Guardians of the Galaxy opened this weekend, and it’s getting pretty stellar — or should I say, interstellar — reviews across the board (see what I did there?). The latest in Marvel’s cinematic universe (which includes such iconic characters as Iron Man, Thor, Captain “Human Torch” America, and three different The Hulks), GotG was a pretty sizeable risk on Marvel’s part. But the film is not only good — it’s quite good, in fact – but it is also easily the funniest Marvel film to date. Now, I’m a big ol’ nerd, but I’ll be the first to admit there are gaps in my nerd wisdom, and GotG is precisely that. I’m entirely unfamiliar with this comic. And before the film, I even made a point to not read any of the comics, so I could go into the movie with the dewy, doe-eyed wonder of a newborn babe. I knew that Darth Vader was Luke’s father before I ever saw The Empire Strikes Back as a kid. I read Jurassic Park before I saw the movie. I knew the books that the Dark Knight trilogy was working with before the films came out. This was my chance for a fresh, unsullied view of this pop culture phenomenon. So here is my analysis and review of Guardians of the Galaxy, from the point of view of someone who has pretty much no idea what’s going on in the respective comics.
So. The film starts out with a little kid in the ‘80s, listening to some radical tunes on his Sony Walkman (side note: does Sony own Marvel? If not, they got some great free product placement… I bet Walkman sales double after people see this movie). Turns out his mom is dying of baldness, and she calls the kid into the hospital room to give him a birthday present or something, but she really just wants him there so that he can watch her die. Talk about selfish. Spoiler: she dies.
After she dies, he runs out of the hospital and into a misty fog-covered field, because everyone knows that most hospitals are located next to vast, empty, fog-colored fields. And he gets sucked into a spaceship like he was Mike Teevee in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And that’s the last we ever hear of that kid.
Cut to outer space, and there’s some dude who has the kid’s Sony Walkman (I think he abducted the kid and killed him and stole all his shit). He’s some kind of red-eyed homeless Cyberman, digging through old planets for their leftover recycling.
He dances through some ruins, kicking little alien rat things like some sort of futuristic douchebag, before finding a Fabergé egg. But there are some other dudes who want the egg too, and he tells him that his name is Star Jones before they attack him and he escapes. Star also has a pink lady in his spaceship that he had forgotten about – maybe he likes Grease?
Star Jones goes to the Mall of America in Naboo to try to hawk the egg, but he gets attacked by the Wicked Witch of the West – she’s there because she’s working for Ronin (they must have recast Robert DeNiro from the first movie, and time Ronin is basically a blue version of Johnny Depp’s Tonto, somehow with even more mascara). Ronin wants the egg to make an intergalactic omelette or something. Ronin also has a big hammer that he never actually uses to hit anything with, of course his hammer blows gusts of wind instead. Because comic books.
So the Wicked Witch of the West is trying to get the egg from Star Jones, but there’s also Bradley Raccoonper and Vin Treesil, who both want to get him because they hate babies or something. They all reinact the opening fight sequence from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with the egg as a stand-in for the antidote, before Dr. Steve Bruhl arrests them all and sends them to prison.
In prison, they meet the Fifth Beatle, Drax Shepard. He’s covered in muscles, and those muscles are covered in crazy red scars, and he doesn’t understand metaphor and takes everything literally, which is apparently a trait of his alien race. Which seems to me more of a lack of literary development on his homeworld than a genetic “trait.” Nature versus nurture, people. So everyone hates each other until they realize that Elphaba is betraying 47 Ronin, and Dax Shepard wants to kill Ronin too. So they put aside their differences and break out of prison in a flying guard tower, accompanied by a pillaged prosthetic leg.
Then the Guardians of Ga’Hoole go to a giant floating head, which is also planet, where they meet with Steampunk Andy Warhol, who has started collecting things from across the galaxy. He’s also called “The Collector,” in case, you know, you were wondering about his profession (it must be Marvel’s answer to old-timey Anglo-Saxon surnames like “Smith” and “Fletcher” and “Hooker”).
In his collection, The Collector has collected cosmonaut dogs and slugs and Slave Leia, and he wants to collect Vin Treesil when he dies. But before he can do that, Elphaba wants to sell him the egg. When he opens it, he finds out that inside of the egg there’s a purple Infinity Stone. Which I think is a misnomer, because there’s literally only one stone. Another pink lady (Rizzo, I think) grabs the stone and everything explodes. And everyone except Rizzo lives through this ridiculous explosion because science.
Meanwhile, Drax Shepard has called Ronin to say, “Come at me, bro!”, which Ronin does. Hard. And he brings along the Borg and some flying beetle ships. A big space fight ensues, Ronin gets the Stone of Infinite Wisdom, and the Wicked Witch of the West dies, and then Star Jones saves her and he dies, but then Star Jones’ old boss or dad or mentor – blue Merle Dixon – comes to the rescue.
Blue Merle sucks Star Jones and Lady Gumby into his ship, which apparently has the power to reverse death. Because the next time we see Star Jones and Elphaba, they are alive again all of a sudden. Merle forms an uneasy alliance with Star Jones and She-Hulk, and then Bradley Raccoonper and Vine Diesel and Jak-and-Draxter show up to save their buddies. So Star Jones gives a riveting speech about being losers or something, and they make a plan to get Ronin, who’s heading back to Naboo for some unknown reason.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, somebody calls Bradley Sly Cooper a raccoon, and he responds by basically saying, “What the fuck is a raccoon?” And that’s the end of that conversation. But think about that. What if someone came to you and said, “hey, you’re a human,” and you had no idea what a human was, and you’d never seen another creature in the entire GALAXY that looked like you. How is he not having an existential crisis for the rest of the goddamn movie?? Instead he just shoots shit and tugs at his crotch. Which, now that you mention it, isn’t so bad.
Anywho. Back on Naboo, a crazy fight ensues with an Ocean’s-Eleven-style plan to get into Ronin’s giant Lego ship. So the Naboo police get in their spaceships and join hands and hug Ronin’s ship while our heroes go inside to fight Ronin. But they can’t beat him and the ship starts to crash. And then Roots McTreeface gets everyone together and is like, “KUMBAYA, BITCHES!” and gives the Guardians of Middle Earth a giant tree hug by growing a giant branch orb around them, which I guess was to protect them when the ship crashed into future San Francisco? I was unaware that wrapping yourself in branches was enough to survive a spaceship crash – next time I fly, I’m bringing some wicker furniture as my carry-on, just in case.
So they crash, and Mother Willow dies and is turned into a bunch of sticks. And Ronin shows up and is like, “I WASN’T EVEN IN THE TREE FORT BUT I SURVIVED IT TOO, MOTHERFUCKERS.” And then Star Jones and Ronin have a dance off, but it doesn’t work because Ronin is like “EAT MY WIND HAMMER, BITCHES.” But not before someone knocks the Bagillion Stone out of his hammer. Star Jones does a volleyball dive and catches the stone and he starts to explode, but then he and his buddies hold hands and they don’t explode… but Ronin does because science. And then they fly away and everything is hunky-dory. Oh, and one of the little kindling sticks grows a face and starts dancing to The Jackson Five. So I guess that means we’ll have more Treebeard in the inevitable sequel. But it raises the question: what about all the other sticks that he broke in to? Are there going to be hundreds of monosyllabic tree people in the next one?
Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Branching Out.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Electric Grootaloo.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Tree’s Company.
So that’s the movie. But what about my review? Well, I found the movie to be a careful and well-thought-out deconstruction of Marxist attitudes toward economic and sociopolitical development of capitalism. For you see, the titular Guardians are all from the lower economic strata for various reasons, and strive endlessly toward financial recompense for individual gain (though the prospect of divvying bounties among themselves and a talking tree is a point of contention for Star Jones and company). The film centers on the strivings of characters to defy preexisting social and cultural taxonomies, wherein social and economic inefficiencies propel the characters toward a growing class warfare. The Collector – ostensibly, the film’s most explicit representation of the nouveau-riche — lives among the ruins of impoverished and lawless mining planet, where resources are literally tapped from the living matter of the vast deceased skull, in a clear symbolic reading of neo-Marxist politics of economics and stratification. That the film ends with a cameo by an anthropomorphic, alcoholic duck asking Andy “The Collector” Warhol why he would allow a Russian dog to lick his face, the film seems to ask, “How do we, as the common man, assume responsibility for our actions?” (to say nothing of the overt Cold War imagery invoked throughout the film, as if to suggest that we are not as distanced from history as we would have ourselves believe). Meanwhile, Ronin’s agenda is informed by his zealotry, and reflects attempt to purge the galaxy of the established bourgeoisie, who all live in Naboo. But the film also has a sardonic sense of humor, one which deflates the severity of its Marxist agenda. In this way, the film becomes a Derridean deconstruction of Western readings of these contemporary mythoi. This deconstructionist agenda is further evidenced by the film’s narrative, which eschews Jung’s archetypical “Hero’s Journey,” in favor of a Baudrillardian approach to simulacra and simulation – the Guardians of the Galaxy serve as Marvel’s attempt to transpose their familiar and tangible narrative motifs into a third-order simularcrum, one that honors and adheres to its signifiers, while simultaneously developing a wholly unique construct by which to judge forthcoming Marvel films.
Oh, and there’s a raccoon scratching his crotch in it, too.