As a critic it’s important to remember that there have always been bad movies. While Godard was at his peak and Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty were making “Bonnie and Clyde,” Hollywood was unrolling horrible Cold War spoofs and beach blanket movies. The bad fade. The good last.
It gets really hard sometimes. I tried to keep that in mind while suffering through “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the latest Marvel Comic books adaptation. “Guardians” really is every bad thing said about comic book movies by old people. Short attention span. Smug rather than smart. Black versus white, and lucky to be that complicated. A string of random images with no connective tissue.
James Gunn’s film thinks it’s a clever departure from typical comic book fare. Really, it’s just shoveling the same star dust. There are not enough cool David Bowie songs in the Milky Way to save it. The usual Scooby-Doo plot involves one of those mysterious lost cubes with superpowers of destruction that lay around the universe. The evil warlord with the funny hat wants it. The unwitting carrier is an interstellar thief Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an earthling abducted as a boy along with his favorite seventies mix tape. He joins forces with a cybernetic raccoon (voice by Bradley Cooper), a walking tree (voice by Vin Diesel), a musclebound Martian and a green-skinned alien played by Avatar’s Zoe Saldana, trying to complete the entire alien rainbow.
Like most bad comic book films, the trouble starts with the script by Gunn and Nicole Pearlman. When characters open their mouths, odds are they are going to explain what’s happening or blame someone. I understand these movies are aimed at viewers of all ages. But when the evil missile thingamajigs are raining down on the defenseless city, and the talking raccoon turns around his spaceship and says something like “Fire up at the thingamajigs before they reach the ground” right before he starts firing up at the thingamajigs before they reach the ground, then that’s one spoon-feeding too far. Had Gunn and Pearlman worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark, we would have the immortal line, “Look, a giant boulder rolling toward me! I’m going to run the other direction!”
Visually, the film is casually impressive–in a C.G. kind of way. Money buys detail. That said, the shots in “Guardians” are disconnected, like comic book panels that just happen with little connecting them narratively. On a lighter note I wonder, after “Transformers,” “The Green Lantern,” “The Avengers” and this, do evil galactic overlords all share the same C.G. asteroid sets? Is it like a timeshare?
I hate being that guy, the film critic who takes it upon himself to denounce the comic book movie as childish. Comic book movies are no different than any other kind, some are good and some are bad, and the role of the critic is to state why. I read once that Hayley Atwell had the whole “Captain America” set in tears with her goodbye speech to the doomed Captain. The human condition is pretty powerful stuff, no matter in whats iconography it is dressed. Where is the human condition in “Guardians of the Galaxy”? Not in this universe.