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Thursday, 7 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy.

My dog ate all of the eggs.


Why did she do this.

Guardians of the Galaxy.

[Spoiler warning for Guardians of the Galaxy and other Marvel
Cinematic Universe films and TV series.]

I was really annoyed by the announcement of Guardians of the Galaxy. Not as much as I was by Ant-Man's announcement, which happened roughly around the same time, but still, very vexed by it, and the reasons for my irritation haven't really changed. The reasons in question are that we still weren't getting a film with a woman or someone who isn't white in the lead role, instead getting the small-name space thieves and the domestic abuser first.

So I remainquiteannoyed by that. If anything, my irritation on that count has really only increased with the announcement of a Doctor Strange film, and the looming possibility of a Howard the Duck film.

But in spite of that, Guardians of the Galaxy did kind of start to win me over through its trailers and posters. Peter Quill looked fun, Gamora looked badass, Rocket and Groot looked adorable, and Drax looked … like he was also there. There was spectacle, ridiculous comedy, the promise of Lee Pace hamming things up – I don't know how Lee Pace, best known as Ned the Piemaker, ended up being the go-to guy for unnerving, scenery-chewing villains, but I like it – a return to our screens for Thanos, and a look at the wider universe outside of Earth (and Asgard).

Hooked on a feelin' ~

So I went to see it, about half a week after it was released over here.

Guardians of the Galaxy, happening roughly concurrently with the other Phase 2 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is about Peter Quill, who was abducted by aliens when he was just a bairn and is now a thief and 80s music enthusiast. After finding and stealing a powerful object called the Orb, he ends up having to reluctantly ally himself with assassin (and adopted daughter of Thanos, who we saw as the leader of the Chitauri at the very end of The Avengers) Gamora, bounty hunters and career criminals Rocket and Groot, and maniacal warrior Drax, as his possession of the Orb has drawn the attention of Thanos and his ally, Kree radical Ronan the Accuser.

Ooh, spaceship.

In a way, it seems like this should be the film that ties in very little with the rest of the MCU: It is, after all, set in an entirely different galaxy. In actuality, this seems to be the film that, more than any of the others in Phase 2 so far, is setting up future plotlines. It's in this film that we find out what Thanos – previously only seen briefly in a post-credits scene – is and what he wants. We were told in Thor: The Dark World that the Tesseract and the Aether are both Infinity Stones, but it's in this film that we find out what Infinity Stones are, as well as seeing the third out of six. We see the Kree properly, thus confirming that the alien being whose viscous fluids Coulson and Skye have both used as a healing (and maddening) drug in Agents of Shield is a Kree. Not only that, but we get multiple glimpses of the Celestials, which is likely to be relevant in future, and a miniscule blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Beta Ray Bill.

It really feels that while Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Iron Man 3, and Thor: The Dark World all don't really have much to do with the wider plot of the MCU films (although The Winter Soldier notably had a massive effect on Agents of Shield), Guardians of the Galaxy is laying the seeds for a lot of plot threads that are going to be important for Phase 3, where I'm presuming (quite possibly incorrectly) that we're going to see the culmination of the Thanos arc.

Which doesn't mean that this film doesn't stand on its own at all. It does – actually, out of all the Phase 2 films, it stands on its own probably the best, because it's the only one that isn't a sequel. If you watch Thor: The Dark World without seeing Thor and The Avengers, you're going to be confused. Who is Jane Foster and why are she and Thor staring adoringly at each other so much? Why is Loki in prison and why does he look like Tommy Wiseau? Who's Erik Selvig and why is he naked? Why, why is he naked?

The same isn't true for GotG. What you might think while watching it is 'Man, I really like this reimagining of Farscape.'

Ben Browder's really changed lately.

That's probably not an entirely fair comparison for me to make, given that this is an adaptation of a pretty old comic series, but it's true. If you filtered Farscape through the lens of snappy MCU shenanigans and added just a tiny dash of Star Wars, you'll end up with GotG, and fans of the late-nineties-early-noughties TV series will note that quite apart from the entirely coincidentally similar premises of a band of alien criminals led by a burly US Southerner saving the galaxy from a war between a lawkeeping human-ish species and a more distinctly inhuman species led by a fanatic (and I'm not being sarcastic there, I'm pretty sure that's entirely coincidental), GotG just has a very similar feel to Farscape. Both are marked with a noted emphasis on whimsy and sharp humour, especially humour that derives from untrustworthy people being forced to work together, but have a very strong dramatic core.

So, if you like Farscape, you'll probably like this, and if you don't like Farscape, you'll – probably still like this, to be honest. It's visually stunning, which is a plus, with a great soundtrack composed mostly of 80s hits, which is an interesting addition for a space opera, but more than that, it's just very fast-paced, witty and fun. The other Phase 2 films have all been quite dark affairs, with the humour being used to break up the grimness: GotG is as light and fluffy as a bunny in souffle, and it's (nearly) unrelentingly cheerful and feel-good. 


It's also a true ensemble piece, arguably moreso than The Avengers, where Captain America and Iron Man were really the central characters. All five of the Guardians have their own character arcs, each one clearly established and then executed well in a way that makes you identify with and feel for the characters. Even Groot, a character who can only talk by introducing himself (Vin Diesel puts in a pretty Oscar-worthy performance there, too, as he manages to convey significant meaning with every read of 'I am Groot'), has his own storyline with a clear beginning, middle and end.

(Yes, Groot made me cry. Yes, Groot nearly made me cry multiple times. He's just – he's such an innocent and he's so sweet …)

H-he is G-groot.

The weak link among the cast, oddly, would have to be the villain Ronan, who while big and scary and intimidating, is really never anything more than that. While Lee Pace plays him well, it feels almost jarring that in a film where we get to know the main cast all so well, that Ronan is left mostly undeveloped. Why, Ronan? Why do you want to accuse people so much? Who are you? What did you see?

Why a hammer, Ronan? Why the make-up?

So I liked it. I liked it a lot. I actually think it might be the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film РI said something similar about The Winter Soldier, that it was the best Phase 2 film, and to be fair up until this point that was probably true, but it's been knocked off its throne. So I'm going to pull out that old clich̩ of reviewers everywhere, that if you see one film this year, it should probably be Guardians of the Galaxy, if you're into space operas and wacky fun and all that jazz. Also, if you want to cry.

With that done, here's a list of things I really want from Marvel: A Black Widow film, a Captain Marvel film with Carol Danvers in the lead role, the Wasp to show up at some point, and a Black Panther film.

That just about covers it.

Gamora agrees with me.

Oh, incidentally, the release date for Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice has been moved, seemingly in an attempt to run away from Marvel, as previously it had been on the same day as Captain America 3. I find that hilarious somehow. I love it when DC suffers.

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