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Guardians of the Galaxy
July 31, 2014

I only went to see Guardians of the Galaxy tonight because KC and a friend wanted to go, and I figured it was now or never — wait too long to see a big picture (which means longer than opening weekend these days), and too much will be spoiled. (No spoilers here.)

I’m really glad I went. Although I wasn’t interested in the characters or premise going in, I enjoyed the movie a lot, and I had a good time. Lots of action, as expected (not always easy to follow the details in 3-D). There was also a lot of humor, which is always a plus, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), which I expected to find tiresome. Not so, because they gave him some useful (and incredibly plot-convenient) skills.

Guardians of the Galaxy

You’ve probably heard already — or guessed — about the plot, which isn’t the point. A gang of misfits, including the Earth-born Peter Quill, who calls himself Starlord, team up to stop a bad guy, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), from causing planet-wide destruction. (Why? I’m not sure, actually — apparently, he’s just full of hate.) The Guardians include the green-skinned tough fighter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the vengeful Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista, not barista), and the walking tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), who is surprisingly helpful (and plot-convenient). I mention that again because you’ve got to be willing to go along with various events that are almost magic because the characters need them to happen to survive. Also, a good amount of the plot is predictable and formulaic because that’s the given structure, and originality is not the point, a fun ride is.

I must praise Chris Pratt (who plays Quill) highly. I think he was a great casting choice, since as a comedian, he can say the most outrageous things about himself with a straight face, which helps put over the bizarre egotism of the character. What do you expect from someone raised by space rednecks? (Their leaders are Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn, whom I remember from Gilmore Girls, but who is also the brother of director/co-writer James Gunn.)

Guardians of the Galaxy Imax poster

Some side notes: The first planet visited, Morag, tickled me, because I was almost named Morag. Instead, it was the name of the first family dog.

In case you were wondering, Stan Lee does make a cameo.

Great soundtrack of 70s pop hits, but that’s explained in-story. And it features on the poster they gave out, shown here held by KC.

I’m not sure the movie passes the Bechdel Test. There are several named female roles, but most of the movie’s characters are guys, and the women are usually alone in a scene. The two that interact most are Gamora and her adopted sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), but whenever they do, they’re yelling at each other over who dad (Thanos) likes best or whether one or both should betray Ronan, whom they were given to. On her own, Gillan is not given much to do, although she gets too many closeups. When the film wants to emphasize something, it usually cuts to her, staring out from under her brow with a cocked head. It’s an overused device.

Best after-credits scene ever! It doesn’t lead into another Marvel movie, as they usually do, but it’s a perfect tie-together of two disparate elements and left the audience howling.

Even with the caveats above, I would see the movie again. That’s the benefit of low expectations — it’s easy to surpass them. I enjoyed the ride, and it felt shorter than its two hours.

10 Responses  
David Oakes writes:  

“We named the dog Morag!”

And thanks for being Spoiler-free. I will not be able to see it until Sunday.

 
Johanna writes:  

I hoped someone would pick up on that! There are a few things I’d like to talk about that would require spoilers, but they can wait until more people have had a chance to get the surprises for themselves. So much of the movie is already familiar that I ought to leave the unknown for others to experience.

 
Argo Plummer writes:  

I too have to wait until Sunday, so I appreciate the spoiler free review and look forward to your more in-depth post!

 
Jim Perreault writes:  

Actually, Thor II, Ironman III, and Captain America II all had post-credit scenes that were humor (or character in the case of Cap) related and not setting up the next movie. So did Avengers, with the Schwarma scene.

They also had mid-credits scenes, which did have teasers for upcoming films.

I was not planning on seeing Guardians, as I am a bit action movied out this summer. But I am glad it is doing well.

 
David Oakes writes:  

Really, only one thing can be said:

We. Are. GROOT.

 
Greg Jackson writes:  

I’m confused. I’ve heard of the Bechdel test and understand what it is, although I really don’t care if films pass it or not. The majority of the best films were made in the 30s, 40s and 50s where probably 99% fail the test. However, Karen Gillian and Gunn have said in interviews that it does pass this test and so does this site here… http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/guardians-of-the-galaxy-fails-women/ …although the article still states how sexist the film is(even though the writer of the article basically makes up stuff that doesn’t actually happen in the film to make her points and then grudgingly admits to still enjoying the film). So what’s the deal? Can you explain how it fails in your eyes or how it passes in the eyes of others?

 
Johanna writes:  

Actually, there were a huge number of films in the 30s and 40s where women had strong, leading roles. Their concerns were even the focus of the movies much of the time. (An excellent reference is A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930–1960.)

If there’s a throwaway bit of dialogue I didn’t remember that passes the test, ok. I wasn’t watching for it while I was seeing the film for the first time, but my recollection afterwards was that the women’s roles all revolved around the men, as the writer of that article points out. Whether or not the film technically passes isn’t really the point; it’s that the women weren’t treated as well by the filmmakers as I’d like to have seen.

Guardians of the Galaxy was a movie I enjoyed, but one that was problematic to think about afterwards, not just in terms of gender roles, but also in terms of plot structure, imo. I hope that helps you understand the discrepancy.

 
Greg Jackson writes:  

Eh, sort of? I agree about plot structure problems. Yet, as that other review suggested, the film can pass the test but still be loaded with problems. Which goes to your point about films of the 30s and 40s. Yes, there were many films that had strong female leads, but that’s not the same thing as passing all the criteria of the bechdel test, which most films of that era fail to do. The Women has lots of strong characters, but virtually every conversation revolves in some fashion around a man. Even the film mentioned in that book you linked to, the Stanwyck film My Reputation(my favorite Stanwyck film by the way), virtually all conversations that Stanwyck has with other women(mostly Eve Arden) revolve around Stanwyck’s dead husband, her sons or current flame George Brent. If a film can pass the bechdel test and yet still fail women and be full of sexism, then what’s the point of the bechdel test? Why not just say this film is a film that does or does not have great portrayals of women and isn’t sexist or have some kind of 1-10 rating system for sexism in a film? That seems more efficient. Like how the CGC grades comics. Each flaw is graded. Objectification? Check, Male gaze? Check, etc. Given the flaws of the bechdel test, applying it at all seems rather disingenuous.

 
Johanna writes:  

I find the Bechdel Test useful because it’s so basic, and yet so many films fail, indicating that substantial female characters are still rare in movies. You’re right, it’s not exactly the same as noting whether a film is sexist or not — I’m sure there are movies out there where the only two female characters are bikini-wearing hookers and yet they say something to each other about something other than a guy, just to use my imagination — but it’s still a helpful marker of how far movies still have to go.

(And come on, the women in The Women talk about other things. Like the joy of sleeping alone or how much of a bitch Joan Crawford’s character is, just to name the two that come immediately to mind.)

 
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Out on DVD Tomorrow » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] Sure, it isn’t on as huge a scale as The Avengers and it doesn’t have the wackiness of Guardians of the Galaxy, but it also doesn’t have the sexism of the latter or the yet-another-dark-villain of either. […]

 

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