Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Take my hand..." - Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy was the cleverest, most unanticipated, most fun Marvel-sci-fi-we-never-knew-we-wanted, at least for me. I hadn't even heard of the storyline until I saw the film was coming out, and for a nerd that's pretty bad! I had no idea what to expect really, and this film more than exceeded my expectations. Next to Avengers I think it's my favorite Marvel movie. Anyway...

So what was so great about this movie? It's one thing to have a flashy sci-fi with a lot of visuals but it's quite another to have that in addition to a quippy script and thematic substance. Guardians is one of the most colorful films I have ever seen. As a woman obsessed with the cosmos and all things "outer space" it was like devouring my favorite dessert for two hours. Not just the glorious nebulous backdrops, but the diversity of creatures and alien races, costumes, spacecraft, and terrain made it quite the visual feast. I love how the production designers seemed to have specifically chosen unique and bright colors to sort of visually show the characters journey from the pale yellow prison uniforms to the shiny, garnet leather of the ravager garb. The villain Ronan and his people remain in blues and blacks with a dark, Egyptian style setting them starkly apart from the other beings.

One of my favorite things about Guardians is that it feels so much like a great sci-fi of old. The first of the three times I've seen it, I was overwhelmed as a heavy robe of nostalgia wrapped around me. Channeling the great sci-fi and adventure films of the 70s and 80s you are instantly transported to a childhood memory where everything is possible and magical. But this isn't to say the film wasn't original, it was incredibly so. I am speaking to its credit by pointing out that it was channeling the greats while at the same time authoring it's own legend.

But what I really want to talk about most is the best part of the film. It's the same thing that made Avengers great, a strong backbone of themes rooted in teamwork, defying the odds, and the "losers" being the winners. The Lego Movie released earlier this year (also starring Chris Pratt) is another film about people with insanely different personality types and backstories coming together to overcome a great threat. I have labeled Lego Movie, Avengers, and now Guardians of the Galaxy the "Myers-Brigg study films" because they are perfectly packaged examples of finding harmony and victory between even the most opposite and diverse of types.

In Guardians you have Peter Quill (aka: Starlord), a sweet boy from a podunk American town who has hero in him from childhood, but makes wrong choices on his path and settles for less than he is capable of. A funny, charming ladies-man he spends more time chasing alien tail with his favorite mix tapes playing in his out-dated headphones, rather than figuring out his destiny. Then you have Gamora. A rock hard woman with a rock hard past involving abuse, torture, loss, death, and living in the shadow of evil. However, this life has not fully corrupted her. She has a heart and compassion for others and a mind for honor. She wants to do the right thing, but doesn't always attempt it in the right way.

Drax the destroyer is similar. As dangerous as he appears and from a race of people who speak clearly, and concisely at all times. He does not understand symbolism, metaphors, or deeper thinking. With his wife and daughter slaughtered he can think of nothing but revenge. His loyalty to his people and family is his strength, but it is also weakness. His rage and pain blind him from making tactful decisions and thereby endangering the lives of those around him.

Rocket and Groot show up as a pair. Rocket being the cutting, sarcastic genetically modified Racoon with a cynical outlook on life. Life is money and survival is for the fittest. His small size is a distraction from the truth that he may, in fact, may be the most intelligent of the entire group. His strength lies in planning and strategy, but his bleak outlook and mistrust can lead him astray from the thing he really needs most... friends. Groot is his muscle, his back up. A humanoid tree who can only speak one sentence "I am Groot." He is sweet, distracted, and totally out of his element. However, Groot has a protective nature that proves to be his shining quality in the end.

This is far from the dream team. The awkward bunch of misfits can barely go two minutes without one of them trying to kill the other, with the exception of Peter. Peter is my favorite. Not just because he's played by the super-handsome and funny Chris Pratt, but because of his nature. As an adult he seems like a reckless brat who roams around the galaxy sleeping around and wasting time, but this isn't the true him.

From his opening scene as a child you get a foreshadowing of who he truly is. His mother lies in bed dying of cancer. She asks him why he's been fighting with the other boys, noticing his black eye. He replies that these boys killed a frog with a stick. Seeing this defenseless creature get tortured and killed was too much for Peter. He feels the need to stand for the defenseless. There was a light inside him from day one (which ends up being both figurative and literal as we come to find out later).

Peter is the hero, the leader, and peacekeeper. He is the true guardian of the galaxy, even as he guards his misfit team from the volatility of one another. Peter is an ESFP without a doubt. If you want to know why or what the heck that means just read this: and this here: You'll see what I mean.

Anyhow, back to the scene with his mother on her deathbed. This is a crucial moment. As she lays dying she gives Peter a present instructing him to open it only after she's gone. She then asks him to take her hand, but he doesn't. He turns his head away as if he can't look at her. He's afraid. She asks him again this time with tears in her eyes but he still cannot do it. Before he can change his mind her hand drops, she is dead.

We don't visit this moment again till the end of the film, but at one point Rocket discovers Peter's present still unopened after 26 years. Peter defensively kicks it back in the drawer and tells Rocket to shut up. Clearly, he hasn't been able to move on from that day his whole life. His childish actions are a reflection of the little boy inside who never truly could let go of his mother or his life on Earth. Even when the prison guard confiscates the cassette player, Peter is willing to die for it. He clings to it for dear life. It's his security blanket.

Love that they did NOT ending up kissing here or in the movie at all. They are saving that for later.
Finally someone does it right! 
In the climax of the film our guardians face off against Ronan, the warlord bent on vengeance with a mind to destroy an entire planet. Ronan comes to possess an infinity stone (one of six, Loki's teseract in Avengers is also one of the six). This instrument of epic, universal power that can easily wipe out the planet he desires to destroy. Mortals are unable to handle infinity stones, the power is so great it would split anyone apart into irretrievable pieces.

In this moment Peter finally has to make a choice. To choose himself or to choose the lives of the many. In a feverish showdown Peter has an opportunity to take the stone from Ronan. When he does it painfully begins to tear him apart, though he holds onto it longer than any other would normally be able to. Knowing the fate he is about to face Gamora reaches out to him and says, "Peter, take my hand!"

In this moment my heart dropped because they brought his journey full circle. He was too afraid to take his mother's hand, but he now has a chance to rectify that. He reaches for Gamora, and though two energies are better than one, it's still not enough. But Drax is already on his way. He too reaches out his hand for Peter and touches him and Rocket shortly follows. Together, connected out of devotion to each other and a calling to protect the many, they are able to harness the energy of the infinity stone. Seriously one of the coolest, most goose-bump-inducing moments this year. Apart they are weak, but together they are mighty.

But Peter wasn't the only one ready to sacrifice himself. Shortly before this we got a foreshadowing of what would be asked of the others when Groot wrapped himself around his friends turning his very body into an organic safe haven. Gamora and Peter knew what he was doing, he was giving himself up for them. The enemy ship was going down and without something to shield them they would  not survive the crash. Rocket, however, does not understand why Groot would do this, why would he die, for them? Groot smiles and says "We Are Groot" Now at what looks like the end, Groot has learned to think outside of himself. Whereas before he could only say "I am Groot." he now realizes that his friends are a part of him, just like the branches that make up his limbs. And there is no greater love the he who will lay his life down for his friends.

Wow! This got long. But I couldn't wait to dig apart these themes. I will end this post by returning one more time to Peter's mother and her gift. At the end, Peter is at a place where he can finally open the gift and take his mother's hand. The gift is the Vol. 2 cassette of her Awesome Mix. This to me represents Vol. 2 or Phase 2 of Peter's life. He is now the man he was always meant to be, no longer a child who can't let go of childish things.

But speaking of Peter's parentage, how messed up is it that we get all these cool hints about his true father being some ancient celestial being, but that's it! Really!?

But seriously, this film was some good stuff. Go see it if I haven't ruined the experience for you, haha! Have a great week folks, until next time!