In 2014 Marvel took probably its biggest risk to date centering a movie around a group of characters almost no one heard of or cared about. And hit one of their biggest home runs.
tomk: Guardians of the Galaxy
And,after a tragic and mysterious opening scene, we cut to the present as our newest Marvel hero is introduced kicking small animals while committing an act of grave robbery. But he does it to music, so it’s OK.
watson: Yup. That’s how it starts.
tomk: And it’s Jenny fave John C Reilly!
watson: He’s in the film!
tomk: Nothing goes over your head, Watson. Your reflexes are too fast. You would catch it.
Guards rocking out to the Pina Colada song deserve anything that happens to them.
Aw man. That’s the end of all those lovable characters in the prison.
I kinda feel bad for Zoe Saldana. She was the biggest actor among the Guardians to be more than a voice when this movie came out, but she’s completely outshined by a sitcom actor, a pro wrestler, and two special effects.
Gamora is easily the least interesting member of the group, and Groot can barely talk.
Don’t tell Jenny Groot died.
Man, I so remember Internet speculation after this one came out that Howard the Duck was getting his own movie.
But Guardians was a real departure from what Marvel had been doing up until then. These guys weren’t exactly household names even among comic readers. This isn’t even the original, classic team, and Gunn, keeping a distinctive style of his own, makes some big changes to his core group. Gamora, Rocket, and Groot are more or less the same as their printed counterparts, but Gunn made big changes to Star-Lord, Drax, Yondu, Nebula, the Nova Corps, and really stripped Ronan of everything that makes the source material stories of him interesting. But aside from Ronan, the changes are all for the better, either to simplify the characters for the sake of the story or essentially creating brand new characters who fit into the weird tone and narrative Gunn has established. I know Guardians is probably the closest Marvel has to a pure comedy, but I am not sure how much the dialogue and such is funny so much as the movie’s tone is. That said, James Gunn managed to bring out a movie that didn’t really fit into Marvel’s house style, Chris Pratt gave a star-making performance, and everyone learned to love a movie where a talking raccoon and a talking tree are major characters.
jimmy: Better not let him hear you call him a raccoon.
tomk: He doesn’t know what that is.
jimmy: So I rewatched Guardians last year prior to seeing Guardians 2 and I didn’t think it held up as good as I would have liked. I did enjoy it more this time around.
tomk: Any idea why?
jimmy: I was drunker this time?
tomk: Drunk enough to call Ronan the Accuser while the Ms. and the Moose cut a deal with an obsessive weirdo?
jimmy: No one gets THAT drunk!
Seriously though, to answer your question, I don’t know. Maybe it was about expectations. I was blown away by Guardians the first go round. I thought it was going to go down in flames. Who the hell cares about Guardians of the Galaxy? But then the trailers came and they were great. And the movie lived up to the hype. And so I probably had it on a bit of a pedestal when I rewatched. And then heading into this one I maybe expected it to be disappointing based on the last viewing and it surpassed that.
tomk: So…it always does the opposite of what you expect.
jimmy: Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted … and a cup of tea.
tomk: Drax would hate Seinfeld. He just wouldn’t get it half the time.
tomk: Kramer is a slapstick figure. That he could follow.
So, Jimmy, what did you like about it this time around?
jimmy: I liked it all. It just works. The Guardians individually and coming together as a team. They try to give Ronan some layers, but he mostly feels like a force of nature ala the Destroyer from Thor, but we do get Nebula as a great villain. And Thanos role is small, but the film really gets into the whole Infinity Stones lore. And I agree with your note above about Zoe Saldana getting completely outshined by a sitcom actor, a pro wrestler, and two special effects. She was still good though. The two end credit scenes are pretty inconsequential, but good for a laugh, and a lot easier to swallow the Howard the Duck appearance watching the movie at home and fast forwarding through the credits.
tomk: Saldana was essentially the straight character in a room full of clowns and goofs. Someone has to be the serious character who reacts to the comedic nature of the others, and as such, that one doesn’t seem as interesting by default.
Though watching it this time, I wondered if James Gunn ever watched the SyFy channel show Farscape. Good sci-fi show that was a co-production of Australian television and the Muppets. The lead character was a human, lost in another part of the universe, with a penchant for dropping pop culture references the others didn’t understand. The rest of the crew were escaped criminals whose ranks included a tough woman soldier/love interest, a badass warrior type, and a small fellow who was a lot smarter than he let on, while the main villain was a guy in black who was fanatically devoted to his own people.
Farscape did have a bigger cast than GotG….
tomk: Oh, and the bald woman was a sentient plant.
jimmy: I watched a few episodes but never got into it.
tomk: I’m a fan. Should do a rewatch at some point…
jimmy: Some definite parallels though it seems.
tomk: The biggest difference was, unlike GotG, none of the Farscape characters ever seemed to get the pop culture references. Peter says the inside of his ship would look like a Jackson Pollock painting under black light, and Rocket is the only one to react, and he does so not with a “Who’s that?” but with a “You have problems”…like he got the reference.
jimmy: I noticed that too. I was surprised he understood. Lots of humans wouldn’t get that reference.
tomk: Gamora didn’t question too much either, aside from Kevin Bacon. Drax and Groot…well, those guys had their own thing going.
jimmy: Sometimes I wondered if Quill should even be getting some of his references. How old was he when he was abducted? Had Footloose really made that big of an impression on him in the four years from it’s release?
tomk: Look, Peter Quill is the hero we all need…for Ready Player One.
jimmy: On a related note to pop culture, the music was fantastic.
tomk: All apparently from a mix tape actor Michael Rooker had in his truck.
tomk: That was my understanding. Rooker and Gunn worked together before.
jimmy: What do you think of Yondu? Rooker is great, and the arrow is a great visual, but the whole whistling to control it is weird.
tomk: Yondu is the only one of the original Guardians to appear in this movie.
And the whistling thing apparently comes from the comics. A buddy of mine is a huge fan of the original team, such that he refuses to watch these movies because they aren’t the original team. He told me the whistling comes from there, but Yondu is not a redneck pirate.
He usually looks like this.
jimmy: I’ve read a few Guardians stories with the original team, but mostly in Marvel Team-Up. And refusing to watch the movies because they aren’t the original team seems awfully silly.
tomk: He’s a good friend. I like these movies, but he doesn’t think the modern day team assembled by Star-Lord should go by that name.
I am sure he wouldn’t be happy to learn who Stallone played in Volume 2…
jimmy: He can blame Ronan for the name.
tomk: Works for me. He still won’t watch the movie as far as I know.
jimmy: No offense to your friend, but that seems like a dumb reason.
tomk: He may read this. And my answer to that is…to each their own.
jimmy: Agreed. And no one reads these. 🙂
tomk: If he doesn’t want to watch GotG for any reason, he can keep it.
We can always ask Watson. He was also a fan of the 90s run of the original team.
jimmy: So this lineup is essentially the Guardians in the comics now, so they weren’t even a team prior to this movie?
tomk: They were in part.
Around the time of, I think, the first Civil War, the writers Dan Abnet and Andy Lanning did the Annihilation stories, and that introduced a new team of Guardians that included Star-Lord as the leader (and he was a serious character), Gamora, Drax, Rocket, plus the then-current Quasar and Adam Warlock.
Groot was, for a while, just a little guy in a flower pot.
They also had Mantis and Cosmo the telepathic Russian dog (as seen in the movie). Knowhere was their headquarters and they dealt with cosmic threats, adding new members later from Marvel’s various space-based heroes.
So, the team they started with wasn’t quite the movie’s line-up.
jimmy: I’ve read most of Starlin’s Infinity and Thanos stuff and some other Adam Warlock stuff besides, but otherwise, have never been into the cosmic aspects of the Marvel Universe.
tomk: Abnett and Lanning approached Warlock in a very different way. He went from cryptic master planner to space wizard. It sorta worked.
But that’s not this movie.
We don’t want to scare away Watson.
jimmy: I think he’s given up on these anyway because we start without him.
tomk: That or he’s waiting to see if Jenny only answers as Groot.
jimmy: Let’s not relive that podcast segment please…
jenny: I am Groot.
tomk: Good point.
jimmy: No, WE are Groot.
watson: I am still struck at how fresh this was. I can see people thinking it doesn’t hold up because we’ve seen so many cuts on Pratt since then but man when this came out was it great.
jimmy: Agreed. And as mentioned earlier, I did find it held up better on viewing #3 than it did on viewing #2.
watson: What a roller coaster, Jimmy!
jimmy: Gotta keep the readers guessing!
long lapse in the conversation
So, is Guardians so good we’ve got nothing to talk about?
tomk: Of course not. We got Lee Pace as another bland MCU villain.
jimmy: Ronan was ok, but probably more memorable for his look than anything he did.
tomk: A blue guy with a big hammer. What’s not to remember?
Though his befuddlement when Peter challenges him to a dance-off is very funny to me. It’s the only time he isn’t all bombast and furor.
jimmy: If you get the opportunity, watch the gag reel where they have an actual dance-off.
tomk: Hmmm. Ronan got some moves considering Pace might not have been able to move around too well in that costume.
jenny: Sorry, I am behind. Instead of watching last night, I watched the Oscars
Let me rectify that now.
jimmy: I guarantee Guardians is better than the Oscars.
watson: Has an MCU film ever won for best SFX? None stand out as FX masterpieces.
No. They have not.
tomk: But they don’t suck either.
jimmy: Which have even been nominated?
tomk: Guardians has, I think.
Which leads me to ask: is Rocket the most realistic CGI character in the MCU?
watson: Iron Man was nominated.
All of them.
Avengers. Both GotG films. Dr Strange. Winter Soldier.
Winter Soldier seems odd.
Another long pause
jimmy: Well, was there anything that you didn’t like in Vol 1?
looks at watch
checks internet connection
watson: Other than the filling time until Thanos villain, it was damn near perfect.
tomk: Damn near.
Shall we give our ratings so Jimmy can perform his numbers magic?
watson: This is easy for me. From the heart of Hollywood. The movie capitol of the world. I give Guardians of the Galaxy 10 “Mixtapes NOT containing any song Jenny picks” out of 10!
tomk: I’ll go with 9.5 out of 10 perfects but for Ronan.
jimmy: I’m still hoping Jenny and Jonathan will add their 4 cents. And you guys won’t like my score, but I give Guardians 8.5 “Groot is dead! Long live Groot!” out of 10.
jonathan: I’m with Tom. Docked a half point because Ronan is such a useless villain. 9.5 out of 10
jenny: I am Groot.
jonathan: Also of note regarding GOTG1, it’s one of the 2 MCU movies that have actually become their own “types” that other studios are trying to copy. Avengers being the other (shared universe crossover).
jenny: I get how you guys hated that they wasted Ronin – but I still think he was a cool villain. I only dock this movie 1/2 point due to them casting John C. Reilly or however you spell his name (not worth a google) – So GoTG gets 9.5 Groot Glowing Flowers out of 10!
tomk: Jenny likes Ronan but hates Reilly? That somehow makes sense.
Then again, Groot rivals the Iron Giant for Vin Diesel’s greatest performance.
jimmy: Trees grow out of the sky??!!?! What kind of dark magic is this?!?!
tomk: Ask Jenny after Benedict Cumberbatch explains it to her. She’ll listen to anything that guy says that isn’t, “I am happily married.”
jimmy: Ok, Calcutron-2024…do your stuff!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 10.0
Iron Man 9.4
Guardians Of The Galaxy 9.4
The Avengers 9.3
Captain America: The First Avenger 8.7
The Incredible Hulk 6.7
Iron Man 2 6.6
Iron Man 3 6.6
Thor: The Dark World 6.6
MCU overall 8.1
Phase 1 8.1
Phase 2 8.2
Phase 2 being higher than Phase 1 at this point is a bit surprising. But that’ll all change next week…
tomk: It’s the week Jimmy has been dreading all this time…
That’s right! We’re doing Suicide Squad!
jimmy: I would rather watch that.
tomk: Man, you have a real problem with Age of Ultron if you’d rather watch Suicide Squad…
jimmy: I’m not alone.
tomk: The Moose strikes back!
jenny: AoU is NOOOOOT that bad….
I’m just sorry I missed the Guardians discussion.
tomk: Jenny is a real sucker for movies that have whole scenes inexplicably put in just to advance plot points for a later movie, see also Iron Man 2.
jenny: I do love IM2 🙂
tomk: I can’t wait to hear Jenny rave about the “Thor is in a kiddie pool in a cave” scene.
jimmy: That’s the one scene I wanted to revisit before Ragnorak, but couldn’t even bring myself to do that. Oh, and, <watson>SAVE IT FOR NEXT WEEK!</watson>