We have made it through the (infinity?) gauntlet and watched all ten Marvel movies leading up to The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which we will be seeing TONIGHT!!!! TONIGHT, GUYS!!!!
This decalogue ends on a weird note with Guardians of the Galaxy. Where the Thor movies gave us a taste of the Marvel cosmic universe, this movie blows it wide open. Fortunately for the audience, and for the bank accounts of everyone involved with the movie, it does so in the funnest way possible. I didn't have time to grab interview quotes for this post, but this movie is so new who cares?
Let’s watch Chris Pratt get ripped!
RG: I always forget what a bummer of an opening scene this movie has. It’s an unexpected beginning to such a fun summer romp. I love how simple and vague it is, though, as far as an origin story goes. And it full-on shows the audience a spaceship, which is nice.
This movie is a lesson in how to do a superhero team movie. It shows that you can effectively bring together a team of characters who have never been on screen before and have the audience invested in all of them very quickly. I’m very glad that Marvel took the time to “assemble” their Avengers before making the team movie, but I think this is a great blueprint for superhero teams where each character maybe isn’t solo film worthy. DC should take notes from Guardians. I think they could create a fantastic Teen Titans movie that has a similar tone if they wanted to. Although, honestly, they would probably just make them all heroin addicts and beat at least one of them to death with a crowbar.
DH: “Damaged” tattoos for everybody!
RG: So the first scene after the sad mom dying scene is just great. It lets the audience know that we are done with the sad stuff and this movie is going to be FUN. We see Chris Pratt in full Starlord get-up, we hear the very excellent song “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, and we see the Guardians of the Galaxy title card FILL THE WHOLE SCREEN.
RG: We get some Indiana Jones style action, a few jokes, and a narrow escape. They let the audience know through Quill’s dialogue with Ronan’s goons that it’s fine that we don’t know who the hell Starlord is because no one in this movie does either.
DH: It’s a little like Up in that regard--they get the downer stuff out of the way in the first few minutes and then get on with the fun. I like how, even when Peter Quill lands on Morag, the tone is very dour and dark, with ominous music and the remnants of a dead civilization all around him...and then he turns on his Walkman and it turns into a dance number.
DH: Speaking of Up, it occurred to me recently that Marvel right now is very much like Pixar was for a number of years--just a brand that you can pretty much trust. I think the integrity of that brand, combined with a really fun ad campaign, helped make this movie into a giant hit. I was honestly expecting it to be the studio’s first big financial flop. Shows what I know!
RG: My favourite Peter Quill moment is when he introduces himself to Gamora: “If there's one thing I hate, it's a man without integrity. Peter Quill. People call me Star-Lord.”
DH: I also love when John C. Reilly shows up and calls him “Star-Prince”, and then is like, “A lot of people have code-names, it’s not that weird.” Also, I love John C. Reilly.
RG: Making this movie a comedy, where part of the joke is that no one has heard of these minor league characters, was a brilliant move. Can you imagine if this movie hadn’t been a comedy? I think it would have been boring as hell.
DH: Yes, for sure. All the non-Guardians stuff is pretty dull. The Ronan scenes feel like something out of The Chronicles Of Riddick--just really pompous and self-important.
RG: It’s interesting that the Marvel movie that seemed like the biggest risk, and had the least accessible and least familiar characters, quickly became the most beloved. I feel like everyone who worked on The Winter Soldier must secretly kind of hate Guardians because it REALLY stole their thunder. Guardians was all over the non-major film awards, leaving Winter Soldier mostly forgotten.
DH: Yeah, but Winter Soldier is still better, in my opinion (and, I’m pretty sure, in yours!).
RG: Uh, yeah. But I think Winter Soldier is better than Citizen Kane.
RG: Rocket is a perfectly realized character that shouldn’t work at all on screen. He looks amazing, and Bradley Cooper voices the hell out of him. So funny. And, of course, everyone fell in love with Groot. It seems nuts to me that Interstellar won the special effects Oscar when this movie had TWO completely CGI characters that audiences loved this much. And besides that, the whole movie was incredible to look at.
DH: I always forget that Bradley Cooper provides Rocket’s voice! He really disappears into the character, with his Brooklyn accent. I love his drunken rant midway through the movie--it’s a pretty raw, emotional scene, which is a weird thing to say about a CGI space raccoon having a drunken breakdown.
RG: Watching this movie makes me really bummed that we can’t get a really good Ninja Turtle movie off the ground. You see how great Rocket looks in this and you think about how popular a really high quality Ninja Turtles movie would be with at least two generations and it just seems crazy to be cranking out this Michael Bay nonsense. I was a giant Ninja Turtles fan as a kid, but I am not going to be seeing those movies. Sorry, Stephen Amell. Congrats on the Casey Jones gig! Still love you!
RG: I like Zoe Saldana as Gamora. I feel like she maybe could have had more to do, but it’s an ensemble movie so whatever. I’ll tell you this: I am done with super hero team movies with only one female member.
DH: Yeah, that’s bullshit. There are several female characters they could introduce in the sequel--Moondragon, Quasar (the Phylla-Vell version), Mantis, to name a few--and I hope they go for it. These movies are real sausage fests. There are lots of shirtless dudes, but considering these movies are primarily marketed towards teenaged boys, why aren’t there more ladies for them to crush on (if ladies are what they happen to be into)? Seems a bit weird.
RG: I think Dave Bautista actually steals the movie for me as Drax. I absolutely love him. His comedic timing is fantastic. In particular, his delivery of the line: “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are excellent and I would catch it” and in the scene where they are sitting in a circle trying to figure out a plan and he has that “I wasn’t listening. I was thinking of something else” line.
DH: Yes! I know nothing of him beyond this movie--is he a wrestler? A UFC guy?--but he is really, really funny. I love his “Finger to the throat means death!” line, followed by “Metaphor!” to Star-Lord, who shrugs and says, “Eh, sorta.”
RG: He was a wrestler. Is a wrestler? I dunno. Wrestler for sure.
RG: One of the big stories about this movie was the de-fattening of Chris Pratt. Good job, Pratt. You got real hot. And it was all for pretty much one scene where they remove his shirt and just spray him with a hose. Who says these movies aren’t for women?
DH: See my earlier comments re: shirtless dudes.
There are a few problematic things with Guardians that have been talked about on the internet at length. Here are some of them, and here’s what we think:
1. Quill says to Ronan “You said it yourself, bitch. We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.”
RG: I’ll be honest, it made me cringe a little. Or at least roll my eyes. I think it’s time for men to stop using that word. That is not a fun insult for men to use anymore. ‘Dick’ would have been better and more appropriate. It was probably ad-libbed. Whatever. There probably is a take where he said ‘dick’ instead. I’ll file this one under ‘unnecessary.’
DH: Especially because--and this is relevant to your next item--this is the first Marvel movie co-written by a woman, Nicole Perlman (who is now hard at work on the screenplay for Captain Marvel!).
2. Drax, who is always literal, refers to Gamora as “this green whore.”
RG: I’ll admit that this line made me laugh. Not as much as “this dumb tree,” but it still made me laugh. It was confusing, though, since Drax can’t understand metaphor and Gamora is not an actual whore. I’ve heard or read James Gunn defend the line, saying that Drax would have heard Gamora being called a whore in the prison. I don’t think I heard any prisoners refer to her as a whore, but whatever. The shock value was funny.
DH: It is confusing! She doesn’t even fall for Quill’s “pelvic sorcery”. How exactly is she a “whore”?
3. Quill’s blacklight joke
RG: I think people didn’t love having this in the movie because it was very much a joke for adults. I’m gonna go ahead and say that very little of this movie is for kids. The joke is funny.
DH: That line probably led to a LOT of very awkward conversations between parents and the kids they brought to see it. Good luck with that in a couple of years, Rachelle! At least Mitchell and Trevor will learn who Jackson Pollock is.
RG: I have a line prepared already: “Pollock was a very messy painter and blacklights highlight messes.” Pretty good, huh? Superman and Captain America have taught me how to lie without lying.
RG: Another risk Marvel took with this movie: it contains a LOT of important exposition that relates to what is, and what will, be going down in the Avengers movies. Having this long game that spreads across these twenty-or-so films, starting with the first Thor movie, is pretty ambitious. We know the movies are leading to a big showdown with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet (I am assuming we’ll see the gauntlet). To pull that off, you have to do a lot of work to get the non-comic-reading audience to both understand and care about the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe. It’s bold.
So using this fun summer sci-fi comedy as a vessel for lots of information about this cosmic event is a genius move by Marvel. Really, I am seriously impressed.
DH: If nothing else, it gave us one of Jack Kirby’s Celestials on the big screen. And it looked INCREDIBLE. Definitely not something I expected to see in my lifetime. Now where’s that Devil Dinosaur movie?
RG: Oh man, now THERE’S a movie my son would be excited about.
All of the backstories of the Guardians are kept pretty vague. I like that. We probably learn the most about Gamora. We actually don’t learn much at all about Peter Quill, and that’s mostly because he doesn’t seem to know much about his own origin. Plenty to explore in Guardians 2.
DH: I really hope Adam Warlock is somehow his dad, even though it would be a huge departure from the comics. Mostly I just want to see Adam Warlock in a movie.
DH: I dig Benicio Del Toro’s performance here a lot. It’s a pretty weird performance, but he really goes for it in a way that someone like, say, Anthony Hopkins sure doesn’t. At least he seems to give a shit. And that scene has a lot of cool Easter Eggs in it--Cosmo the spacedog from Abnett and Lanning’s GotG run (a sadly overlooked run that this movie owes an immeasurable debt to!), one of the Dark Elves from Thor: The Dark World, a Chitauri Footsoldier from Avengers...Adam Warlock’s cocoon is even there, so maybe…?
RG: The soundtrack, of course, was a huge hit. I wish they had highlighted a song other than “Hooked on a Feeling” just because it’s already been used pretty iconically in both Reservoir Dogs and Ally McBeal. And in commercials, and everywhere. I am completely sick of that song. And that Pina Colada song is just wretched and not even tolerable as a joke. I always skip that track.
DH: Agreed. As much as I love this soundtrack, most of the songs on it are already associated with other movies for me. “Cherry Bomb” is in Dazed And Confused, “Spirit In The Sky” is in Apollo 13, “Fooled Around And Fell In Love” is in Boogie Nights...it’s almost as though the nostalgia they’re generating isn’t so much for ‘70s hits as it is ‘90s movies that used ‘70s hits! But this movie is easily the best vehicle for “The Pina Colada Song” (which, by the way, was also used in Mars Attacks! See what I mean?).
RG: Yeah, I think “Come and Get Your Love” that wasn’t already used famously in another movie. At least not one that I can think of. Again, great song.
I love those Nova ships so much, and the way they lock together to form a barrier around Ronan’s ship. I also love Ronan’s ship. I also love Ronan, though it was a real waste of sexy, sexy Lee Pace. Did you know that Lee Pace went to high school with Matt Bomer?! And they were FRIENDS?! Can you IMAGINE?!
DH: I did not, but I barely know who either of those guys are.
RG: DAVE! Do I have to give you Matt Bomer homework?
I seriously love the final showdown with Ronan when Quill starts dancing and singing along to "O-o-h Child" and Ronan says "What are you doing?" in a tone that is both baffled and terrified.
RG: It’s going to be very fun to see The Guardians interact with The Avengers in (I assume) the Infinity War movies. I can’t wait to see how that all goes down. But we still have like seventy-five Marvel movies before then.
DH: This movie is such an ‘80s throwback in a lot of ways--it’s been said that it’s not so much Marvel’s Star Wars as it is Marvel’s Battle Beyond The Stars or The Last Starfighter in that it’s much closer to those scruffier knockoffs of SW than the real thing. With that in mind, I would have loved to have seen this movie happen in the ‘80s, with tons of bluescreen and Muppets for Rocket and Groot instead of CGI. Can someone with a fortune to blow just go ahead and make that movie for me? Thanks in advance.
DH: I like this movie a lot, but I don’t know that I love it. I find myself smiling at jokes rather than laughing out loud at them, more often than not. I think it’s a cool, fun movie, but it didn’t blow me away like The Avengers or either Captain America movie did. It really did resonate with a lot of people, though, so that’s cool in a way that it never is when a really popular movie stinks. And this movie doesn’t stink by any stretch. It’s got a really good heart, it’s cool to look at, and it contains a great Footloose gag.
RG: Yes, agreed. Ain’t no Captain America. But I had nothing invested in these characters so I didn’t get that same feeling of satisfaction that I got watching the Avengers movies.
It’s going to be a ways off, but I am really looking forward to watching all of these movies with my sons eventually. I hope they appreciate how lucky they are to have this many great superhero movies available to watch immediately. Maybe I should keep these movies a secret and show them a bunch of shitty old ones for the next ten years. It builds character. “You kids like super heroes? Do you like Shaquille O’Neal? Have I got a movie for you!”
DH: Just make sure you distract them during that black light conversation when you get to this movie.
RG: I'll finish by saying it was weird to hear the theatre go absolutely nuts with excitement when Howard the Duck showed up in the end of credits scene. It's a crazy time to be alive.
Alright! Done! We’ll be back with our thoughts on Age of Ultron as soon as we come down from the high we will surely both be riding as we watch it an obscene number of times.
And after that, we can finally get back to writing about actual comic books on this comic book blog! Because comic books are still great!