That weren’t no D.J. That was hazy cosmic jive… Review of Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Gamora-Peter-Drax

 

It has already been said that nothing about this film looks like it would work on paper.  Indeed, to a very large extent, this film doesn’t work.  The female characters have practically no depth.  The planet of ‘good characters’ actually seems kind of evil.  And there’s a ‘funny animated character’.

Holy crap, it totally works.  Go and see this film.  It’s so good.

Let’s start with the problems.  The set up of the film dedicates a lot of time to establishing the straight, white male lead character.  A lot of time.  Indeed, there’s so much investment in this part of the film that never really pays off (it looks like material for the sequel).  Conversely, the female supporting role — the exotic, violent green chick — has so little investment in her character that it’s cripples the opening act of the film.  Gamora is the adopted daughter of the puppet master behind the film’s villain.  When the film’s villain fails to get the magical power rock that’s central to the film’s plot, Gamora is sent to fetch it.  Psych!  She double crossed the film’s villain for her own ends that end up coinciding with the straight white male’s plan.

It doesn’t quite mesh, and so it’s not entirely clear if it’s being played straight — she’s really changed sides — or if this is some ulterior plan in the villain’s favour.  As the film goes on, it’s clear that the audience was expected to consider her one of the heroes and take the defection on good faith but, without any kind of character development up to that point, there’s no reason for the audience to do so.

The heroes find themselves amidst a galactic conflict involving extremists who hate a peace treaty.  Instead of going all Star Wars prequels on us, the political aspect is just taken as read.  One of the parties to the peace treaty won’t call out the extremists for internal political reasons, leaving the other party to the peace treaty to deal with the issue.

Somehow — and I’m still not quite sure how they managed to pull this off — the planet being attacked by the extremists manages to appear as the good, enlightened, liberal planet despite having the most draconian prisons ever depicted in film.  Is it because the planet is full of people who look mostly human?  Is it because the planet and its citizens are so brightly coloured?  Is it because it’s a planet where every adult female complies with general notions of attractiveness without crossing the line into ‘sexy’ (because sexy is evil)?  The more I think about this planet, the more worried I am that Ronan the evil extremist guy was probably on to something.  What is the nature of this peace treaty?  We’ve seen this planet’s prisons; I’d hate to think what their foreign policy is like.

All in all, the Kree Empire (the other party to the peace treaty) is practically invisible in this film.  They’re all blue-skinned and look vaguely menacing.  As far as the audience is concerned, Ronan the evil extremist is the unofficial face and voice of the Kree Empire.  Does this play on contemporary understandings of extremism — where the fringe is considered the ‘true’ sentiment of the tacit majority?

And, yet, you don’t get a chance to let these ideas bubble up as this colourful, dazzling, amazing film moves swiftly and elegantly from one set piece to the next.

If I’m going to fault this film, it’s that it’s going to inspire a lot of horrible cosplay.

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Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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