Over the last few weeks, as the release of Guardians of the Galaxy has drawn nearer and my anticipation has grown, I've noticed that there are a lot of people who don't share my enthusiasm for this movie. I suppose that's fair. After all, so few of us even know who these guys are. With Guardians, Marvel is pushing a movie with a bunch of unknowns while we wait for their popular superheroes to return with more incredible sequels. Surely this is just a little distraction to keep us occupied while we wait for The Avengers 2, right?
Actually... I don't think so.
I have a bit of a problem with Marvel's superhero films. Granted, I'm not a huge superhero fan to begin with (with the exception of Batman, thanks to Christopher Nolan's brilliant trilogy). It's something of a misconception people often have about me. While I think I'm reasonably knowledgeable about these characters, I don't find many of them particularly interesting. Believe it or not, I was reluctant to even bother watching The Avengers, though I'll admit I'm glad I did. It's an ambitious movie that's well made, and was almost everything one could hope for. Yet there's one major issue I have with it, which I like to refer to as...
The Coulson Problem.
Thus, I define The Coulson Problem as making an incredibly big deal out of something comparatively small. Herein likes my problem with Marvel's movies. They play it too safe. When the biggest thing you can muster is a drawn-out, accentuated death of a minor character no one cares much about, you're playing it too safe. I'm not saying Marvel needs to kill off one of their heroes, but they need to take some legitimate risks with their franchises. Look at The Dark Knight trilogy as a comparison. How many good characters actually die in those movies? I can only think of one. Yet nobody would argue that The Dark Knight plays it too safe. It's bold, it's dark, and it escalates the stakes and creates tension very effectively. Meanwhile, Marvel movies continuously attempt to build up to these epic situations, but they fall flat because you know everything is going to be just fine in the end. Their movies end up being emotionally ineffective, disengaging, and frustrating. Marvel, don't build up to something if you're not going to give me anything. Stop being such a tease. All you're giving us is inconsequential deaths and close-calls. You try to set up this massive ordeal and yet there's no pay-off for us as viewers. The only real risk you ever seem to take is with property damage, and that typically lacks any emotional weight. Buildings can be rebuilt. Your own characters don't even care about that, so why should we? Give us more! Give me something to care about. Make me feel something!
This is Marvel's first movie that looks like it has any balls. Yes, BALLS! HUEVOS! COJONES!
You probably watch the Guardians trailer and ask yourself, "Why should I care?"
1. These are not your typical superheroes:
The Guardians of the Galaxy are a pretty crude and brash bunch. They're not the squeaky-clean heroes Marvel is best known for. Just from watching the trailer, one can clearly see that. They're not exactly good guys, and they mainly seem to be looking out for their own best interests. As Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) says in the trailer, they have a chance to do "something good, something bad, a bit of both." That makes these guys more interesting since we don't really know what to expect from them. They don't follow the same principles as Marvel's heroes on Earth. After all, the main conflict of the film is the result of Star-Lord stealing a sacred object that doesn't belong to him. We're essentially following a group of misfits who have the fate of the galaxy in their hands. So we've got a cast of characters that include a rogue outlaw (Star-Lord), a ruthless assassin (Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana), a monstrous warrior out for vengeance (Drax the Destroyer, played by Dave Bautista), a bounty hunter raccoon (Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his tree-like protector (Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel). If that's not a unique crew, I don't know what is. They seem like a lot of fun and should be a nice change of pace from Marvel's more predictable heroes.
These guys are traversing the galaxy and are dealing with intergalactic threats. It almost makes Earth's superheroes seem small-time by comparison. We got a taste of the dangerous forces beyond Earth at the end of The Avengers, when an alien species wrecked most of Manhattan. If we can see more of that, I'm all in. Guardians of the Galaxy broadens the scope of the Marvel universe tremendously and should be a real-game changer that effects all of the new Marvel movies from here on out.
To be honest, I didn't even have the slightest idea who Chris Pratt was when I first heard about this movie, but judging just from the trailers and his late-night TV appearances, I am confident that this guy is awesome. He's not exactly a newcomer to acting and has been around for quite some time, but this is going to be his big breakout role. Chris Pratt has what it takes to lead the movie and he's going to become very well-known now that Guardians of the Galaxy has officially hit theaters today. Also, keep a look out for him as the star in the upcoming movie Jurassic World! Then we have Zoe Saldana, who certainly proved her worth in James Cameron's Avatar. Apparently she has a passion for playing aliens. There's also wrestler Dave Bautista as Drax, who should be perfect as the group's muscle. Lastly, the film's biggest stars, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, should bring a lot to their roles as Rocket and Groot.
So you probably know by now that Josh Brolin is set to play Thanos in The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, and that he was the purple villain that appeared after the film's end credits. What you probably didn't know, however, is that The Guardians of the Galaxy personally have some strong ties to Thanos. Gamora is actually Thanos' adopted daughter and serves as his trained assassin. Meanwhile, Drax was once a human, but he and his family were murdered by the hands of Thanos. He became resurrected as Drax the Destroyer, and his primary mission has been to get revenge. So Guardians of the Galaxy is likely to teach us plenty about Thanos and help set him up for the next Avengers film. Seems to me like this will be a great way to prepare us for battle with one of the baddest dudes in the whole galaxy.
I'm calling it right now. Guardians of the Galaxy will have the best licensed soundtrack of the year. Maybe I'm a little biased since this is my kind of music, but man, it is awesome! I mean, the soundtrack has David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, and The Jackson 5. Do I really need to say more? You'll be chanting "Ooga-chaka" for weeks!
You can expect a lot of laughs from this one. I think one of Marvel's strong suits is their sense of humor. Iron Man 3 was outrageously funny, and I think it's safe to say that Guardians is going to be too. The trailers are already really amusing, and I certainly anticipate the rest of the movie to be the same way. It looks like it's hitting all the right notes, and having the wise-cracking Star-Lord as the lead character should lead to a lot of laughs. This is a film that knows exactly what it is and doesn't appear to take itself too seriously. It looks like the filmmakers are having fun with the fact that these rambunctious characters don't have a reputation to uphold. It's no-holds-barred with Guardians of the Galaxy, and watching it is sure to be a good time for all.
Marvel is going big with this movie. How often do you see the good guys wielding a rocket launcher? Or a raccoon going on a rampage with a machine gun? Iron Man suit aside, these space weapons might just blow away all of the other weapons that Stark Industries has produced. Rather than relying on superpowers, the Guardians have to stock up on firepower and go in guns-blazin'! Fortunately, it looks like they've got quite an arsenal up their sleeves!
The very act of Marvel making Guardians of the Galaxy is a risky move. They could have just as easily used the resources to make another sequel for one of their franchise stars, but instead they chose to invest in a movie with relatively unknown and risqué heroes. It looks like their risk is going to end up paying off big time, since the movie looks fantastic and all of the early reviews are absolutely raving about it. I hope this is the start of good things to come, as Marvel finally appears to be boldly stepping into more mature territory. Perhaps this new change in direction can prevent us from having to stomach any further give-me-a-break "Coulson problems" in the future, and then maybe, just maybe, they'll even be able to get me to start caring about the conflicts, as well as the characters, in their movies.