shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
[personal profile] shadowfireflame
Just got back from seeing this—thoughts under the cut. In short, I did not enjoy it.

I was so looking forward to this movie because I like Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana and Lee Pace, but ohhhh my God, I thought it was so bad. Like, hysterically bad.

But before I get into all that, here’s what I enjoyed:

  • Zoe Saldana as Gamora—badass, hot, sympathetic, and interesting. I felt she stole every scene she was in.

  • Dave Bautista as Drax—holy shit, what a revelation. Superb deadpan snarker, very convincing.

  • Groot (mostly)—awww, his little face and his light and his catchphrase and how much he loves his friends and baby!Groot, aww.

  • Lee Pace as Ronan—I liked his take on this villain. At times I was actively rooting for him.

  • The use of music—it helped that I liked all the songs, but the way they were used was also great.

  • The dance-off—genuinely sweet and funny.

I think that was it. And this is why I didn’t like it:

Because of The Winter Soldier

I mean, at this point I kind of expect it from all American-made action movies, but I thought it was just so stereotypically American—the bad stereotype. The “I know what’s best for the world and will appoint myself to protect it, and screw the collateral damage” stereotype. But I guess my expectations had been raised too high by Captain America: the Winter Soldier.

In Guardians, we’re hit in the head over and over with the idea that some things are literal and some things are meant to be metaphorical—Drax’s learning to tell the difference is his major development as a character. So I have to ask myself, what are the metaphors presented here? I have to conclude that it must be a metaphor for America’s military industrial complex, with a message that wouldn’t have been out of place in the George Bush era.

I just cannot believe that the same company that was behind the subversive pleasure that was Winter Soldier also made this. Both of them are overt metaphors for the state of America, but their messages could not possibly be any more diametrically opposed. In Winter Solder, one of the themes was fairly sophisticated for a superhero movie: the idea that stockpiling weapons and spying on your citizens is inherently evil—no one needs a weapon that big, and especially not the so-called “good guys.” In Guardians, the message seems to be, essentially, the clusterfuck of Saddam Hussein with his “WMDs” all over again.

Isn’t it a little thoughtless, as a brutal war rages on in the Middle East using American weapons funded with American money, that the main conflict here involves a gung-ho American asshole and his violence-happy friends working to keep a dangerous apocalyptic weapon out of the hands of terrorists and in the hands of Americans (represented, metaphorically, by Nova Corps)? How do we know that Nova Corps isn’t as corrupt as SHIELD proved to be just one movie ago in this universe?

Because of the World-Building (or lack thereof)

I find myself circling around again and again to the question “Why was this movie made?” And the only answer I can find is that Marvel wanted to make a quick buck, or to introduce some element that will later be used in one of the Avengers movies, or just to reiterate that infinity stones are powerful and dangerous. That’s it. It breaks no new ground for Marvel in terms of themes, tone, world-building, or characters. The themes can be found in pretty much every superhero movie: friendship, responsibility, saving the world. The tone is basically irreverent sarcasm with a dose of deadpan humor (hello, Tony Stark). The world-building could not be lazier; at times it feels lifted directly from Star Wars and the Star Trek reboots—and, dare I say it, from the shitty Green Lantern movie (not a Marvel production)? And the characters...I mean, really—featuring a talking raccoon and a sentient magical tree before a protagonist that is a non-white male? Jesus. And yet that is where we are.

There is quite a bit of Firefly in here, but it comes nowhere near to hitting that genuine balance that made that show work. Call it Firefly set in a Green Lantern universe, i.e. with a complete carelessness in world-building. (Pull one little thread anywhere and the whole thing falls apart.)

Because of the Sexism and Ableism

The movie loves its bro-humor. No character with a disability will be allowed to exist without being the butt of an unfunny, cruel, ultimately pointless joke. No female character will be allowed onscreen if she’s not hot (except for a dead mom character, because of course), and then she will be dropped into sexually charged situation after situation (because a co-ed prison gangbang is sooo funny). Even one of the most sentimental moments had a little “whore” joke dropped in—you know, just to lighten the mood.

In one scene, Benicio del Toro’s character The Collector (who could not look more like a stereotypical pimp if he tried), snaps at one of his scantily-clad female workers, “Don’t your people have elbows?” prompting her to clean a glass cage with more gusto. But come on, that was a tacky handjob joke if I ever heard one. “You remember what happened to my last assistant [who didn’t work hard enough],” he prompts, and the camera pans to an identically-clad young lady trapped in a cage looking tortured and miserable. The metaphor? This is what happens to women who rebel. Ah, and when the current assistant does in fact try to rebel (“Don’t do it!” everyone yells at her), she’s literally torn to pieces within, oh, seconds. Know your place, women: striking out on your own will get you torn apart. Her death, obviously, is not mourned: she was one of the pretty little foolish ones, getting ideas above her station.

One metaphor that did work for me was the dancing-represents-sex one, because if you take the movie that way, Peter Quill is sleeping his way through the galaxy, prompting a sexual awakening (and fast rejection because they have zero chemistry) from Gamora, and Peter eventually will try to seduce Ronan as a means of distraction. Hot.

Because of the Casual Violence

But perhaps the worst part for me is the callous, ubiquitous nature of the violence. I always hate and wince at the careless collateral damage our heroes create that seems almost required in big action movies (I hated it in Avengers as well), but here it’s especially bad: our intrepid heroes are particularly bloodthirsty and uncaring.

Guardians loves big, thoughtless action or stupidity jammed right next to moments that should have been sentimental but are instantly cheapened when you think about context. For example, in the first scene, we meet a young Peter Quill traumatized by the movie-dramatic death of his mother, and we feel for the little guy. In the very next scene, a grown-up Peter has become a cocky douchebag who likes to indulge in a little seemingly unprovoked animal abuse (just for fun!), as well as stealing stuff, shooting people, and then escaping home to a one night stand whose name he’s forgotten.

In an era where mass-shootings are commonplace, even at schools, do we really need a talking animal character to fetishize machine guns? Do we need a scene where he makes almost orgasmic noises when holding a gun that he then uses to mow down random bystanders and prison guards just doing their jobs? Am I supposed to understand how the little kid we just saw crying for his mom is—in the very next scene—viciously kicking animals out of his path and even using one as a microphone (as it squeals and struggles against him)? Am I supposed to see how easily Drax can justify senseless violence against others when the death of his wife and child have so traumatized him? Am I supposed to enjoy watching a seemingly peaceful tree-creature who can inspire a sense of wonder suddenly kill a huge amount of people and then play jump-rope with their dead bodies?

In an atmosphere like this, it’s nearly impossible to say why the heroes want to keep a powerful weapon out of the hands of a psychopath: they certainly don’t care about the casualties that could result. And then the movie has the nerve to flat-out state (jokingly, through John C. Reilly’s character) that “Murder is one of the worst crimes there is.” What? How are we supposed to root for these supposedly reformed assholes when someone has to explain this to them at the end of the movie?

How could it be improved? Well, that’s hard to answer, since I still have no notion of why this movie was made. I thought Marvel was starting to get it with Winter I have no clue what the people there are thinking. To dismiss the movie with, “Well, it’s just a fun little romp,” disregards the subconscious power that movies can have as a platform, particularly to children. I’m not sure the jokes and some of the cute characters are enough to justify its confusing, hypocritical messages.

Or maybe I’m just mad that Karen Gillan shaved off all her pretty red hair for this thankless role as a robot.

At any rate, I could not be more disappointed and expect Marvel to get at least a little backlash from this, if only from me. For me, its existence erases a lot of the Winter Soldier good will I had begun to hold for the company, and now I’m very leery of the future Marvel assembly line. And I heard that the director may be doing a Star Wars movie...? Please God, no.

Date: 2014-08-12 12:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ooooh. Okay, I will start off by saying that I enjoyed a great deal of it, including most of the things you did :)

Rant-wise, I have to admit that reading the first part, there were a lot of 'whooshing' noises as things flew madly over my head - I haven't seen The Winter Soldier, and did not see this as a metaphor for anything in particular (not saying it wasn't), although I did think it was odd - as you mention - that Nova Corps was instinctively trusted by people you'd think would have little reason to trust them.

But this line is spot on: Guardians loves big, thoughtless action or stupidity jammed right next to moments that should have been sentimental but are instantly cheapened when you think about context.

Or the way I saw it, tonally all over the damn place. It veered around variously stopping at genuine sentiment, cheap jokes, excellent music, cheap sentiment, genuine jokes, cheesy music, and blowing things up. In that respect, it's the most tonally erratic movie I've seen for ages. The part I hated most, which you also noted - Groot spearing the soldiers (I didn't see him as playing with them so much as using them to kill the other half), and then smiling happily. This is the same Groot who looked horrified at the lizard-eat-lizard game. So, some things and people are 'valued', and should be mourned, while others are 'non-valued', and can be killed with impunity and joy. That reeeally bothered me, and was part of the whole 'tone' issue as well. What kind of people are these meant to be, exactly - warm-hearted heroes, reluctant Do What Must Be Done types, or 'walk over your cold corpses'? Sometimes it was difficult to tell. Also the "romance" was COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. SIGH. I hear you on the bro-humour as well.

Best things about this movie - the tree, the raccoon, and the lead human. In that order :)

Date: 2014-08-12 01:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
...You haven't seen Winter Soldier?!?! Omg, the slashiness in that film is off the charts. Pretty fun movie.

I think you're right, it's the inconsistency of tone that bothers me. And that could have been funny, but I just didn't see it.

So, some things and people are 'valued', and should be mourned, while others are 'non-valued', and can be killed with impunity and joy.

This, this is it exactly. Groot smiling is what did it--how horribly and creepy.

Agreed that the romance was unnecessary. I was kind of slashing Gamora and Drax by the end, there was so little chemistry between Gamora and Peter, lol. And obviously Groot and Rocket. Ah, the tentacle/tree appendage porn. :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me! I do appreciate it! :)

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