Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)


There is a curious point from Plato`s Republic that I was clinging to while sitting through The Guardians of the Galaxy. It comes from Book X and in it Plato is condemning the artists and their place in society. His main criticism stems from that fact that he feels that artists are useless because they are merely presenting an inferior representation of whatever object they are painting, compared with the perfect form of an object in question. While, this may seem tangential and oddly self-serving; this wholly sums up my thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy.

Throughout its near two-hour run time, what I was viewing was inferior representations of films, ideas and characters that have been presented better elsewhere. The most-crystallized example of this came from the main protagonist, Peter Quill, whose main defining feature seems to be his music that is used as a device to enable the playing of the soundtrack throughout the picture.

Conceptually, it is interesting but it proves to be the bludgeoning centerpiece of a character, who feels in equal parts, Han Solo, Jack Burton, James T. Kirk and rouge with a heart of gold. A film usually makes you forget the puppet string being pulled. But throughout I was aware of this attempt to make me love Peter Quill, like those previous characters mentioned. It was further backed up by odd advertising prior to the film which had pictures of all the characters flickering on the screen, in movie, comic and poster form, and Quill was at the centre of all of it, including photos depicting oddly created selfies with Rocket.

Elsewhere, the film’s screenplay is laced with funny lines, lots of expositional dialogue and murky motivations that quickly come after some of the characters have been introduced. Visually the film impressive with some great world building, being even more stunningly apparent in the IMAX format, and the 3D, now and again, providing occasional depth and pointy, pokey goodness.

Additionally, I admired the finale, which was a great exercise in crowd pleasing and an interesting subversion on some movie troupes, such as villains speaking too long and the cliff-hanging death confrontation. Furthermore, it is commendable of Marvel embracing a property that is on the edge of being niche, with a massive cosmic imagination, it bodes well for the future of the genre.

Finally, Zoe Saldana is the only actor who escapes the broad criticism of inferior representation. She injects her character, with humanity, fragility and emotional pathos, most evident in a long extended scene that she shares with Quill, where she is introduced to music from the 80s.

However, despite all this, I found myself exhausted by Guardians of the Galaxy. It is trying too hard to be a cult film with interesting flourishes, made even more apparent with the post-credit sequence. But in the end, much of its conflict and characters, feel either sketchy developed or vessels for humour and nostalgic harking. The two Captain America pictures, had nostalgic tendencies, but they served the time and moral views of its central character, and interesting things were done with it. For Guardians of the Galaxy, it feels like mere window dressing, trying to evoke a sense of “Cool”

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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