Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Shallow humour, sci-fi without world-building, nauseatingly cheap emotional jabs, two-dimensional “characters” comprising stitched-together unrelated one-dimensional characters… it would be less disappointing if it weren’t so good-looking.

For a guy who left Earth as a kid, Starlord sure has a lot of Earth-adult mannerisms and pop-culture references (not to mention a walkman whose batteries have inexplicably lasted decades). For someone who’s grown up around beings from every planet but Earth, from whom could he have picked up his Earth-adult behaviours? Oh wait – anyone and everyone in this Galaxy. Kinda strange having a sci-fi / fantasy realm so lacking in imagination.

Infuriatingly, the ’70s Earth soundtrack acts as a stand-in for actual world- (or galaxy-) building – and it’s not just a cheap move, but a recurring motif.

You can’t kick off yr film with something like 10cc’s “Not in Love” and not deliver something that touches the unique emotional, sentimental and self-deprecating overlap of the ven diagram that song represents (much less when it introduces an incredibly weighty opening scene which sets a bar that the movie, stylistically at least, subsequently forgets ever happened). The movie trumpets itself in as something that will transcend its potentially mono-dimensional humour to become something that kicks ass on multiple levels, only to commit to one level and stick to it, uninspiringly.

The soundtrack, which could have been all kinds of poignant in its easy-nostalgia-feelgoodery, is as obvious, underthought and ultimately cheap as the film’s tone, story, characterisation and overall direction. The soundtrack is the mixtape from a chick-flick road movie – throw in Chris Pratt’s abs, and I’m left wondering if this wasn’t the MCU movie designed purely to target females who don’t read comics. Nothing wrong with that, at least in theory – but so much of the face-palm-level dialogue is boring exposition that at least purports to bring the sci- to this fi. It’s not “cute” – it could have been, had there been meat on those effort-to-charm bones – but this movie leaves itself hanging. Marvel had done so well establishing its standard of entertaining movies which each offered at least one layer of added dimensionality; “GOTG” is not just a step backwards from that, it’s a step backward in comic book movies in general (though, to keep this in perspective, not as far backward as others have gone). There are a lot of good actors in this movie doing a lot of not-good things, thanks to the script and the direction. It says a lot that the crowd favourite, in a movie starring charm factory Chris Pratt, is the CG tree-man who only says three (or so) words.

This movie is everything I expected it to be, but then questioned in the wake of its success. A lot of people liked this movie. So I thought: maybe i’ll like it too; I should just give it a chance, and at least watch it. Well, I did watch it. And then a second time, just to be sure. And now I want to ask: what is wrong with people?