Hooked on Feelings: Going With the Flow of Guardians of the Galaxy
In 2012, New York Times critic A.O Scott wrote about The Avengers, and depending on your allegiance, he was either totally out of touch, or deeply insightful. His main criticism was that in order to enjoy of The Avengers, there was a sense of “obedience,” insofar as a lot of the movie’s action and battle sequences seemed requisite, generic and inconsistent with an otherwise, witty tone. Guardians of the Galaxy, for even a sort of intellectual person, will present similar problems: if you don’t buy in, and go with the flow, it’s going to be a rough few hours. Luckily, going with this movie’s flow is pretty easy.
Its plot is super-generic, it doesn’t take anything too seriously and also infuses its rote narrative with a good helping of heart. Don’t worry if that heart is an alien or genetically engineered raccoon, or living tree, the heart is totally there. The jokes function like training wheels for events which don’t make a whole lot of sense, but if you’re laughing with Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, who cares what an infinity stone is anyway? Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t have the near-timeless humor of something like Raiders of the Lost Ark; but if you’ve seen the latter, you’ll like how much it’s homaged here. If you haven’t seen an Indiana Jones movie, or those other movies George Lucas made back in the 70’s and 80’s, you’ll certainly want to after seeing this movie. You can think of Guardians of the Galaxy not so much as its own movie, but instead, a weird pop education. Don’t know anything about music from the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s? Here’s a mix-tape! Want to see why everyone likes the opening scene from Indiana Jones? Check out Star-Lord! (And if you’re really paying attention, check out his quick direct reference to Indy’s famous Macguffin.)
What actually happens in this movie, and how will it change your life? Here you go: a group of five space-outlaws eventually band together to stop a really upset person named Ronan the Accuser from destroying innocent planets. And if you do care and are if you’re paying attention to other Marvel movies, you’ll notice what Ronan wants is something called an “infinity stone,” which is also something Thanos—a big purple bad guy—wants. In Marvel comics continuity, Thanos will eventually put a bunch of infinity stones (or gems) onto an infinity gauntlet—think of it like a power glove—and become unstoppable. The movie-version of Thanos (Josh Brolin) hasn’t collected any of his stones to put in his glove yet, and the last time we saw him was in the post-credits sequence of The Avengers, where it was revealed he was pulling some monster-strings. So, actually, Guardians of the Galaxy, is the first time in any Marvel movie that the infinity stones are spelled out to be what they are, and we briefly get a glimpse of all the “gems” we’ve seen in all these movies so far. To use a J.K. Rowling analogy: when Harry Potter finds Tom Riddle’s diary in The Chamber of Secrets, he doesn't know it’s one of the horcruxes containing Voldemort’s soul, but later, everyone is hip to it. That’s what the purple bad gem is like in Guardians of the Galaxy. A relevant, almost generic thing in this plotline, but a possibly bigger deal in other Marvel movies.
Meanwhile, without spoiling anything, the reasons you should see Guardians of the Galaxy are as follows: Star Lord is hilarious, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are both fierce, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is adorably sarcastic, Groot (Vin Diesel) is adorably heroic, and Drax (Dave Baustista) punches things. As mentioned, the music makes the whole movie feel more like a party than a plot, but it hardly matters if you’re singing along. In fact, the experience of watching Guardians of the Galaxy is like singing along with a song you’ve just heard, but already love. The scary thing is you know the song is going to get stuck in your head for a long time, and dangerously, you might get sick of it. Right now though, we’re in the fun part with Guardians of the Galaxy; when we still love it. If you think about why anything happens in the movie too much and start to worry that your brain is actively being turned off, there’s a chance you’re totally right. Another infinity stone—Loki’s mind control device from The Avengers—can sort of make anyone do anything anyone else wants. Guardians of the Galaxy might be controlling your mind into thinking the whole movie is better than it really is, but if liking a movie this silly is wrong, then who wants to be right?
What did YOU think of Guardians?