…they both have scenes of rampant violence brushed under the rug by humor)
  6. Drax = Thor (Someone has to be confused by social norms)
  7. Xandar = New York (ummmmm…they both have people… I’m kinda stretching on this one. I’m ashamed)

You get the point. There are some eerie similarities. Maybe this fueled Guardians’ success by making these characters seem familiar for fans of Avengers. I’m not sure, but after this, Avengers, and Thor: TDW, I am already dreading more plots fueled by McGuffins. That’s scary, because we have an Infinity Gauntlet to assemble, and there are two more gems that haven’t been found yet. Luckily, this weakness really didn’t stop the movie from being a hit, and it might just be a warning for the sequel to throw some original personalities into the mix.

That’s about all the negative that I can force out about Guardians. This movie has a tone that is perfect for the comics upon which it is based. The cast, while confusing, was perfect. James Gunn is the perfect director. Old music is amazing. This is a beautiful pallet cleanser as you prepare for Avengers: Age of Ultron. There is going to be no crossover between these two casts for the time being. We are going to have to wait for a bit longer until that occurs. So, you can just enjoy the days when things were simpler, before Marvel got their act together. Guardians stands by itself as a fun and warm story of a rag-tag group of messed up people who still find a way to save the day. There is a beauty in the simplicity of it all. Refreshing.

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Bennett Garland is a student at Georgia Tech. Despite attending what is far and away the best school in the state of Georgia, he has far too much time on his hands and consumes video media at a ferocious pace. We don’t know how he finds time to watch all three dozen super hero movies that come out every summer while also watching every SyFy showing of Sharknado and Sharknado 2, but he does and writes about his adventures in film and music.

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