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.
“On my planet, we have a legend about people like you. It’s called Footloose. And in it, a great hero named Kevin Bacon teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that, dancing, well, is the greatest thing there is.” – Peter Quill to Gamora
Here’s what I love about that above quote – it’s not chosen at random and it’s not a throwaway line.
I don’t know if it’s Kevin Feige, or if there’s a story editor in the production office whose job it is to pay attention to things like this, or if, at this point, the Marvel style takes care of it on its own, but repeatedly in these Marvel movies, lines and scenes set up other lines and scenes in subtle ways that create solid payoffs.
When Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) brings up Kevin Bacon and Footloose during an attempted seduction of Gamora on Knowhere, it’s a funny line for the audience on multiple levels: it’s anachronistic, it’s absurd, and it feels like a line he’s used before. Gamora doesn’t buy it, but it’s not because she knows Kevin Bacon, but because she knows Peter’s reputation.
It’s a good scene, adding a bit of humor and romance after the hardcore action escape from the Kyln. It also helps to show that Peter still has a long way to go on his arc towards semi-heroism; Gamora is focused on getting the orb to the buyer because she understands the stakes better than Peter. (Not that Gamora knows they’ve got an Infinity Stone, but she does know that they’ve got something Ronan wants and that’s likely to be something a little more dangerous than a Blu-ray set of Hart of Dixie.)
What’s more impressive, however, is that Peter bringing up Kevin Bacon pays off twice later one. After he pulls off a dramatic move with the Milano inside The Dark Aster, Gamora exclaims, “Just like Kevin Bacon!” And later, when Ronan’s ship has crashed and the Kree fanatic is ready to lay waster to Xandar, Peter steps in front of him to start singing, “O-O-H Child” by the Five Stairsteps.
“What are you doing?” Ronan asks.
“Dance-off, bro! You and me!” Peter exclaims.
It’s another really funny moment, but by connecting back to Footloose, it reveals both a high-quality approach to the script (it signals to the audience that everything included is included for a reason), and a lot about Peter’s character. This is a guy who still makes an effort to connect with the planet he was abducted from 26 years earlier, and the mom that died on that same night.
There’s touches of both his mom (in his “Awesome Mix, Volume 1″ that she made for him) and his youth (all the toys, that he named his ship after his childhood celebrity crush) everywhere, and it’s not just stuff a set designer placed in the background. It informs the character and adds to the sense that Peter is still a bit of a kid in a grown-up’s body. He’s getting to play Han Solo and liking it, though, like Gamora, he’s also in a place in his life where he wants to disconnect from the people who raised him.
In his case, it’s Yondu and the Ravagers.
Peter was raised among the Ravagers, and one of the skills they’ve taught him is that loyalty is a temporary thing. He’s decided to steal the orb for himself and breakaway to make it on his own; unlike Gamora who has, in some regards, found her religion when it comes to no longer being able to work for Thanos or Ronan, Peter’s not yet made a significant change in who he is. Instead, his decision to leave is akin to kids wanting to move out of their parent’s house. That he’s in his mid-30s when he’s doing this reinforces him being a kid in a grown man’s body. He doesn’t seem to have a plan except to keep doing what he’s always been doing (thieving), except he wants to be on his own.
He’s not a totally bad guy, though; Corpsman Dey gives him a hard time when he arrests him on Xandar, and jokingly refers to him as “Star-Prince,” but he’s also willing to take Peter’s message to Nova Prime and speak on his behalf.
It’s important, too, that he doesn’t grow up all at once. On Knowhere, he’s trying to seduce Gamora, and then even after saving her life, he still tries to turn that act into taking her to bed. His lines about being heroic are funny because they tell us the women he’s been using them on either aren’t that smart or don’t care what the lines are, as long as they get the result they both want. Gamora is a grown-up, though, and despite Drax later calling her a whore (and he’s a literalist, remember), she doesn’t seem to show any interest in sex, at all. Perhaps that’s a part of her character that she’s left behind, too, and it’s only through working with her that Peter is able to tone that part of his character down; at the end of the film, when it’s the traditional time for the hero to get the girl, Peter and Gamora don’t come together. There’s a nod in that direction, with Gamora offering the hint of a dance, but there’s no kiss to signal either the start of a relationship or the cherry on top of a high-action adventure.
Instead, the woman Peter really connects with at the end of the film is his mother. On the night she died, as she lay in her hospital bed, she handed him a present that he’s never opened. He’s read the card, in which she calls him, “My little Star-Lord,” thus adding a nice bit of pathos to the Korathian “Who?” we’ve all been laughing about for six months, but he finally opens the actual gift to reveal, “Awesome Mix, Volume 2,” which is as perfect an ending for this movie as I could imagine.
Full kudos to Chris Pratt for pulling off this role. He plays the likable rogue as well as anyone, drawing from both Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Nathan Fillion’s Malcolm Reynolds but creating his own character. Peter Quill isn’t the grown-up either of those two characters are, and he’s a bit crasser, too. His joke about how, if he had a blue light, the inside of the Milano would look like a Jackson Pollack painting was not something one was likely to hear on the Millennium Falcon, and he doesn’t have Reynolds’ edge. That said, much like Reynolds’ “brown coat,” Peter’s present is infused with his past and he keeps those trappings around him. Even his final outfit, after he’s convinced the group to work together, is just a Ravager outfit, the same garb he’s been wearing since the abduction.
This is a standout performance, one of the best in the entire MCU catalog.
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