Trip Slaymaker ’18
Why do we love “Guardians of the Galaxy”? I won’t bother reviewing it traditionally because about 90 percent of us have seen it at this point. Instead, I offer more of a retrospective. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is widely considered one of Marvel’s most ambitious movies to date, and serves as a transition between Marvel’s more Earth based “first stage” of movie productions, and the even more confident second tier. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is not exactly brilliant filmmaking. It can be somewhat formulaic in its space-cowboy, rock opera plot, and there is not a single moment of real dramatic fear on the viewers’ part that everything will not turn out all right for our heroes, the Guardians.
Those heroes, by the way, consist of Chris Pratt’s cheeky never do well “Starlord,” a green and slightly stiff Zoe Saldana as “Gamora,” the usually silent and physically enormous Dave Bautista as “Drax the Destroyer”, and the voice of Bradley Cooper in the body of a Raccoon with an inexplicable Brooklyn accent, and a tree creature voiced by Vin Diesel. They quickly become a gang of rag-tag friends, firing their lasers and flying around in space ships together. There is a great evil to overcome, but that is so far from the point of the movie that most forget what it was. Consider them for a moment. They are deliberately ridiculous. The kind of characters a six year old dreams up in a coloring book. What’s more, if I had a nickel for every space battle I have seen, I might match “Guardians” at its own gigantic production value.
The point is this, on paper this is an absolute flop, a non-starter that any production company in their right mind, let alone the careful and litigious Marvel should pass on in a matter of thoughtless seconds.
Needless to say, it was made, and it soared to an opening weekend box office intake of nearly one hundred million dollars, endearing itself to the hearts of millions of fans, and almost instantaneously waltzing down the not-so-long road toward a sequel. What is it about this bizarre, quirky, and campy movie that let it achieve such spectacular success, and ultimately landed it at Cinestudio?
There are a lot of converging ideas that contribute to this, but the most potent of these is this: “Guardians of the Galaxy” is simple fun. It asks so very little of its viewers, and seems almost in on the idea that it offers a pretty common piece of summer escapism.
It is like coming home after a long day of studying and being given the choice between unwinding with an episode of “Two and a Half Men,” simple, formulaic, occasionally funny, and not at all challenging, or an episode of HBO’s “True Detective”; depressing, haunting, and endlessly complex. Most Americans would choose “Two and a Half Men”, so as to have a normal, and not particularly thought provoking night of relaxation.
That is what “Guardians” has to offer, it works so beautifully because it does not try to be more than a heartwarming and exciting piece of summer escapism, and that is all we really need. It is not a bad thing, “Star Wars” accomplished the same kind of whimsy in its day, and sometimes, once in a very long while, these summer fun movies end up making movie history. “Guardians” is also a sentimental movie, at least in the direct sense that its sound track is made up of 1970s pop, and bounces along like an extended music video from the time.
In the more subtle sense, “Guardians” arrived just as we were beginning to see the death of the space-based action movie, (which took off with movies like “Star Wars”) and breathed new life into the overused and inflated genre.
The final reason is that Marvel has already won the great battle of the movies. Marvel, which was acquired by Disney a few years ago, could put out anything, literally anything they wanted (stay tuned for Paul Rudd in “Ant-Man” next year), and we, the happy consumers, would hop on the bus without a second thought. It has officially become a movie empire, and the scale at which it exists has never been seen before. “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a great time, a fun ride full of laughs and thrills. Marvel dares us to call it anything but excellent, and just as predicted, we cannot seem to do it.