After the thump-grimace-exposition-repeat pattern that turned Captain America 2 into such a self-serious snooze (that everyone nonetheless seemed to love – agree to disagree, y’all), I worried I might be done with the Marvel universe. In fact, between all of Cap 2’s winking references to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (GRR, BRAND SYNERGY!) and Edgar Wright being forced out of Ant-Man just eight weeks before shooting, evidence was mounting that Disney was about to ruin Marvel the way they had Pixar and Miley Cyrus (aw, remember how wholesome she once was?).
The world would be simpler that way, and hating Disney purifies my soul, but alas it wasn’t to be. The Disney hype machine notwithstanding, Guardians of the Galaxy somehow feels like it was made just for me. A wisecracking womanizer in a lawless universe full of incorrigible rogues? Here, take my wallet. Hell, I like you, you can come over to my house and f*ck my sister. Guardians is so good at making you totally willing to overlook its faults that there’s no way I’m even going to be able to write about it without every word evoking the sound of saliva being sucked over a retainer. So, enjoy this, and sorry about all the dandruff.
Ahem. (*clears throat*) (*shuffles papers on desk*) (*straightens glasses*)
OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, CHRIS PRATT AND A TALKING RACCOON!
Marvel tends to be at their best when they’re doing goofy fun and at their worst when getting serious or attempting social commentary. Protagonist in a moral quandary? Don’t care. Characters in a love triangle? Don’t care. Scarlett Johansson had a bad childhood? Doooon’t care… S.H.I.E.L.D. is an allegory for the security state? DON’T. CARE. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP EXPLAINING YOUR OWN SHITTY MACGUFFINS!
Guardians instead gives us a hero somewhere between Han Solo and an intergalactic Wooderson in a story that’s like two hours of the Mos Eisley cantina scene in Star Wars. In fact, if the world needed another Star Wars movie (it doesn’t), James Gunn would be just the guy to direct it. Ignore the TV spots selling Guardians as your typical BADASS, BRO superhero movie, it has more in common with The Fifth Element. Narratively conventional, but with world building of such supercharged weirdness that every frame is a dorked-up roller coaster ride.
I’m a firm believer that a comic book movie should absolutely be a little silly, and “embrace the silliness” comes through in every frame here. You have to love the fact that they hired Vin Diesel to say only “I AM GROOT” and Bradley Cooper to do an unrecognizable-as-Bradley-Cooper voice for a gangster raccoon. (And without Andy Serkis there to tell the animators how a raccoon or a tree should act! How did they ever manage!) I love it when big celebrities get hired to do voice work because of their famous voice, and then show up doing some elaborate impression. It’s like Bill Murray promoting Suntory Whiskey in a rubber Richard Nixon mask.