Thursday, August 21, 2014

Things Are Gonna Get Brighter - Review of "Guardians of the Galaxy"

Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy! Though if you actually cared about being spoiled for this movie, you've probably seen it already (it must be noted, this is less of a review and more of a stream-of-consciousness recap of it. Given the tone of the movie, I think it's fitting).

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy again last Friday. Honestly, it came up because I had a really tough week. It was a combination of small bad things piling up and anxiety building up and my brain being absolutely stupid and mean and ridiculous until I just couldn't take it anymore. I needed something fun. I needed something good. I needed something light-hearted and silly, but still with some substance to it.

Honestly, I think that's why Guardians of the Galaxy is so darn successful.

Two weeks on The Five(ish) Fangirls, we got into a bit of a discussion about comic book movies (after tangenting somewhat from our Doctor Who Series 8 preview) - how some of them have been dark and brooding (DC Comics, side-eyeing you so hard right now!) and that's not quite what fans want to see. Glenn from Traveling the Vortex (who was a guest on the podcast last week) pointed out how much fun Guardians was and I have to agree with him. Because when my friend Natalie texted me yesterday and said "You want to do something fun tonight?" I texted back and said "I want to see Guardians of the Galaxy again."

Guardians, at its core, is about heart. You've got five characters who are all these hardened, badass people - or, at least, they try to be. But none of them are very good at it. Peter Quill tries to be the smooth-talking ladies man who's also a wanted fugitive - except nobody can remember his wanted fugitive codename. Gamora is this tough-as-nails assassin and the daughter of the most feared creature in the universe - except she plans to betray her father when she goes out on assignment and gets caught by a bunch of rent-a-cops (for all intents and purposes, that's who these guys ought to be compared to someone of her skill). Drax the Destroyer - well, he has a reputation of being this dangerous criminal, but when it comes time to put his strength and skills to the test, he fails miserably. And then, you have Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Groot wouldn't hurt a fly if Rocket didn't tell him to. Rocket talks a tough game and he carries the big gun (and shoots the big gun) but when it comes down to it, he's the biggest softie in the known realms (look, I just want a Rocket plushie. Right next to my baby!Groot bobblehead that Marvel is so graciously going to market for me).

I think in all of our over-analysis and insistence that all science-fiction and fantasy Say Something Meaningful in order to be taken seriously by the academics who stole the keys to the clubhouse and told us all to Stop Having Fun, we actually forgot what "having fun" means (not to mention all that bean-counting bullshit over how many women talk to each other and what they talk about and how many times they do it and somehow that's what magically makes a story worth our time and effort according to Peers Who Review Crap. You even breathe the word "Bechdel" and my brain automatically stops listening. I seriously hate that damn test with all my fangirl heart and I hate every time someone brings it up - it ruins everything. There. I said it). We forgot that it's all right to enjoy a scene where some space-pirate asshole kicks his way through a deserted alien planet while singing along to "Come and Get Your Love" (I think I probably irritated the guy sitting next to me because I was head-bopping along with the music in that scene). We forgot that it's all right to laugh at a crass CGI raccoon that's trying to build a bomb with spare parts from the junk drawer. And I totally busted a gut over "pelvic sorcery," which probably went over the head of the seven-year-old boy sitting in front of me, but who cares? Also - "Kevin Bacon."

This movie is random and all over the place and that's what I love about it. Sure, the plot's a little thin, but this movie isn't about the plot. It's about this team of misfits who get thrown together and have to make the best of what they've been given. They even get a chance to be heroes - though not in the grand, epic scale of The Avengers (not yet, at least). The most they do is - for one glorious instance - "actually give a shit" for once in their lives. Most of the movie, they've been trying to out-maneuver each other so they can get the most money for that mysterious Orb thingy - but once they find out what it really is... okay, maybe some morality is called for. Even the Ravagers - the most notorious space pirate band (I guess) - decide that they'd actually like to have a galaxy to be pirates in and they pitch in to help defeat Ronan. And the result? A ragtag band who were mockingly called "Guardians of the Galaxy" live up to that derisive moniker and then some - even setting up stuff for more adventures for the next movie.

Even after all the heroics and special honors and expunged criminal records, what do Our Intrepid Heroes do? They hop in the newly rebuilt and refurbished Milano and decide on doing "a little bit of both" (meaning good and bad), as they've decided this new little quirky family they've got put together isn't so bad after all. Put the repotted Groot on the counter in the back and let him jam out to some Jackson 5 while en route on to complete a job of questionable legality. The whole thing put me in mind of Firefly, which wouldn't surprise me if that's the tone that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 takes when we get that movie in 2017.

I'm glad Marvel took a gamble on this particular franchise. I'm certain that these character will crossover with the Avengers at some point in the future, but I actually wouldn't care if they never did. This movie was so good and so fun (and set up enough loose ends - Nebula's going to be back! Which is exciting because I feel like there's more to her character than we got in this first outing) that I think these guys could carry on their own movie series. Sure, there may be more heavy topics to deal with in the future (Peter's dad, more backstory with Gamora and Drax - other characters who've been in the Guardians comics that they could introduce) - but at it's core, it's going to stay the same fun, quirky, goofball space opera. And that's the best thing Marvel could have done, really.

If for no other reason than I had a totally crap week and this was the one thing that made my life just a little bit easier - even for a few hours (anticipation of going to the movie helped cheer me up too) - that's enough for me to love this movie.

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