I kind of liked the movie?
But then, I kind of didn’t.
Which, of course, is weird, because everyone and their mother is going nuts over this film. I walked into the theater with my older brother at least hoping that it would live up to the hype. I mean, I LOVED THE AVENGERS and Marvel seems to be on a roll, right?
Uh. Well. I didn’t hate it by far. I kind of liked it, but I ended up feeling somewhat empty by the time the credits were rolling. What is this witchcraft? I thought Marvel movies couldn’t do any wrong?
Okay, let’s get into it. Top 10 things I didn’t like.
10. Chris Pratt
Yep, I said it. I realize every nerd girl I know is going nuts over this dude, and I get it. He’s hot (though not nearly as fine as that fine ass specimen of a man Captain America as depicted by Chris Evans’s finely toned butt).
But…isn’t this getting a little typical?
I mean Marvel movies follow the same formula of casting some beefy cis-straight white dude who looks like he had to devour whole chickens for breakfast, lunch and dinner while lifting weights for ten months before filming. And honestly, as a result, all these heroes are starting to blend together somewhat. I mean yeah, they’ve got different personalities, usually. Pratt’s Peter Quill (aka Starlord) is similar in personality to Tony Stark except he’s not as witty or offbeat and comes off as the child he was when he was literally abducted by aliens in a cornfield (that was kind of hokey). But at this point, it’s just starting to get super bland to me, especially considering that Quill feels somewhat like an Iron Man/Han Solo knock off except not nearly as charming as either.
When I went to see this movie there were so many young boys in the theater – most of them white. And I wondered what it must be like for a young white boy to look up at the hero and be able to see yourself. To literally see the young version of the hero – a young boy who looks just like you! – and see him grow into this really cool beefy superhero who saves the day and gets the chick. Growing up as a black girl geek I never got to feel whatever it is that they might feel knowing that they get to see themselves everywhere as heroes. I’m not saying, I’m just saying, you know? It’s just getting so typical at this point.
I think you’ll see throughout this list that part of the problem I had with this film is that Marvel has gotten really comfortable with sticking to a formula, and though it’s working for them, eventually I’m just going to get burned out trying to identify with yet another bland beefy white hero they release out of the secret labs they have stashed somewhere in Orlando guarded by Pluto and Daffy Duck with an assault rifle.
9. Didn’t I Already Watch The AVENGERS?
YES YES I DID
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY had a lot of fun characters and a plot that for the most part kept moving along at a relentless enough pace that you probably didn’t notice that you’d already watched this film before. I’m not going to go over all the similarities here because Entertainment Weekly already did that, but I have to say that if Marvel is going to be this lazy with their plots, then I don’t think they should be expecting me to pay full price (or any price) to watch the same movie again and again.
8. Let’s Play Spot the Black Person!
It’s easy during the prison scene, because apparently every black person hired by Marvel, except the always sexy even in bad makeup Djimon Hounsou ended up there.
This is somewhat related to number 10.
Look, I get that blockbusters will follow a certain racial formula that I should come to expect by now, but it really, really bothers me that in a fantastical SFF setting where you’ve got people walking around in green, blue and red makeup, the highest concentration of people with brown skin in the movie ARE IN THE F**KING PRISON.
It just bothers me as a black person to see that Hollywood is infinitely more comfortable showcasing wacky alien races than they are showcasing the non-white REAL LIFE races that actually exist. After the movie, my brother told me he spotted a black person somewhere in the Civilians Running for Their Lives scene and he totally was going to point him out ‘LOOK LOOK A BLACK PERSO – ah, you missed him.’ Lol.
Of course, it was nice to see Djimon Hounsou in the mix, but the guy was playing a personality-less mook, so does that really count?
7. How Many Colours Can We Paint Zoe Saldana?
Zoe Saldana’s character, Gamora, was kind of a let down. If anyone’s read the actual GOTG comic, you know that Gamora was not nearly as girly as the movie’s portrayal of her. She’s a hard ass, and for some reason Disney-Marvel decided that in order to endear her to a movie-going audience, they had to somehow strip the character down so they could fit her into some kind of Mary Sue Female Love Interest cookie cutter mold and that sucks.
It’s happened pretty much in every notable SF blockbuster she’s been in so far: STAR TREK, AVATAR, now GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Literally no matter what skin colour they paint her body, she’s still just the doe-eyed love interest. Come on male writers, give her something else to do other than hook up with the white hero!
Which brings me to:
6. The Missed Opportunity that is The Painfully Underdeveloped Relationship between Gamora and Nebula
I mean, Gamora’s got this really cool set up of a relationship with her sister, Nebula. From what we can glean, both of them were stolen from their families and raised as assassins by the evil purple-coloured titan monster guy-in-love-with-death, Thanos. THAT’S the story I want to see. Think of how deeply you can delve into that, unpacking the layers of their relationship: the love, jealousy, fear, loyalty, hatred, betrayal.
When Nebula said that out of all their sisters, Gamora was the one she loved most, I was sitting there in the theater all: “TELL ME MORE??!!!” But they never did. Instead we’re stuck following the boring white male around as he fumbles his way into heroism So much Bechdelian potential, WASTED.
Again, I expect that since this is a blockbuster we should expect certain things and not expect others. But it wouldn’t kill Marvel to step outside of the box sometimes.
5. Can we Make the Third Act ‘Death From Above’ a TvTrope?
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, MAN OF STEEL, IRON MAN 3, THE AVENGERS, THOR: THE DARK WORLD, CAPTAIN AMERICA, CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER and now this movie, and probably more.
Why is it that in the third act we must all be in danger from something big and massive coming out of the sky?
It’s usually a space ship, or some variation of an aircraft. And you’ve got people screaming because the giant aircraft is going to CRASH INTO US ALL. Or a mega-destroying BEAM OF LIGHT IS GOING TO TERRAFORM US TO DEATH or something. And the heroes have to stop it – like steer the aircraft away from the screaming populace, land it safely in some unpopulated area, destroy it before it crashes to earth, or something. Or maybe it’s not an aircraft, but something else just as horrible, like the magic terraforming beam in MAN OF STEEL, or the alien baddies who came from the magic beam that shot into the sky in THE AVENGERS.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have that in your story, but all these big blockbuster SFF films are starting to blend into each other at this point – I probably wouldn’t notice or care usually. You want your third act to be big. But the problem is there are so many of them coming out in rapid succession. Like you’ve got 4 or 5 of them coming out a year. You start to notice.
Above I mentioned the potential in Gamora and Nebula’s relationship. I would really love it if these SFF/Comic-Book films were to switch it up a bit and maybe focus on non-so-typical things to give a different feel for a movie. Focus on the relationship between the characters! And maybe even the relationship between the female characters!! Or at least delve more deeply into the psyche of the main characters? Focus on the psychological/thematic aspects even while you’re having fun in space? Part of the reason why The Dark Knight did so well is because they did exactly that. Nobody can tell me that film was your typical Comic Book Movie.
Marvel has got their formula and we’ll probably have to rip it out of their cold dead hands. It’s working for them, but now that they’ve got all this money and fan loyalty, I think they can try a bit harder to go a bit outside the box with some of their next movies.
4. When Will Marvel Have a Good Villain?
I cannot for the life of me remember who the villain of Thor 2 was. I know Thor 1 had Loki and some other guy he may or may not have been working with. Thor 2 was some guy with a spaceship that of course had to come crashing down to earth in the third act.
What is Ronan’s motivation? He stole the ball thing to become all powerful? Why? He wasn’t happy being Thanos’ minion? Doesn’t Thanos pay well? And isn’t that what the guy from Thor 2 wanted to do kind of? And hell, isn’t that kind of what Loki wanted to do in the Avengers kind of?
I think the reason why Loki worked at least a bit is because a) he was charismatic and b) his villain story was developed through three different movies. So he had this arc, and we got to understand him better. I don’t need the villain’s whole back story in the first movie if I know he’s going to be in another film, because perhaps Film Number 2 will be where we delve a bit more deeply into his story. The first movie is usually set up. It has to do so much in giving you an exciting plot, while introducing this whole world and all these characters while setting up the plot for the entire series. It’s not an easy feat. But here’s the problem with GOTG: not only is Ronan completely forgettable, but he’s pretty much defeated definitively with this film, so he never gets a chance to grow as a villain in the next movie(s).
I guess this is just first movie syndrome. Which means maybe we can expect a better villain (hopefully) in the second film, but then in Marvel movies, even the second films usually suffer from having dull villains (see: Iron Man 2, Thor 2). I think Marvel needs its Joker – that villain that is just going to excite and inspire fear and wonder in the audience. It’s not easy, but I mean, it’s not like they’re one author grinding away behind their laptops – it’s fucking DISNEY. MARVEL. You’ve got this whole creative think tank at your disposal; surely you can make it happen?
This is a minor nitpick for me since having an amazing villain isn’t super necessary for the entire story to be enjoyable, especially if everything else is on point. I loved JJ Abrams’s first STAR TREK film even though the villain and his entire back story was stupid (I’m going to blow up Vulcan because Spock wasn’t able to keep my planet from being destroyed even though it was a natural event and it was going to be destroyed anyway and he obviously did everything he could…?). Sometimes, in a story like this, the villain just needs to be bad ass. And then maybe in the next few movies you can concentrate on beefing up the antagonistic force opposing your heroes, but so far, Marvel has given us the same baddy over and over, and what’s worse is that since everything else was kind of mediocre, that other stuff in the film wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of interesting villain.
3. I Know I Should Feel Something But…
One of the biggest problems with Marvel movies, aside from their villains, is the fact that they have trouble inspiring genuine emotional responses from people (and most people let’s be real). They have characters with painful pasts: Peter Quill’s mom died. Drax’s family was killed by Ronan. And not just any family – his wife and female child! Of course, it’s sad right? But damn, this movie got literally nothing from me. Maybe it’s because the tone was so focused on being a comedy (which maybe it had to be in order to make the audience buy the plot) that when it came time to illicit actual human emotions, it just came off as totally forced and hollow. But I think the other problem is simply that every attempted emotional beat was too cheesy to really inspire real feels.
I mean Drax’s back story, which is essentially just his reason for wanting revenge against Ronan (the whole they killed my wife and child thing), is pretty cliche as is Quill’s I’m A Clown, But Really I Just Want My Mommy angle. It’s not that these tropes are bad on their own. Tropes are tropes. They’re tropes because stories use them, and because they can work and do work. But the characters themselves were so cartoony, and these emotional beats were only explored on a cliche surface-level, so it didn’t have the impact it perhaps was supposed to. To be honest, the only character moment that actually somewhat stirred me in some way was Rocket Raccoon in the weird casino place going off on everyone ‘looking down on him’ for being a freak. I don’t really know what it says that Bradley Cooper’s voice and a CG Talking Animal was able to more convincingly showcase deep, painful emotions than any of the other characters in the film, but woop there it is.
I also wasn’t big on the ‘Hold My Hand’ Moment during the climax of the film. I mean, the movie certainly made sure to foreshadow it, but it was just too damn cheesy to be an audience ‘pump your fist’ moment. And yes, I remember the ‘character death,’ but since I knew that character wasn’t going to die and they pretty much set up how he was going to come back, I didn’t really care.
Marvel movies excel in the action, the comedy, and the bad ass comic-booky moments that remind you what it was like to be a child, but they really need to work on the internal elements – the character, the emotion. Making it feel real rather than forced. Honest. Relying less on cliches and not being afraid to give us something more character oriented might help with that. You could say that something like that isn’t really necessary in a blockbuster, but I mean, the original STAR WARS trilogy, especially A NEW HOPE AND THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK were able to deliver both action/adventure/fun and emotion/character in spades, so obviously it’s possible.
2. Is Marvel the New Christopher Nolan?
You all remember the post-Dark Knight hysteria. And maybe you might remember, if you were in the film-nerd community at the time, how pissy his fans got once people started to critique INCEPTION, that film with Leo DiCaprio and Joesph Gorden Levitt infiltrating people’s dreams to plant seeds of ideas that I think is supposed to be a metaphor for how writers get their ideas for their stories, which, um, my ‘inception’ writing process is not nearly as sexy so I’m upset about this, but I digress. The point is, at some point it became literal sin to criticize ANYTHING Christopher Nolan did, because, well, HE’S CHRISTOPHER NOLAN YOU VILE PLEBEIAN.
I see the same thing happening with anything Marvel.
I can’t tell you how annoyed people got when I was so thoroughly uninterested with AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D, that Marvel show on ABC featuring a very annoying version of Agent Coulson, and Skye, the worst Mary Sue ever to have come out of a Whedon show since the last terrible Mary Sue he created. Like, you’re not allowed to even mention that the writing is weak and the characters are terrible and cliche because it’s supposedly nerd law that criticizing anything Marvel (and Whedon, for that matter) is a cardinal sin. So I see everyone going nuts over CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 and I walk into the theaters and then walk out after the movie’s done somewhat underwhelmed even though I liked it overall, because people were hyping it up as if it were the second coming so I expected much more. I was even more disappointed with GOTG, but you’ve got people calling it Sci-Fi Brilliance and I’m like… no? This was fun, but kind of forgettable. Has Marvel created such a fervent nerd culture around itself that it’s somehow ascended into this higher realm of Christopher Nolanism where it’s now completely above the reach of criticism?
Anyway that brings me to #1.
WARNING I AM GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE SECRET END OF CREDITS SCENE!!!!
1. Fuck you, Marvel
Okay, I decided that I’m not going to completely spoil this for anyone who didn’t stay until the end of the credits to see that stinger – which, by now, come on, you should know that there’s always a secret scene at the end of every Marvel movie that clues you in to what they’re doing next.
At first when I saw the scene, I was almost giddy in my shock. YOU’RE REALLY GOING THERE? SERIOUSLY? Everyone that remembers even a little bit of geek culture in the 80s, or at least anyone who is familiar with every laughable thing George Lucas has ever created would recognize that character. I couldn’t even believe they were going there. Awesome! Right?
Because I’m still waiting for that Black Panther movie.
“Oh no, we can’t do Black Panther because it’s too hard to do! How can we make an audience want to watch a movie starting really strong and cool black characters? How can we possibly convince them of the existence of an affluent African nation ruled over by awesomely bad ass black monarchs? That’s just too unbelievable, we can’t possibly ask the audience to stretch their imaginations that far!”
Thor? Antman? GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY? AND NOW EVEN _____ (teased by the end of credits stinger)?
Well, Stan Lee apparently says they’re developing the Black Panther movie. But if it turns out that this doesn’t happen? Especially considering that _____ Movie teaser they showed us? Nah.
Marvel, screw you.
Anyway, it may seem like I’m being really hard on the movie, but in the end I did enjoy GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. It was dumb fun and sometimes that all you need. But since Marvel-Disney is like this billion dollar corporation and they’ve got stables of talent working together and a huge fan culture willing to shell out money for anything they put out, I really think they could stand to step outside of the box a bit and work on some of the elements that seem to be lacking in their films. Give us something more Mickey!