So back when Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced via trailer, I looked at it and said to myself: “What the fuck is this?” I’m admittedly not a back-catalog comic person; my specialization is in video games, which means most of my comic book franchise knowledge comes from games and any movies that get decent recommendations. That put GotG way out of my sphere of knowledge.
The movie looked a bit too weird. It had a sentient tree, a talking raccoon, and was way more sci-fi than the general public is used to. Most of what passes for sci-fi these days is mostly a technological veneer slapped over a heavy allegory for trials and tribulations of humanity, but this movie was 200% pure unadulterated science fucking fiction. I thought that it might be too out there for general consumption.
Holy shit was I wrong. I’m not a pop-culture barometer by any stretch, but it seems to me that the biggest hurdle to the movie’s success would be convincing the general public that it was totally within their wheelhouse to see, and that it wouldn’t go over their heads, confuse them, or insult them with…you know…talking vermin. The marketing blitz for the movie started way back with the post-credits teaser from Thor 2, and simply gained steam over time with increasingly frequent commercials and reveals. Suffice to say, Disney is one part content producer, three parts marketing savant. When the movie premiered, people were ready for it. Some probably wanted to see it for the source material, some because they like and trust Marvel franchises, and some because it was a summer tent-pole movie and they simply couldn’t refuse.
This is a fun movie, which I think comes through in the commercials. What doesn’t come through is how dense the movie is. I don’t mean dense in terms of intelligence; I mean that I don’t think there was a scene which didn’t matter to the movie. There were no “bathroom moments”.
The only gripe I might levy is that the movie is too well constructed for this Internet age of “been there, done that”. Wisecracking anti-hero? Check. Strong but chilly female? Check. Assorted misfits? Check. Generic rage-container big bad buy? Check. There were moments of deviation, though, especially when the talking raccoon has an emotional breakdown after we got used to him being a total douche-bag. For me, the highlight of the movie was Karen Gillan, better known around these parts as Amy Pond from Doctor Who, who did a total 180 to play a psychotic killer cyborg. She didn’t get a lot of screen time, but when she did, you knew it.
There aren’t too many movies these days that I think deserve repeated viewings, especially not at theater prices, but I think GotG qualifies easily. Kudos to James “Who?” Gunn for out-blockbustering Joss Whedon (Oh yes I did!) in the Marvel space. Super kudos to the FX team. This is one of the most FX intense movies I’ve seen in a while, and the effects meshed so well with the movie that there was never a point where they overwhelmed the actors, or underwhelmed when they were needed the most. And mega kudos to the cast. At the end of the day, there wasn’t a meh-character in the bunch. Everyone got sufficient screen time (except Gillan, IMO) which set up their presence and ingrained them into our pop-culture consciousness in preparation for the sequel, and the inevitable theater-destroying Marvel implosion that brings all characters from all of these movies together in one, massive finale.