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. Spoilers lie ahead. 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. One note – I have watched the movie twice but we’re working on a week since I’ve seen it last so it is entirely possible (but completely unintentional) that I might get a quote or two wrong. If I do, I can only apologize and ask that you feel free to correct me. Thanks.
“I know who you are, Peter Quill, and I am not some starry eyed waif here to succumb to your … your pelvic sorcery!” – Gamora to Peter Quill
Here’s the thing about Gamora’s arc in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: her important arc (deciding to split from Thanos/Ronan) was made before she even appears on screen, and her obvious arc (being the love interest of Peter Quill) never develops as formula dictates. With all of the whizz-bang going on, GUARDIANS really needs a center, and Gamora fills that role very well, though I admit it leaves me a bit underwhelmed with her character.
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) does have an arc in the movie, and it mirrors the other arcs about learning to trust a new group of people, but Gamora is the sensible rock in the middle that keeps everything moving forward. Raised to be an assassin by Thanos, the man who killed her family, Gamora has been given to Ronan and as we meet her, she’s convincing Thanos to let her go after the orb that Korath failed to acquire. Gamora wants this mission because she plans on betraying Ronan and selling the orb to a buyer she trusts not to give it to Thanos in exchange for the decimation of a planet. Ronan agrees and she goes to Xandar to steal the orb from Quill, but promptly gets arrested by the Nova Corps and sent to the Kyln.
Her fellow sister/graduate of Thanos’ School of Parenting, Nebula wants the mission, too, and we see in Nebula the woman Gamora has decided not to be. This twinning of the two women allows the filmmakers to short shift some of Gamora’s arc because every time we see Nebula do something evil we recognize this as something Gamora has decided not to do anymore. It’s clever storytelling because it works for Nebula, too, but it can lead to a feeling that Gamora and Nebula aren’t getting their due as characters.
The biggest problem for me with giving Gamora her tertiary arc (neither her most important nor expected arc), however, is that it’s de-fanged Gamora a bit too much. I hate her sequence in the Kyln – she shouldn’t need Peter to save her from Drax; at least, not after putting up a heck of a fight. If the argument is that she needed Peter because he was able to outthink Drax, well, why couldn’t Gamora do that? She’s supposed to be a deadly assassin, yet I get the feeling she’s a character who feels weighted down by her decision to change her life and not uplifted by it.
I do like that Gamora is semi-in-charge of the Guardians as she’s the one with the contact willing to by it for a ridiculous set of cash, just as I like that what binds the Guardians together is equal parts wanting to get out of jail and wanting to get paid. (Except for Drax, who just wants revenge, which he also needs to get out of prison to accomplish.) When they get to Knowhere, Gamora and Peter have a private chat in which he tries to seduce her with the music on his Walkman. I love the use of music in the film across the board, but this is a particularly good scene, as we see Peter using the music as something other than nostalgia or background music. I like, too, that Gamora likes the song he’s playing, as it helps ground the film with a nice bit of reality.
Yes, Gamora is an alien who saw her parents murdered and was raised as an assassin by a guy who worships Death, and then gets subsequently farmed out to religious lunatics to put those skills to use, but she does not, you know, dress up like a bat and turn all inwardly grumpy pants.
She can still appreciate a good song.
I like how the filmmakers let us and Peter think his seduction is working, when, in fact, Gamora knows exactly what he’s up to. That she lets him put the moves on her right up until the moment before they kiss gives us a good insight into her character, revealing that she’s still testing Peter to see who he is and what he’ll do. When she knocks him off of her, she tells him she knows who he is, but there’s a difference between knowing someone by reputation and by personal experience – she has the former, this scene helps her gain some insight into the latter.
After the Collector’s assistant blows up Knowhere when she grabs hold of the Infinity Stone, it’s Gamora who decides they need to turn the object over to the Nova Corps, even if that means they’re not going to get paid. Peter would still rather make a big score, but it’s Gamora who’s focused enough to see the bigger picture.
During Ronan’s attack on Knowhere, Gamora loses the Infinity Stone to Nebula in a aircraft battle; the film protects Gamora a bit here, having her in a ship with no weapons, and I would rather have seen Nebula score a one-on-one victory to make Gamora’s victory over her “sister” later have a bigger impact. With her ship blown up, it’s Peter’s decision to leave his own ship to save her, calling in the Ravagers to save/capture them. It’s this act that signals the shift in the Guardians following Gamora to the Guardians following Peter. Gamora even admits as much at the end of the film, when she tells him they’ll follow him, but the real shift is here because it’s Peter’s act of saving her life, followed by Peter’s willingness to go after Ronan to steal the Infinity Stone despite knowing it will likely get him killed, that sees Gamora downshift into a secondary role.
I think Zoe Saldana does an excellent job with Gamora, but I do feel like the character was underwritten a bit. During the big battle sequence, her most significant contribution is exclaiming, “Just like Kevin Bacon!” after Peter pulls off a successfully wild maneuver with his ship inside The Dark Aster. She gets a victory over Nebula but it was a short fight that gets a bit undersold in the chaos of battle, and ends when Nebula decides to chop off her own hand to bug out. Right to the end, Gamora is trying to get Nebula to switch sides, and that’s admirable. Hopefully, this will be explored more in the sequel.
Going forward, it looks like Gamora’s role is to be the Den Mother of the group, and while every group needs someone to be serious, I hope her character gets explored more in the sequel. That’s the curse of the “rock steady” character, after all – because they are so solid and dependable, sometimes writers let the chaos unfold around them, instead of letting them in on some of the fun, too. Let’s not forget that Gamora has done some really bad things in the past and a bunch of prisoners inside the Kyln aren’t the ultimate judge and jury on that score; just because she’s decided to turn the corner on her life doesn’t mean there aren’t some old scores that still need to be settled.
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