Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – The 10th Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie – Directed by James Gunn – Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Alex Denisof, Ophelia Lovibond, Peter Serafinowicz, Gregg Henry, Laura Haddock, Alex Denisof, Josh Brolin, Lloyd Kaufman, Nathan Fillion, Rob Zombie, Seth Green, and Stan Lee.
Welcome to a series of specific, character-based reactions to the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. You can read the review of the GUARDIANS movie here, and you can read all of my superhero movie reviews (and the specific character reactions to Marvel’s The Avengers) right here.
“Who?” – Korath to Peter Quill
If there is one actor/character combo that is highly underused in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, it’s Djimon Hounsou’s Korath.
Korath is as an ally of Ronan, hired to retrieve the orb from Morag. Despite having a set of Sakaaran troops under his command, he can’t stop Peter Quill from stealing the orb and getting away, which means Korath has to slink back to Ronan empty-handed. He then gets pushed aside in favor of Nebula, who immediately gets pushed aside in favor of Gamora. Later, Korath gets the cybernetic implant on the side of his head ripped off by Drax, apparently killing him.
While Korath’s role, then, is to play a subordinate villain, his actual role in the film is to make everyone else look better: Quill gets the better of him at the start, Nebula and Gamora in the initial meeting with Ronan, and then Drax kills him in the final battle. Korath is just a bounty hunter/flunky. He’s that way at the start and he’s that way at the end. Being dead, in this case, does not signify an advancement of character.
It’s a problem, and not just because it’s weak characterization, and not just because he’s the most significant character in the film to not have a character arc.
It’s also a problem because Korath/Hounsou are one of the few black faces you see throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yes, I have heard of Nick Fury and Sam Wilson), and the only significant black face you see in GUARDIANS. And yes, I know, GUARDIANS is the most diverse cast we’ve seen in an MCU film, but trees, raccoons, Zen Whoberi, whatever Drax is in the MCU but probably not human, Kree, Centaurians, and Xandarians aren’t buying tickets to put money in Marvel/Disney’s Uncle Scrooge vault of gold coins.
Look, I know discussions of race make some people crazy, but seeing someone on the screen who looks like you matters.
Hounsou admitted as much at Comic Con last year (2013), when he told reporters: “I have a four-year old son who loves superheroes from Spider-Man to Iron Man to Batman. He’s got all the costumes. One day he looks at me and says ‘Dad, I want to be light-skinned so I could be Spider-Man. Spider-Man has light skin.’ That was sort of a shock. This is why I am excited to be a part of the Marvel Universe, so I could be hopefully provide that diversity in the role of the superhero.”
It’d be a stretch to think of Korath as a hero, of course, but it matters less about bad guy and good guy as much as it matters about “cool guy” or “significant guy” in a film like this, and Korath certainly could have fulfilled a “cool guy” role by being more of a bad-ass, instead of just being the guy who looks cool enough to make everyone else look better.
It’s a problem when the only significant black face people see in a film is a glorified flunky. If you have a variety of faces playing real characters – good or evil, as long as they’re significant – it opens up the universe for everyone in the audience.
Despite Korath not being a fully-realized character and Housou being underused, I would argue that Korath/Housou do make one significant contribution to the film, and that was the way his scene was cut in the trailer. It’s Korath’s exaggerated, “Who?,” raised arms, and confused look when Peter Quill tells him he’s also known as “Star-Lord” that sets the tone for the original trailer, which was as good as any trailer ever, in that it got both comic book and non-comic book fans excited for a group of secondary characters.
It’s not Housou’s fault that after a billion watches of his scene over the summer that when the actual scene arrives it feels like an echo of a better scene. Nor is it his fault that the character is under-developed, and his acting skills are under-utilized. He gives his typical fine performance for a character and in a film that didn’t do him justice.
The Complete Box of GUARDIANS Reactions
1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: Ain’t No Thing Like Me Except Me
2. GOTG: The YONDU Reaction
3. GOTG: The NEBULA Reaction
4. GOTG: The KORATH Reaction
5. GOTG: The GROOT Reaction
6. GOTG: The CORPSMAN DEY Reaction
7. GOTG: The NOVA PRIME Reaction
8. GOTG: The RONAN Reaction
9. GOTG: The DRAX Reaction
10. GOTG: The COLLECTOR Reaction
11. GOTG: The GAMORA Reaction
12. GOTG: The STAR-LORD Reaction
13. GOTG: The ROCKET Reaction