If These are Really the Guardians, Let the Galaxy Perish

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.

enhanced-buzz-29730-1388526549-2And 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.

rocketgrootGroot (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).

Peter-Quill-guardians-of-the-galaxy-37220788-491-612-1I 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-guardians-of-the-galaxy-37297494-1200-600Ronan 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:

Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_42052Karen Gillan’s portrayal of Nebula. She was so not scary that I laughed when she pulled her Terminator recovering from an injury bit.

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.

guardians_floating_head-guardians-of-the-galaxy-trailer-shows-new-cosmic-charactersYes, 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.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-line-upHere 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.

11 thoughts on “If These are Really the Guardians, Let the Galaxy Perish

  1. That’s how I feel about Game of Thrones, and why I believe every single person living in that world should be exterminated for the sake of justice and civilisation. They’re just a bunch of hackneyed, inflated characters that just appeal to the bootlicking serf that’s in every fan. The kids starts off with magical adventures while the grown ups deal with the politics, killing, and sex. Burn them all, I say.

  2. This was just the most idiotic review of a pretty good movie. His first mistake was to see it in IMAX, especially 3d IMAX. A real movie reviewer would know better. Too many things were wrong with this review but why argue with bad judgement.

    1. Could you be more specific on which points? He’s given a detailed criticism. This was obviously not the movie he was hoping for.

    2. Actually, a real reviewer sees a film in the most complex form offered. I did that. A person with real ideas would debate the points brought up in an article instead of acting like a five-year-old whose bicycle was stolen. Either debate the points or don’t comment.

  3. Guardians of the Galaxy was a children’s film, a reduction of the already youth-oriented Marvel Comics’ property to light, summer fare for six-year-olds. GotG was essentially Star Wars for the Yo Gabba Gabba generation.

    Shawn, it’s clear that your review takes issue – oddly enough – with the filmmaker’s choice to embrace farce for children, rather than a more serious treatment. You borrowed the line I first read on a FB comment thread on this movie (“Marvel. Your Disney is showing.”) without taking its implications seriously.

    GotG is a children’s film – of course Thanos was more Saturday morning cartoonish than actually terrifying. Of course Chris Pratt presents stunted man-childishness as reasonable maturity. Of course Rocket’s jokes offer silly puns in place of serious wit. This whole movie is for kids! Really, young children are the target audience – and more Marvel movies embrace this Disney aesthetic than some staunch fanboys care to admit.

    Shawn, it’s clear from my writing that I prefer more serious comic media, but I do think it’s questionable to nitpick obvious kid’s movies to death because you didn’t enter the theater and watch the film you would have made in its place. For example, I didn’t enjoy Thor: The Dark World, an anti-cerebral waste of CGI replete with horrid writing and sweaty blond braids. But Thor was presented as relatively adult fare, or at least, a safe, family friendly blockbuster that could appeal to all demographics. Fans of that terrible forced lobotomy of a movie pretend that Thor’s smiling brutishness should appeal to adults and children alike. They are quite mistaken.

    But GotG is a kids movie Shawn; dismissing it as trash because Ronan the Accuser was a stock space villain from central casting is like writing a thinkpiece that attacks The Smurfs for failing to present authoritarian communism with respectable import.

    GotG is the Marvel movie Marvel fans want: high on empty calorie hijinks, heavy on high fructose CGI, filled with irreverent characters, signifying nothing. Sometimes comics are for children, Shawn. Let the youngsters have their fun.

    1. @James. Thank you for your considered response. One bit of clarification, “Marvel your Disney is showing” is my line. No borrowing. I put it out there and some folks ran with it. I disagree that GotG is a children’s film–unless we’re putting it in the same vein as E.T. as a children’s film as that film dealt with surprisingly serious (and at times terrifying) issues. I do not take issue with the filmmaker’s attempt to aim towards kids, I take issue that the film seemed to be more hype than substantive payoff. Like Iggy Azalea. No one likes her music, but they play her so often that you cannot help but nod your head and sing along. The film was this gigantic collection of genre cliches that I checked out, repeatedly, during the film. I’m all for kids having their fun. Hell, I can recommend several Michel Ocelot films that may be geared towards children, but are in no way juvenile.

      Incidentally, I would love to read about the measures the Smurfs take to maintain their utopia.

      1. Shawn, GotG is chock full of substantive payoff — if you’re seven. It’s a kid’s movie. You’re welcome to disagree with that assessment, but doing so applies mature dramatic standards to a work that was never intended to handle such scrutiny.

        Let’s face it – the ‘friendship between misfit equals conquers all’ theme does not exactly scream serious drama. I’d argue that the Captain America and Thor sequels also reject lofty Shakespearean heights, but I’m sure we both can agree that GotG openly sought approval from younger demographics in ways those sequels do not. I mean, we watched a living tree and a talking raccoon!

        Shawn, I think it’s possible that you sought a fun sci-fi experience from GotG, being a fan of the comic, and found Muppets in Space. Your review reflects the lost nostalgic opportunity. It can be argued that all the Marvel Studios films offer nine parts hype to every one part substantive payoff, but usually Marvel fans ignore that, comforted by the erroneous idea that serious drama is too “sad” and “gritty” to be used within comic movies.

        If anything, GotG provides great testimony toward what happens when all the meaningful mature dramatic elements are removed from a film. We get a grown man who calls himself ‘Star-Lord’ still listening to mixtapes his mother gave him twenty years ago, another who’s allergic to shirts, and the loquacious raccoon atop a smiling evergreen. These aren’t reasonably adult portrayals, Shawn.

        If this Marvel film isn’t just for kids, then maybe Marvel Studios should impress us all with an adult drama, so we can easily discern the difference. Your review works if GotG seeks an adult revenue base, but I find the idea that GotG was for adults comical.

  4. I am 41 years old, and have been a superhero comic book fan my whole life. I have a giant Spider-Man blanket hanging on the wall in my living room, a grand testament to my lifelong hero worship. I love superhero movies. Some of the most fun I have is taking my kids to see the characters that I grew up with in print made real on the big screen. Their stories being told in a largely condensed fashion to be easily enjoyed, understood, and digested by a cinematic audience. The key word in that statement is “condensed”. One thing I grow weary of is the “pop-elitism” that I read in reviews of superhero movies by comic book fans. It’s no different from the “I read the book, and it was better” critiques offered up by others. Comic book “Universes” are aptly named. They are whole universes in and of themselves. They are expansive, and deep. They can be because they are stories told one chapter at a time, and on going. The MCU, in my humble opinion, has done a wonderful job of taking the “Infinity” storyline and progressing it over several films, leading to one big finale still to come. Movies can’t be comic books, or books. They simply cannot. The stories would take far too long to tell, and they would lose the majority of their audience. Comic books are a niche market. They always have been. Yes, they have a huge fan base, but that fan base is still smaller than the movie going public. In short, if they made the movies hardcore comics fan wanted they way they wanted them, they would lose money at the box office. Period. Production costs would be astronomical, and they would never stop making them. There would be no end in sight!

    I have accepted that I will NEVER get the Spider-Man of my childhood on film. Ever. It’s just not possible. BUT I watch my son, also a Spider-Man super fan, become so engrossed in what he sees on film that he immediately runs home and reaches for my old comics! He wants to know how the X-Men “Days of Future Past” story played out on the page, or how the “Infinity Gauntlet” played out. These films INSPIRE a whole new generation of comic book readers to pursue those great landscapes of storytelling! And unlike me, he doesn’t have to wonder how awesome it would be to see his heroes portrayed in live-action! He gets it NOW! I went to see GotG after waiting 30 years! He was introduced to them this way, and now he can’t wait to read them as they were created!

    Not to mention, the GotG date back to 1969, so it stands to reason that characters like Han Solo, Mal, and Kirk (well, maybe not so much Kirk) were actually inspired by Star Lord in the minds of the men who created them! Maybe that’s why you see similarity there. Let’s face it! Rocket and Groot are Han and Chewbacca! At least, that’s what I saw.

    Why not just let it be perfectly imperfect? It’s a story told the best way possible. As long as the filmmakers show some respect for the source material, I have little problem allowing for their artistic license. Sometimes they nail it, sometimes they take a great big crap on it, and tell us to deal with it (i.e. “Catwoman”! JESUS!!)

    I get it, you are nerd-elite, and you demand more for your time and money, and that’s fair. But at what point do you just say this will have to do? Because the characters that I grew up loving are have too much backstory and nuance for film ever to be able to get it all. Comic books have never really felt like kids stuff to me, even though kids love them. They deal with some tremendously adult issues. But the movies have to be palatable to a wide audience in order to be feasible. While I respect your opinion, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of GotG. Maybe the next installment will be more palatable to you, sir.

    1. @fletchbrown. Thank you for your response. I am in no way a ‘pop-elite’. I’m actually a very easy sell on this stuff. I watch Dune and Chronicles of Riddick every tome they come on. Did you not read my Captain America: Winter Soldier review? I dislike Cap as a character, but feel that film is the best of all the MCU. And I agree, I do not think that comics are kids stuff (all the time) and I don’t think that GotG is a kid’s film. Mass genocide isn’t really a children’s topic. I feel the same way about this film as I do about Cameron’s Avatar: Overhyped, overstuffed, and I didn’t like either film. This film (and its campaign) felt way more like propaganda instead of celebration. I wasn’t terribly fond of The Avengers, but recognized the hype around it as legitimate. GotG felt like the Kardashian of movies: we’re going to blast all of this information out there so you don’t see the weak scaffolding underneath. GotG is Farscape, if Farscape wasn’t very good.

  5. I completely grok what you are saying, and I respect your opinion, though I do not share it. I enjoyed everything about The Avengers movie, and I never like Cap as a character either, but Winter Soldier was more what I wished the 1st Cap movie had been. I did think The Incredible Hulk was a fine prequel to the Cap movie, but left a lot of The Hulk’s nuance on the floor. Still waiting for a Hulk movie that is as good as the character is. May never happen. I also enjoyed Farscape, even though I do not typically like space themed shows, the exceptions being Farscape, Firefly, and BSG (new one). I bring a lot of my childhood whimsy to these films and tv shows, maybe that’s why I am so forgiving. I take issue with filmmakers like Michael Bay. I think he makes the kinds of films that are examples of what you call the Kardashian type. All full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing. I remember when these stories were first told. I read them on the colored (and sometimes black and white) page. The 12 year old in me is so in love with the idea of seeing these broad sweeping story lines played out in live action, and that makes me pretty accepting. Only when they deviate completely, or change things unnecessarily from the source material do I get irksome. So far I only liked the last 2 X-Men films, and neither of the Wolverine stand alones. I think the two Wolverine movies should be outlawed by Congress! (See? I don’t blindly love everything!) I am a fan of comics and films, and I realize that the two mediums don’t always pair up well. I have little to no hope of Ant Man being good, and God help them if The Doctor Strange movie gets F’d up! Iron Man 3 should have a money refundable option, too! I do enjoy reading your reviews, but I still a few to go back and read through, being new to following this blog. I loo forward to agreeing/disagreeing with you in the future!

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