I hate the film Guardians of the Galaxy. I hate it. I understand that my position is not a popular one; but then again, I never really was that popular. Need proof? Look me up in the high school yearbook.
I hate the film and everything about it, from its Kevin Bacon inspired jokes to its talking Raccoon. I have spent the better part of the last two years trying to convince the rest of you, that I am right. With the sequel arriving in theaters, I will give this one another go.
I hate Guardians for one simple reason: lazy storytelling. Essentially, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is a carbon-copy of the Avengers (2012) formula, just with a relatively obscure series from deep within the Marvel vaults. And yes, before you start questioning me and my fan-boy creds, I am in fact one of some twenty-five people who has ACTUALLY read the Guardian’s books.
Both films essentially share the same log line, some version of: A team of misfits with superpowers, must learn to work together, to prevent the destruction of the world and the enslavement of all.
The Avengers are a group of super heroes with competing world views. Over the course of the films in phase one – one Captain America, one Thor, two Iron Man, and (technically two) Hulk – we witness the evolution of these characters. We learn everything about who these characters are: their motivations, their flaws, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their fears. We learn how they think, and how they interact with those around them. Finally, this lesson in character development culminates, in the Avengers film, where these characters are given the chance to interact accordingly. There is a line in the Avengers, where Tony Stark talks with Loki, and mentions how it takes some time for the Avengers to find some “traction”. And Tony is right. But as an audience, we are rewarded for our investment in the growth of these characters, and find ourselves believing all the decisions they make during the film.
Unlike the Avengers, who have a collective interest in the greater good, the Guardians are not. They are a bunch of selfish a-holes. They only seem to throw aside their differences, after acknowledging that they are in fact selfish a-holes, who have no one else except for each other. I think that is a cop-out. Worse, I think is a faulty premise to build a film upon. I have spent enough time in Los Angeles traffic to know that selfish a-holes never in fact achieve that level of personal enlightenment to actually think about other people.
While the Avengers come together over the course of multiple films, the Guardians come together over half of one. In a few scenes, they go attempting to sell one another out for bounty, to complete indifference towards one another, to risking their lives to save one another. No matter how many times I watch the movie, I just cannot believe this bunch of self-absorbed characters would actually come together to save anyone, let alone a planet they have no attachment to. With the Avengers, who have a track record of attempting to save the world individually, we at least believe their motives to be genuine.
The villains in the films, are not comparable. Loki the trickster, has a motivation to capture Earth spanning multiple films. He believes humans to be inferior, and through ruling Earth he will finally be able to demonstrate his worthiness to the other Asgardians, his equality to his adopted brother, and win the approval of his father (which he believes he doesn’t have).
In Guardians, the main character is Ronan the Accuser. An interesting character from the Marvel books, who actually (in my opinion) makes a fantastic transition the screen, but is grossly underused. His motivation for attacking Xandar and the Nova Empire is limited to a few lines of dialogue. He does very little in the film beside show up for the final battle, only to be quickly defeated in a dance battle. Instead of keeping around a B.A. villain (as was done with Loki), the screenwriters of Guardians decided they didn’t want to explore Ronan’s character further, and just kill him off.
While in the Avengers, the team is called to defend New York City from Loki’s advancing army, Ronan attacks Xandar. As an audience, New York matters. Any New Yorker will tell you it is the center of the Universe, and our characters in the film share that sentiment. Xandar is a world that we the audience have no attachment to, and neither do the Guardians. Early in the film, the Nova Corps (Xandar’s Reno 911 inspired police force) arrest and impression all the main characters; and the Guardians do everything they can to escape. Suddenly they just have a change of heart, and decided to save the people they despise?
Every time the plot needs to advance, the Guardians seem to stumble across a convenient, and often times unearned, solution. Such as the ability to survive the vacuum of space without a suit. And then of course there is the Infinity Stone, just lying around, forgotten and waiting to be discovered. Not like the stone in the Avengers, which is a coveted item in three films. No in Guardians, unlimited power just lies abandoned. Unlimited power which destroys all who touch it, except those who are protected by the power of friendship? Yeah. That happens in the film. Holding hands and singing kumbaya is enough to save oneself from evaporation.
And then of course there is Howard. Howard-the-FRICKEN-Duck. Did they really have to remind us of the very thing we have spent nearly 30 years trying to forget?
I get it, Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens have proven that audiences today care more about the “nostalgic qualities” of a film than trivial matters like original stories, completed plot lines, or developed characters. Maybe that is the reason why this rehash (read: knockoff) of Avengers was so positively received by audiences everywhere? Or maybe “Guardians of the Galaxy“ is simply another film to benefit from the comic book bubble and the resulting social amnesia of comic book fans? All of whom, upon the release of a new film, are quick to herald it as the “greatest” of all its predecessors. At least until the next one arrives.
I think that what I really hate about Guardians is not the fact that I walked out of a comic book film disappointed (a comic book film oozing with 1980s pop culture references and a soundtrack to match). No, I think that I hate the original because in spite of all those things mentioned above, the marketing department at Disney was able to convince millions of Americans to get excited – then buy tickets – to a film about comic book character who they had NEVER even heard of. What is next? Will they sell America a Squirrel Girl film?
This is the same Disney-Marvel super-brand which has somehow convinced me that not only will my comic book cred be on the line if I don’t see the next Guardians film; but I might actually ENJOY watching it.
“Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” hit theaters Friday May 5th. It has Kurt Russel in it. Go and see it, oh wait, you already plan on seeing it. Hell, I plan on seeing it, and I already know that I will hate it.
So I finally did see the new film, as I am sure you did. And guess what… I absolutely-positively HATED it. It had the same flat characterization, except in this film the characters of Rocket and Drax are devoid of all purpose and have been demoted to comic-relief. The interaction between characters is forced, with the characters “speaking” their feelings. The same convoluted story line, full of plot holes, and lacking genuine character choice. While visually superior to the first film, this second film is more of the same – bad jokes and all – but lacking the creativity of the original. The two major action sequences in the film (and the beginning and the end), lack action. We the audience are held hostage to gimmicks involving Baby Groot which might have been funny if shown for an instant instead of being perpetuated for what feels like an eternity. We get it, James Gunn liked Groot. But please, bring back the action.
And of course, we couldn’t possibly make another film without featuring another cameo with Howard-the-Duck.
I know, I know, you and your friends loved the film. You loved the penis jokes, and that battery-inspired shenanigans, and the fact that somehow – despite Marvel’s attempt to create a realistic and slightly believable cinematic comic book universe – they still green-lit a film featuring Ego the Living Planet. Yes, I am upset that in this film Ego is Quill’s father. What is up with all the J’son hating?
All we can do is a agree to disagree. You can keep loving the Guardian films and continue adulating the false idol of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Me, I will continue to see the truth and recognize the franchise for the abomination that it is, the greatest comic book inspired atrocity to tarnish the silver screen since Howard the Duck (1986).