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tavella

Aug. 2nd, 2014

tavella: (tengwar)
Guardians of the Galaxy

Saw Guardians last night with folks. Enjoyed it a great deal, enough that I’ll buy it on DVD.
Spoilers below.

Pros:

— A great, likable group of leads. It’s what sells the movie; you truly care about all of them by the end of the movie, so that what could be a paint-by-number everyone unites ending feel deserved. Chris Pratt was absolutely perfect for Star-Lord. The character as written is the kind of slightly smug, slightly douchey character that incites my hatred if played by the wrong actor (see Fillion, Nathan.) But Pratt has just the right edge of fragility and softness to make you identify with the little frog-protecting kid inside not the gross womanizing outside.

Gamora could have used a little more character elucidation. I brought her as the woman she was now, who  was willing to die to try to save billions, but at some point she had to have been an effective tool for Thanos, or he would have discarded her long ago. How did she get from there to the woman we see? I don’t think it has to be spelled out on screen — the character background bits were a bit lumpy as is — but some kind of acknowledgement of that gap, someone asking ‘if you have hated him so much, why did you serve him so well and long’?

Apparently Drax is played by a pro wrestler, so his odd affect and simplicity may be less acting than being, but it works fine in the movie. And the CGI characters are perfection. It’s not a _surprise_, since animated movies have long built characters that we feel as deeply for as any actor, but the CGI has gotten so flawless that at no point was I pulled out of the movie by any awkwardness either of CGI or of interaction with the other characters. I loved that the raccoon was by far the most sensible and sane of the leads, and that the most powerfully felt relationship was between Groot and Rocket. At least, I was more moved by their parting and Groot’s sacrifice than Star-Lord and Gamora’s version.

— The humor! Not just the snappy lines and obvious jokes, but the way that the movie loved undercutting a dramatic moment just when it was turning bombastic. This is material that can turn to lead if you treat it too solemnly, leave the audience looking around it each other in embarrassment.

— As ever, Marvel’s joyous and unashamed embrace of their own universe.  They do not fear putting in giant Celestial heads in space, they do not fear putting in rescued Soviet space dogs (Cosmo!), they do not feel that they have to make everything Serious and Gritty and Realistic. Yet they also do not turn inward and make movies that will only attract comics fans; they have mastered the art of taking that love and saying to everyone “Here, I will show you why all this craziness is awesome and fun and you will love watching it.”


Cons:

— I really could have done without the ‘hah, hah, women, so disposable and forgettable’ bit in Star-Lord’s adult intro. Especially since it was followed up in short order by scantily dressed female slaves being abused. That was a little bit redeemed by the fact that one of the slaves in question did eventually display some agency but a) not successfully and b) the movie apparently didn’t expect her slavery and death to have any impact, since the end of movie tag expected us to be all amused at her abuser hanging around drinking in the aftermath.

This was exacerbated by the near total lack of female characters in the universe. Gamora, Nebula, and Nova Prime are fine as far as they go. They are fairly scant characters (as mentioned above for Gamora), but they have plans of their own and aren’t purely props to men.  But if you look beyond that, at the minor characters and extras who get at least a moment of focus, there’s nearly nothing. There’s one female prisoner at the Kyln that we briefly see watching a message from home, I think there’s a couple that yell at Gamora, there’s a woman or two in danger on Xondar. But we see a lot of Novas get screen focus briefly, and I don’t recall a one of them being female, the Ravagers are all male, the guards at the Kyln. So a universe where guys took action and women were sex objects or there to be threatened.

One of the most impressive things about the original series of Star Trek when I watched it a few years back was not so much the fact that they had women and PoC on the bridge, it was that they had them everywhere else. Scientists, admirals, that random dude running the transporter could be black or asian or hispanic. They weren’t quite as good with women, but there was still a pretty good diversity in the minor characters. Whoever was running casting had very clearly made it a goal to *not* default to generic white guy for the extras and minor characters. Someone had thought it was important to show that the Federation didn’t just have a few tokens, it was a genuinely diverse place.

And it’s just as clear in this movie that whoever was running the casting for this movie *wasn’t* thinking about that, at least for women.

— The character exposition lumps mentioned above. There were definitely moments in the movie that felt like beats from a screenwriting program — “We must reveal some of Rocket’s past and emotions at *this* timestamp”.  Not bad enough to derail the movie, but it felt that it could have done with a last pass of script work to integrate those moments more smoothly. Same for certain plot moments — “Now we will show the ‘all is lost’ moment for each character, and now we will rotate around them again to show the ‘moment of hope’”…


— Thanos is going to take more work before he’s the center of a movie (presumably Avengers 3: The Infinity Gauntlet.) His voice wasn’t menacing enough, his face felt like a panel from a comic rather than a true translation into movie functionality, he didn’t have the presence he’ll need to make his faceoff with the Avengers work.