Guardians of the Galaxy
written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn
Category: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
I only have a casual knowledge of the vast universe of superhero comics, so the first time I heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy was when news of the movie started to come out. From these early reports I learned that Chris Pratt would play the lead, and that there was some kind of talking space raccoon involved, both of which sounded like jokes at the time. (Less so now that Chris Pratt is a huge action star.)
In fact those things are supposed to sound funny, because this is a very funny movie. Granted, when your source material includes a space raccoon you’re probably forced to the comedic end of the spectrum, but it embraces the comedy with gusto, and without giving up the sense of epic adventure that comes with the superhero genre. And this is what’s impressive about Guardians: it tries to be many different things, at times going for action, comedy, or drama, while simultaneously following the conventions of superhero flicks and space operas—and succeeds at all of them. A lot of movies try just one of those things and fail; Guardians does them all and makes it look easy.
I think the worst that can be said for this movie is that the story structure follows the well-trod path of the superhero movies that came before it. There’s a big villain and an evil plot, the heroes win some early victories but then have a major crisis after which they need to get serious and learn to work together, and finally they defeat the villain by unlocking their true potential. On the other hand, I think it shows why this particular formula is so widely used—because when it’s done right, it’s really good. And as the climactic dance-off shows, Guardians is willing to subvert some of the expected story beats a bit.
To circle around to the beginning of this post, the reason I’ve never been that interested in superhero comics is that I’ve always perceived them as a little too silly. And this may come from my having grown up in the grimdark ’90s which wanted to be very serious while at the same time demanding that one accept all kinds of bonkers stories and characters from years past as canon. (This is also why I’m staying away from Zach Snyder’s takes on Superman and Batman. Well, apart from the fact that I swore off Zach Snyder after Sucker Punch.) Guardians takes an approach that I find much more palatable—embrace the silliness, space raccoons and all, and make it your own. Superheroes, after all, are supposed to be fun.