Movie Meltdown

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Thoughts from a Non Comic Book Reader: Guardians of the Galaxy

 by Cameron Ross Price

            I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I had no idea that Guardians of the Galaxy existed before I watched the trailer for the first time. I’ll pause to let the comic book enthusiasts boo (it’s ok they’ve earned it). Yet, while I was clearly missing out on what must be an incredible space action adventure series in the marvel universe, I don’t feel like the experience of watching Guardians of the Galaxy in theaters is in any way sullied. In fact, I’m fairly certain that there were plenty of other people who came to see this movie with just as much pre-established knowledge as I had. This might largely be due to GOTG’s lack of representation in general pop culture over the years compared to other champions like Spiderman or several of the Avengers (if we’re sticking to the Marvel universe). Yet even these action heroes must have attracted audiences that were at least partially unaware of the traditional cannon. Movie developers understand this and attempt to create their movies to be open to all levels of viewership.

            So, for my purposes, I’m going to pretend like there was never a GOTG before this movie and ignore any connections it may have to the rest of the Marvel universe in order to find out how the movie stands up specifically to an ignorant eye.     

            Let us begin.         

            If I’m being honest, even though I greatly enjoyed seeing GOTG, while in the theaters I felt like the movie fell flat in several areas but namely in the way they built up the vast universe where this movie takes place. For example, a section of the film is set in this seedy black market kind of town full of cut throats and thugs that has been built up inside the disembodied head of an ancient space giant. The criminals are there to harvest the valuable resources in the head, and I felt like this set up reasonably enough for the tone of the rest of that section of the movie, but ultimately I was distracted by the ANCIENT GIANT SEVERED HEAD!!! That just seems like such an awesome idea and I really wanted them to go into more detail about the history of how a giant severed head could even happen, but sadly they did not.  

             That is really only a small criticism and I was able to get over this shortcoming fairly quickly, but there were other parts of the movie that I felt were lacking. A great deal of the plot focuses around the disagreement between the seemingly dichotomized Nova Corp and the Kree which are clearly supposed to represent something close to order and chaos respectively. I felt like I was supposed to pick a side, namely that of the Nova Corp, but I found it hard to instinctively root for them or hate the Kree, mostly because it seemed like the aforementioned seedy criminal underbelly had much more power and presence in the universe than either of them. Even the backstories which were supposed to fuel the individual motivations the Guardians fell flat in their presentation and to me played little into the driving force of the team. (I came of feeling like Groot was my favorite character in general, specifically because I felt comforted in knowing everyone else in the presented Universe was just as ignorant about him as I was.)

            So, given that the universe building element to this movie was largely unsuccessful through my specific critical lens, why did I like this movie so much? Frankly, it was the Guardians themselves. While I found myself not caring why or how these characters came to become assembled, once they were I was immediately drawn to them as a group through the witty and hilarious dialogue that characterized their personalities. Then, once we have a base understanding of the kind of person we’re dealing with, they put the group through a variety of challenges which represents each of them with an incredible amount of emotional depth. Each time the Guardian’s situation seemed most dire; I found myself rooting for them to succeed not because I felt their cause was just, but because I liked them the most and just wanted them to win.

            There were some other elements that made the movie entertaining. While the larger powers at play fell mostly flat in their exposition, the individual characters meant to represent them were interesting and entertaining in whatever way they functioned while on screen, which were mostly in exciting action sequences. If you came to this movie expecting exhilarating explosions and general badassery, you’ll certainly find it.

            Lastly, a good soundtrack can often make or break a movie, but the songs used in GOTG do an exceptionally good job of pulling us into the otherwise forgettable universe by being almost another character in the movie. Plus, they add to the general light-hearted tone of the movie because they’re easily recognizable to most older audience members and probably many of the younger ones.

            It seems clear to me that in making Guardians of the Galaxy the filmmakers found themselves having to decide whether to focus more on the exposition or the actions of the characters as they unfolded, of which they chose the latter. Frankly that was a bit of a risky move on their part, which ultimately works because of the strength of the characters involved and makes sense because a movie about the Guardians of the Galaxy should probably have more to do about the Guardians rather than the Galaxy. It certainly makes me want to see what shenanigans they’ll get into for the sequel. 


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