“Guardians of the what? Never heard of them.”
Let me get two things out of the way before we begin.
One-I’m really tired of superhero movies. Now that’s not to say that I can’t appreciate a good one when I see it. I liked both X-Men: Days of Future Past and Captain America: Winter Soldier. I thought that they served their purpose just fine and everyone involved should be proud. I guess that their purpose is my problem or the lack thereof.
When modern superhero movies were in their infancy, i.e. the late 1990’s early 2000’s, they were few and far between. It didn’t really matter if a Spider-Man or Batman movie had the same themes and similar plots, since there would be enough time between them for audiences to forget, or at the very least forgive the similarities. That’s not the case anymore. Every summer since 2008 it has become more and more obvious that Hollywood sees the superhero movie as the closest thing to a sure thing they’ve got, and this leads to movies like Amazing Spider-Man 2.
ASM2, while not being the worst movie in the world, covered mostly the same ground as the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies and anything it added seemed to be a detriment to it. Electro was lame, the Green Goblin even more so, and the whole affair just seemed like it was made because a release date was set as opposed to any real creative inspiration. But you see, there’s the rub. It was made to hit a release date. I’m not saying that no one involved was doing their best, I’m saying that when a studio sets a date for a movie and then forces the creators to hit that date come hell or high water, you’re probably not going to get the best results. Christopher Nolan had years between Batman movies and they still have plot holes you can drive a truck through (how did he get the gas on that bridge? why does the sun go down in less than seven minutes? how the hell did the Joker get out the apartment building?) but at least they were involved and (mostly) thrilling. ASM2 is dull and flaccid by comparison. This type of movie is going to become more the rule than the exception as the years progress, particularly following the Marvel formula of setting the dates years in advance. Ant-Man has already become a victim of the release date syndrome losing Edgar Wright as a result.
There is also a good chance that audiences will lose interest entirely after the initial onslaught years. Will a fourth Thor movie really have anything to add to the mythology? Will a seventh Iron-Man with Jared Leto really be what people are looking for? I doubt it. Then again, some people like Man of Steel so I guess anything is possible.
Two-I don’t know jack about the Guardians of the Galaxy as characters. I knew who Rocket Raccoon was before the movie, due to the fact that Mike Mignola worked on a RR comic at the start of his career, but the rest of the characters (besides Thanos and a cameo I won’t spoil) could have been created for the movie and I would have never known the difference. To say that I was excited about Guardians of the Galaxy would be an incredible amount of hyperbole. I was indifferent at best and uninterested at worst.
“Yeah, well I was reading Guardians of the Galaxy before it even existed.”
Guardians of the Galaxy is, against all odds (unknown characters, no big stars onscreen, comedic tone), easily the second best Marvel movie to me. Only Iron Man beats it out. That’s right Whedon worshipers, it’s even better than The Avengers. Of course, I didn’t really like The Avengers that much so that’s not a huge hurdle.
GOTG is that strange movie that strikes the perfect combination of comedic/serious tone but what makes it stand out even more is that the serious parts are still lively. The movie starts out with a death scene that would make most movies seem grim, but then the main character is whisked away in a space ship and it jumps forward in time almost thirty years. Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord, as played by Chris Pratt, is searching for a relic on another planet. The relic (infinity stone) looks kind of like that floating ball thing Luke Skywalker is fencing with in Star Wars, and it ends up getting Star-Lord into some space trouble.
It turns out that this Kree guy Ronan (Lee Pace) wants the Star Wars floating ball thing because it contains whatever, so he has sent his lackey Korath (Djimon Hounsou) to retrieve it. Star-Lord gets into a brief skirmish with Korath and eventually makes off with the space ball. Ronan gets pissed when he finds out and sends his assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to get the space ball back from Star-Lord. This eventually leads to a showdown on a planet called Xandar between Star-Lord, Gamora, and a couple of bounty hunters. Did I mention the bounty hunters are a raccoon and a giant tree? Oh, I didn’t? Well, the bounty hunters are a talking raccoon who calls himself Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a giant sentient tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Groot also talks but he can only say “I am Groot.” Luckily, Rocket can tell by his intonation what he means. The assassination attempt/bounty hunt/space ball pawn job doesn’t go as planned for any of the parties, so they all get arrested and shipped off to space jail.
The space jails scenes are fun/ funny, a lot like the show OZ (not really), and the motley crew decides to work together to get out and take on Ronan, who it turns out isn’t very well liked by Gamora or anyone else. One of the prisoners in space jail is named Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and he attempts to kill Gamora due to her connection with Ronan. Ronan apparently murdered Drax’s family, that part is kind of like OZ, and Drax wants revenge any way he can get it. This leads him to join forces with Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot, and the Guardians of the Galaxy are born, although the team has a bit of growing pains along the way.
I’m not going to get into spoiler territory so go watch the movie for the rest of the plot. It is well worth your time. GOTG succeeds where I feel like The Avengers failed; it is an incredibly fun movie. What astounds me about recent superhero movies is how dark they are. Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies shoulder some of the blame albeit in a roundabout way.
Hollywood isn’t very good with subtlety and nuances so when a Batman movie is successful, they don’t see it as being good because it’s true to the character, they see it as being good because of the tone. Batman is a dark character to Hollywood = every superhero needs to be dark. Therefore, we get Man of Steel, The Spirit, the forthcoming Dawn of Justice and slowly but surely, the main Marvel movies. Compare Iron Man to Iron Man 3. Even Shane Black couldn’t save it from disappearing up its own ass. A trilogy can follow the Empire Strikes Back rule, a whole genre might not survive it. Hopefully GOTG is a step back in the right direction.
“What do you mean it’s better than Batman and Robin? Blasphemy!”
L.A. Confidential and Jackie Brown were released in 1997. I love both of those movies. Another film that was released in 1997 is Batman and Robin. To say that I don’t love it would be neglecting the power that it possesses. It’s terrible, but I love it in some regards.
I love it because it stopped the Batman film franchise, which to me had already gone off the rails when Tim Burton left it dead in its tracks. Thanks to B&R we didn’t have to deal with Howard Stern as the Scarecrow, Madonna as Harley Quinn, or Jack Nicholson reprising the role of the Joker in a dream sequence (all serious rumors at a time). I also love it because it eventually led to Batman Begins, which along with the Raimi Spider-Man movies and Bryan Singer’s X-Men films, brought about this golden age of comic book movies. But all it takes is one Batman and Robin to destroy it all.
Thankfully, Guardians of the Galaxy is not that movie. Director James Gunn, along with Nicole Perlman who he co-wrote the script with, have made what is probably the most purely fun superhero movie ever, and in the process has made the best superhero team movie thus far. But above all else he has made a movie that adults AND children can enjoy. I remember thinking during The Dark Knight Rises (which I liked just fine) of how boring it must be to a kid. Batman was barely in it, the colors were dark, and it was just kind of depressing for a good portion of the run-time. Of course good prevailed in the end but would a kid even remember that after having slept through the majority of it.
All through the showing of GOTG I attended, every kid (including my own) was laughing and loving every minute of it, and damn it, that’s important! Yes, superhero movies should appeal to everyone, kids, women, and forty-year old males included, but primarily they should appeal to kids and not the other way around. James Gunn seems to understand that. Maybe he should have a talk with Zack Snyder and David Goyer before 2016 because at this rate, I think Dawn of Justice might just be the dawn of the next Batman and Robin, just with more rain and less bat nipples. Hopefully less bat nipples. Surely they won’t put bat nipples on the suit again. Would they? No, of course not. They’re smarter than that. They are smarter than that, right? God, please let them be smarter than that…