Guardians of the Galaxy

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on August 01, 2014

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Dear Stan Lee
Cameo Appearance Maker

Dear Stan,

As a non-comic book reader, I'm only familiar with the world you've created through the unending series of superhero films that have taken over my summer movie schedule for the past six years. Like you and your token cameos, I show up dutifully for each, because that's just what us guys do (as film reviewers or franchise founders, I mean). I usually enjoy myself too, though without the nostalgic nerdgasm of your more faithful devotees.

Then a relatively new property like Guardians of the Galaxy _comes along. _It's the tale of intergalactic outsiders, and promises to be cut from a different cloth (leather!). However, instead it just feels a little cut and paste.

This is both good and bad news for a film that's hoping to uphold one of the most successful studio runs in history. And I'm sure it will. It's got strong character moments (casting Chris Pratt in the lead is pure genius) and enough bang-bang zap-zap action to fill whatever quota these films must meet. But for all the talk about bringing in B-movie favourite James Gunn to co-write and direct, the edginess that was anticipated doesn't amount to much more than the odd dirty word and middle finger gag. Oh, and a clever Jackson Pollock joke that is too layered to earn the X-rating it deserves. Still, it's pretty anti-climactic for everyone who is starting to see through the familiar beats of these super-franchises.

The lonely outsider with a dying parent. The mischievous fun with the new powers. The sassy hero and humourless love interest. The world-ending MacGuffin. The destruction of a major city. It's a tough line to walk between giving the audience what they want and going through the motions. And while the small moments are the ones that work best in the film, the big ones end up defining the overall experience.

You, of course, can separate yourself from this band of misfits. In fact, you tried to. You have a creator credit on Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Avengers, Spider-Man and the X-Men, but only a tangential relationship with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet when the fanboy community lamented your non-participation, you made the (wise) choice to show up for your Where's Waldo moment; in this particular case, hitting on some young alien women. It wasn't your most inspired cameo appearance (especially after your scene-stealer in Captain America: Winter Soldier), but your presence nonetheless meant something to fans--even tangential ones, like me. These are the good Marvel moments.

But there are others, which Guardians relies on, that are beginning to reveal the studio's Mad-Lib method of story construction. This includes the characters themselves. You've got Star-Lord and Rocket Racoon vying for who can out-Hans Solo one other, leaving all the straight-man work to the bored looking (green) woman. You also have Drax, whose only real contribution to the group is his Vulcan's sense of humour. Then there's the single-sentence speaking Groot (voiced, hilariously and pointlessly, by Vin Diesel), who might be the clearest attempt at a Star Wars-meets-Avengers mash-up by playing a sort of Chewbacca/Hulk character, complete with a rag-doll-the-enemy moment. It's all people and moments we've seen dozens of times before, which provides only requisite and temporary pleasure.

Not that it matters, I guess. As long as we keep buying tickets, this formula isn't going to change.

See you soon,


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