So earlier this year Guardians of The Galaxy came out and geek movie critics- you know, the people who fancy themselves serious business cinephiles but will invariably declare one of the pieces of cinematic fluff Marvel copy-pasted into cinemas that year to be the biggest deal ever- lost their fucking minds. I was on the cusp of going to see it in cinemas several times but always decided at the last minute not to bother.
Well, now it’s out on Home Video Formats and it’s time to see what all the fuss was about! Not in a proper review though. No, this is going to be a string of off the cuff thoughts written while I watch the movie, something I’ve done before.
– We start out in the 80s. You know it’s the 80s because the title card says it’s the 80s, and also because the main character is listening to 80s music
– Our hero is a kid and his mom is about to die of cancer. Actual cancer, not Ali MacGraw’s disease. She keeps talking about how his dad was “an angel” and he’s going to “come back for [him]” so I guess his dad was an alien or something. His mom goes from being perfectly lucid and capable of having an in-depth conversation to dead in the space of like half a second, which I don’t think is how most terminal illnesses actually work.
– Protagonist Kid is getting abducted by aliens! Wow the CG in this scene is cheap!
– There’s a kind of cool scene with Hero Dude using a scanny thing to see what a dead, abandoned planet looked like before it was dead and abandoned. What I don’t get is that the people all look not only human but more or less identical to 21st century earth humans, except they’re wearing slightly off-kilter 70s style space clothes. Is this another situation where there are just humans all over the galaxy for some reason? I wonder if the movie ever explains this.
– Our protagonist (Star Lord/Peter Quill) is exploring an ancient ruin for a Thing, and is also an insufferable jackass who dances around listening to more 80s music. I get the feeling this was supposed to be quirky and endearing. It isn’t.
– More aliens! They also look just like humans, except they have strange coloured eyes.
– Holy shit I forgot the villain in this is named Ronan The Accuser (not to be confused with Emile Zola, who is the J’accuser). Seriously, the evil alien is named “Ronan”? Did they not realize that was an actual name or something?
– The special effects continue to veer wildly between impressive and cheap as Star Dude makes his escape, scattering quirky 80s paraphernalia all over his ship. More aliens! One of them has blue skin, but also speaks with a southern accent for some reason. And I guess Star Dude slept with an alien space babe and then forgot all about her, oh what a loveable rascal
– Okay it’s time to meet Ronan the Accuser and wait what what are the Kree why is he launching into a ham-fisted bout of exposition this early in the movie what is happening
– Who the hell are the Xindarians and why are they calling Star Dude a different name. Why is all of this backstory being delivered so clunkily. Surely there was some better way to do this?
– Okay so Star Dude (aka some other name) is collecting The Orb for someone called The Broker and Ronan doesn’t want to let him do that because someone named Thanos (Xanos?) will destroy “Xindar” (or something) if Ronan brings him the orb.
If I wasn’t following the movie geek blog-o-sphere I would have no idea what the fuck was going on right now. Why are these characters sitting around monologuing about their backstory and telling each other things they already know? Surely this movie’s runtime can’t be that restrictive?
(Also, the actors are visibly struggling to deliver this nonsensical dialogue naturally; some of the performances are veering heavily into Star Wars prequel territory)
– Ronan wants to send Blue Space Lady after the orb, but Green Space Lady interjects and they argue a bit over…. something. I’m really not sure what the hell anyone is talking about. Keep in mind I have the luxury of being able to pause this and rewind.
– Following that bit of confusion it’s over to XANDAR: capital of the Nova Empire (whatever the fuck that is), which is Space Future City and has a bunch of flying cars and other stuff you’ve seen a bunch of times before.
And also Stan Lee.
– Here we’re introduced to Talking Raccoon and Tree Man. You may recognize Tree Man because the internet nerd hivemind lost its fucking shit over him and plastered him all over the place for months after this movie came out. Talking Raccoon is a bounty hunter looking for Star Dude because Star Dude betrayed his former employer (the blue guy from earlier) and they put out a hit on him.
– This movie makes me feel like such a badass, Ronan is like Space Voldemort or something with everyone gasping in fear at his name.
– Th script has stuffed approximately 1000 jokes into the last twenty minutes. None of them were funny.
– Green Space Lady shows up and starts kicking Star Dude’s ass, then Talking Raccoon and Tree Man join the fray. At least the action scenes are pretty good. Everyone ends up getting arrested by the Nova Corp, who are dudes with glowy things on their chests.
– Seriously what is with the CG in this movie, some shots are incredible and other ones look like something out of a videogame
– Blah blah blah Kree peace treaty space politics. Basically it’s not-Humans and blue space people in a tense cold war scenario, and Ronan (a blue space person fanatic) is committing terrorist attacks against not-Human outposts.
– Star Dude keeps name-dropping old movies, giving me flashbacks to Ready Player One. No wonder nerds loved this thing.
There’s a mildly interesting twist to this where it’s implied Star Dude is so obsessed with 80s stuff because he’s still stuck in childhood at the moment of his mother’s death. Actually that’s not even mildly interesting, it’s just really obvious.
– Green Space Lady is the only one of the four who seems seriously scared by Space Prison. I wonder why that is. Don’t worry though, Star Dude is here to save her!
– Look it’s the last member of this motley crew, Angry Revenge Guy! He wants to kill Green Space Lady because Ronan killed his family or whatever. This guy is played by a professional wrestler, who actually gives the best performance so far.
– Revenge Guy tries to kill Space Lady, but it turns out that she actually betrayed Ronan…. somehow? Did she? When did she do that? I don’t remember her doing that. Well whatever. Revenge Guy doesn’t understand metaphors, which I guess is supposed to be hilarious.
– Ronan is working for Thanos, who is Marvel’s big ultimate villain all of this shared universe stuff is leading up to. He kind of looks like something out of a Power Rangers series. He says things like “I will bathe the stars in your blood”.
– There’s a big fight scene in Space Prison and the Spaceketeers break out by cooperating, thus indicating that they’re destined to be a Team. The music goes DUN DUN DUH DUH DUN DUUUUUN so you know something cool is happening.
– There’s lots of “humerous” banter and clumsy stabs at character development (Star Dude never opened his mother’s last gift DO YOU THINK HE WILL AT A DRAMATIC MOMENT). Our motley heroes go to meet the person who…payed someone to get…. something. I can’t remember what’s going on. He turns out to be The Collector, a dude who has alien space women serving him as space slaves. It’s surprisingly sleazy and grim for a movie that up to this point seemed like a fairly light hearted space adventure movie.
– While they’re visiting The Collector’s base Tree Man gives a flower to an adorable space urchin, thus indicating that he’s a Nice person. Then Star Dude and Green Space Lady start to fall in love. INFODUMP EXPOSITION BACKSTORY this thing is really badly written.
Revenge Guy and Green Space Lady basically have no distinguishing features, except that he’s slightly more literal minded. None of the other characters are particularly memorable apart from Blue Space Lady, who has a cool voice.
– MORE EXPOSITION TALKING RACCOON HAS ANGST MONOLOGUE EXPOSITION
– Eventually they get to The Collector’s creepy space zoo/slave market.
MORE EXPOSITION BULLSHIT WORLDBUILDING THE ORB IS A SINGULARITY OR SOMETHING. If you open it there’s a glowy energy thing inside, because everything in this movie is a cheap looking CG glowy energy thing.
– So before this thing came out (and while it was out, and after it came out, and until the sun explodes) all the nerds got super excited over the fact that it’s the first Marvel movie that introduces the brand’s space elements. To me that seems like a terrible idea, because the fact that there are all of these massive galaxy-spanning civilizations fighting each other makes all of the earth-bound stuff with the superheroes seem completely irrelevant. That’s always been one of the inherent problems with setting your stories in a gigantic crossover universe.
– Anyway Revenge Guy gets drunk and calls in Ronan and his goons so they can fight, the bad guys get the orb and Star Dude and Green Space Lady get captured by Star Dude’s previous gang. In the process both of them end up floating in space and we see that this movie treats space essentially like being underwater, except it’s slightly colder.
– There’s lots more ham-fisted scenes where characters explain their current feelings and character motivations, and we get the big dramatic scene where the space bros decide to work together, then the big dramatic suiting up scene. The dialogue continues to be horribly written.
– Ronan’s gigantic evil spaceship (the “dark aster” which is either the stupidest or coolest name ever, I’m not sure) gets severely threatened by a relatively small group of space pirates and space police, which makes me wonder how he didn’t get destroyed before now. In fact if his ship is that weak couldn’t the army of Xandar or wherever just blow it out of the sky before he can deploy the orb?
– This battle scene appears to be where most of the special effects budget went
– Once our heroes are inside the Evil Spaceship it’s pretty much the same as the climax of all Marvel movies, by which I mean we get 20 straight minutes of cutting back and forth between five different simultaneous battle scenes, such that none of them have much impact.
– Revenge Guys calls Green Space Lady a whore. Har dee har har.
– So here’s the thing about climactic action scenes, too often they boil down to the hero and villain fist-fighting (usually on top of a fast moving thing or in a room full of machinery or something) until eventually the hero manages to take advantage of a momentary lapse in attention or grab a weapon or something and wins. I always find these unsatisfying.
For this sort of scene to really work there needs to be some sort of emotional stakes involved. The action the heroes take to defeat the villain needs to tie into those stakes somehow (and no “heroic sacrifice” doesn’t, on its own, count); it should involve some kind of decision or turning point in their character development. Otherwise all you’re left with is a drawn-out fight scene with a foregone conclusion.
Case in point, I would have had the Guardians mistrustful and intent on stabbing each other in the back until the very end, at which point they decide to work together to take down Ronan. But in the movie as we have it here they reached that point half an hour ago. Yes, Tree Man does a cool thing and is all “power of friendship”, but as he’s been consistently acting friendly to everyone else for the entire movie it doesn’t really have any impact.
Anyway that’s The Guardians of The Galaxy. It’s really ugly, the writing is awful and there are some okay action scenes.