Let us jump right in: I did not like Marvel’s new engineered “blockbuster,” Guardians of the Galaxy. I have expressed this in several meat and online circles, and I have been accused of ‘Marvel hate’, as if I hadn’t already spent hundreds of dollars on comics, films, and other Marvel branded merchandise. It sucks that when you can show your work as to why you dislike something, you get labeled a “hater.” I counter-argue that Marvel (in association with the Disney machine) knows they can troll the hell out of us and we’ll like it because of the Marvel brand — and most of ya’ll have fallen victim.
I don’t really want to present a chronological review, so I’ll start with the macro and land on the micro. GotG was just too big a film for James Gunn’s talents. I loved both Slither and Super. They both were interesting takes on well-worn subjects. So, it isn’t a dis to say that Gunn was outgunned by this material ← this was the level of most of the non-Rocket jokes in the film. I judge directors of action films by the quality of their fight scenes. This film had some of the worst shot hand-to-hand scenes I’ve seen in contemporary film. Murky, oddly angled, no narrative or jeopardy — however, there is a prison fight sequence with Drax (a surprisingly entertaining Dave Bautista) that rose above all the rest. It lasted under two-minutes — we were robbed. However, his frequent misogynist jibes and Gamora (a supernaturally bland Zoe Saldana) grew tiresome.
And speaking of Gamora — she had a signature move where she kicked over a weapon wielding hand and trapped it with her leg. Um… Cynthia Rothrock (granted, she is a trained martial artist) was doing this twenty years ago. And she was doing it with more believability. Yeah. The less said about Zoe’s performance (I mean, you’ve seen it already in every film except for Drumline) the better. Just how many times will her characters see their parents killed in front of them? I’m counting The Losers, Colombiana — it is just as irksome as Harrison Ford growling, “Then, I’ll see you in hell,” no matter the genre.
Groot (stunt casting at its most painfully obvious. Vin Diesel was not needed to make this character work) and Rocket — the tree and the raccoon — were the highlights. Bradley Cooper killed it with the voice. Rocket was a straight up thug. He had great lines, but the sequence everyone is raving about (the percentage of a plan) would have been just at home on an episode of A.N.T. Farm. That was the least entertaining humor sequence in the whole film. It practically stopped the film in its tracks. It was forced and banal. And speaking of forced and banal, let us talk about Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).
I have to hand it to him though, Pratt was ripped. Dude was mighty fit but looked as if he did not know how to effectively utilize his newly sculpted body. But, wow. He suffered from generic white-boy syndrome. In the same vein as Colin Ferguson on Eureka, Eddie McClintock on Warehouse 13, Mark Valley on Human Target: all are generically handsome and pseudo-witty, but are also conjured by the same demonic consortium that thinks the “everyman” stand-in for the audience POV is a bland white dude. But what is worse is Pratt’s particularly egregious portrayal of Star-Lord. It was as if he channeled Chris Pine’s (far superior) Kirk performance and married it with a Nantucket bred yacht-boy on spring break in Miami. He went to the, “let me do my best Han Solo/Mal Reynolds imitation, but not do it well roguish everyman” school of not quite good enough. He came with that Parks and Recreation cred — incidentally, I loved that show — but he appeared a wee bit out of his depth here. Maybe he needs time to grow into the role? I hope so.
There is just so much that I disliked about the film — and this was the Marvel Cinematic Universe film I was most looking forward to, as I love the comics.
Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) looked, acted, and sounded like a cast-off villain from Chronicles of Riddick — and his ship looked like the first draft of one of the Necro ships from the same film: all Teutonic and Spartan. He was not a scary antagonist. Not one bit.
And Thanos’ big reveal? I half expected him to start singing, “I love you; you love me.” He looked like Liberace and Barney had a baby. He’s out there, chillin’ in space on an asteroid throne, looking particularly non-threatening. Totally underwhelming. And speaking of underwhelming:
Just so… blah. None of the “villains” were worthy of the name.
Yondu (Michael Rooker) as a space hillbilly was more suited for Firefly than GotG. Why? Why would a Centaurian sound like a backwoods possum hunter? But he did have one badass scene.
The Nova Corps was… no. I really can’t go on. John C. Reilly and Glenn Close were punching so beneath their collective weight. They deserved a much better film. And the Nova Corps space net? People laughed aloud in the theater. It was meant to be awe-inspiring, not giggle inducing.
From the melodramatic opening, to the wholesale Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-off first action sequence, to Djimon Honsou having absolutely shit to do but get talked down to and have his ass kicked, to the potted Groot dancing at the end, this film was just a huge disappointment to me.
Yes, there were some highlights. The ship designs were rather interesting. Some of the costuming choices were stellar. Knowhere was one of two decent uses of both IMAX and 3D. It was incredible. The other great use was when Groot illuminates the darkness. So many kids in the theater were trying to grab the little pieces of light. Otherwise, the IMAX and 3D were rather pointless and did not enhance the story.
Oh yeah. The story.
The pacing was off. It wasn’t like it was a broken rhythm to toss the audience off guard, but it felt arrhythmic — like being in a car that is lurching along because of an improper fuel/air mix. There was no time to bask and consider. It wasn’t too fast or slow — just too neither.
Here is the story overview: outlaws with a certain amount of empathy elevate themselves above their mutual animus and band together to save the galaxy from a bad guy with a jewel that can wipe out planets. Once again, a genre film boils down to a bad guy with a bad machine that can ruin all of your Sundays.
For a galaxy-spanning adventure story, there sure were a lot of white people. Even the pink and blue people were white. Where were my AAPI folks? Latin folks? People will point to both half-Filipino Dave Bautista’s Drax and Puerto Rican Benicio Del Toro’s The Collector — which was one of the great wastes of talent in a film — as a nod toward diversity. If you can count them, it is still not progress.
It is a shame that my biggest emotional investment in the film was a mixtape. And how in the hell did Peter Quill install a cassette player in his ship?
Ugh. Damn, Marvel. Your Disney is showing.