Mar 7, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Guardians of the Galaxy

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, that ragtag group of space explorers.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Guardians of the Galaxy
Comics Cube Roundtable

Guardians of the Galaxy was released on July 31, 2014 and made $145 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $333 million in the United States and $773 million total worldwide.

TRAVIS: I was pretty sure this would be just okeh, or worse. It was neither. It was awesome.

ANTONIO: I was pretty excited for this one. Even before it came out, I just kept going, “Groot in a flowerpot! Groot in a flowerpot!” ‘Cause that’s how things went in Annihilation: Conquest. One thing I do hate is that DnA gets all the credit, though. That just bugs the hell outta me.

JD: I at first did not dig the trailer. Looking back now I can see its genius. The familiar music mixed with new characters, something that was very different yet also somehow nostalgic. I admit I was wrong and I'd say it has since become the standard for the genre.

JEFF: I remember seeing this movie when it came out, it felt like a joy to watch from the opening credits sequence to the post credits scene. Marvels cosmic play ground is so deep and rich in characters that I really want more movies set off earth.

MATTHEW: I was really scared that this was going to be the one that completely went off the rails. Throughout the entire movie I was waiting for it to do just that. By the end I was just awestruck.

LAMAR: Let me tell y'all something right brother had never read a Guardians comic, and was skeptical about the whole movie. He paid for his ticket, and I told him if he didn't like it I'd give him the money he paid back. We went down there and he acted a pure fool, okay? I thought he was gonna get thrown out on his ass for his behavior, but he had a festival in there. Even old people were losing their minds over this movie. I even stopped watching the movie so I could see how people were reacting to it. I was sitting there like, "These Guardians are banging this damn theater." To this minute one of the most gratifying movie experiences I've ever had, easily.

MAX: I was a victim of hype on this one. I came in expecting so much. Not just because of the positive critical response and box office but also a few lifelong DC fans i know who called it their favorite superhero film. If you can believe it, I barely laughed on first viewing. I left feeling like the whole thing tried too hard and failed. Since then, I’ve watched it a couple more times and reversed that opinion (though for some reason I still prefer Vol. 2)...goes to show how much mindset can play into our opinion on a movie or comic or whatever.

DUY: I'm with you on this one. Hype gets me negatively too. I only saw this movie once in theaters and I don't think I appreciated it as much back then. Part of it is me having no prior attachment to these characters, and a part of it is me being a "space racist," meaning I'm prejudiced against stories that happen in space. I enjoyed it a lot, but I really got an appreciation for it when I was able to watch it on video. A part of that is because I tend to play movies in the background as I do other stuff, and this had the sweetest soundtrack. I appreciate it even more now after the second movie, but that's a discussion for the second movie.

MAX: Apparently the biggest point of contention was the batshit insane. It’s a no-brainer. especially in hindsight with the influence it’s had on Ragnarok and the newer DC films.

MATT: This is the one I was most unsure of coming in phase 2. I had no idea who these people were, where they were, or why a tree and talking garbage panda would be involved. Given my reservations (and missing it in the theaters), I found myself liking the latest Chris added to Marvel's pantheon and most of his supporting cast.  Zoe Saldana can't read the lines well (for some reason, I just think she can't use contractions). I did love the music, Yondu, Kirk from Gilmore Girls, and Drax. We'll come back to Drax later I suspect.

TRAVIS: I like Sean Gunn having his own character, but it's weird to me, having him be the body for Rocket and not the voice. That's always off to me. (See, also: Hellboy.)

To this minute one of the most gratifying movie experiences I've ever had, easily. -LaMar

MATT: Ronan is kind of a wasted villain.

TRAVIS: Ronan didn't feel wasted to me. His intro was pretty cool.

MATT: My problem with Ronan (and Thor 2's villains) is we get told motives, but not really shown. So Ronan just appears to be doing Thanos's dirty work for him, until the inevitable villain double cross. I had expected more understanding of the antagonist's motivations more from previous installments (Thor, Iron Man 1 and 3, Winter Soldier, Avengers). This felt like a bit more of a backslide. I learned more about the guy from Boogie Nights' family than I did the (slightly smaller) big bad. It's mostly a quibble though.

TRAVIS: They lost a big war, he's a supremacist, so he wants to crush them as revenge. I suppose that resonates with me as a scary villain motive. Seems believably dangerous. Him fetching baubles for Thanos seems a distant second to that.

MATT: This also comes from my general confusion as to what the Kree are in the comics. I never followed along with the space folk. I just looked up who the actor was and damn, it was Lee Pace from Pushing Daisies. Now, not having Ronan make a pie was a waste.

DUY: My problem with Ronan is the same problem I had with Malekith. Yeah, they're scary, but beyond that I didn't really find anything memorable.

JD: The problem with a few of MCU villains is that they are just placeholders for Thanos. I guess that's the downside of showing everyone your movie slate three or so years out.

MAX: Here’s what I wonder. How do you address that without taking away from what makes the film work? You don’t want any less screentime for the heroes, and you don’t want to make the film longer. So do you rewrite Ronan’s scenes? A certain amount of it needs to be nuts and bolts stuff: establish him, his relationships and his objective...there’s not a lot of time left. I guess that’s where Blanchett’s Hela in ragnarok was able to squeeze out a bit more personality in the time she had.

MATT: It’s more about establishing stakes for the heroes. Only Drax and Gamora should care really. You need Andy Dwyer to care too to sell it (Groot and Rocket are probably not gettable in the first movie).

MAX: Well yeah, so do we do that by strengthening the relationships with Drax/Gamora/Ronan, or do we show Ronan doing more straight up evil stuff (ala Hela slaughtering the Warriors Three)? In all honesty, I’m having trouble remembering any of Ronan’s scenes beyond Pratt’s performance of “Ooh Child.”

DUY: That's where I'm at with the "Marvel has weak villains" criticism too. Maybe they do, but after Hackman's Lex and Nicholson's and Ledger's Jokers, it's nice to give the heroes more screentime.

MATT: For me, it's about being economical. Think of a movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark, you get maybe five minutes of time (not a lot in a two-hour plus movie) to establish villainy among the non-Nazis (Nazis are easy, hence my lack of complaint in the First Avenger). You can do it quick. I honestly forgot the link between Korath and Ronan. That's how you get Andy to care (since he's established as a rogue and not a general do-gooder).

DUY: To be perfectly fair, Ronan at least looked badass.

MATT: Looked badass, but also like he was crying black tears for days. Too emo

ANTONIO: I like the idea behind Ronan. He was a product of a war that spanned generations. He was probably raised on so much propaganda that it seemed more like his government betrayed him when the peace treaties were signed. The problem with that idea is that they skimmed over it, didn’t really explore it much, ‘cause it’s a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. But the seeds of an interesting backstory were there. Oh, and that ending. If Quill doesn’t at least try to rap-battle Thanos in Infinity War, I’m gonna be sorely disappointed.

DUY: The dance-off is probably the defining moment in the entire movie, and to its critics, the moment that undercuts the entire movie. What do you guys think in general about Guardians being a comedy?

ANTONIO: Ronan’s a little bitch for not taking the challenge! He knew he couldn’t handle Starlord’s outlaw dance moves.

MAX: Loved it. Literally watched that part over and over. I saw rabid people on YouTube who had a problem with it...I don’t get those people.

DUY: Dazzler the miniseries, in the 80s, ended with Dazzler singing the villain into submission. That was majorly panned in the 80s. Either times have changed, or 2010s movie fans are a way different breed from 1980s comics fans.

You don’t want any less screentime for the heroes, and you don’t want to make the film longer. So do you rewrite Ronan’s scenes? -Max

DUY: We keep bringing up degree of difficulty with these things, but this one had to take the cake, right? Iron Man, Thor, and Cap proved you could do movies based on characters that are, at least, the archetypes in-universe, but this is the one that removed any excuses. If Rocket and Groot can work, no character really has an excuse for not working.

TRAVIS: More, I think, an accomplishment for getting the fans who were sure they couldn't accept them, than with a general audience. Getting a general audience to embrace Groot is probably not that difficult.

DUY: I don't think Rocket on his own would be that difficult (that's basically a Pixar movie), but Rocket with the spaceman and the green assassin is the "This is one careful step away from going all kinds of wrong."

TRAVIS: It just doesn't feel very distant from any other successful space opera. They're Star Wars/Star Trek/Space Truckers. Flight of the Navigator. Captain Eo. Dot dot dot ""in a superhero movie!" though, I guess that's a thing.

DUY: Good point. I keep forgetting star wars exists and is unfairly successful. Also, I'd believe the nonbelievers in the concept may include studio executives, the types who would think Galactus is better depicted as a giant cloud

ANTONIO: Rocket catching the gun while riding Groot. I can see why non-comic fans loved them so much. And jeez. That anguished cry from Kid Quill when his grandfather carries him out of the hospital room... Also, "pelvic sorcery!"

TRAVIS: The "mystery" of the alien girl wearing his old Earth shirt after the time jump is my favorite instance of really-missing-the-point in MCU clickbait articles and message board threads.

ANTONIO: What “mystery”?

TRAVIS: How did this girl he just picked up just happen to come out of his bedroom in a hurry wearing... a shirt he owned?!? Popular theories point to her having brought it with her or being connected to Quill's father, because those make sense.  This has, "It's Punisher in a van!" beat by miles and miles.

ANTONIO: I like Punisher in the moving van theory!

DUY: What Punisher in a van theory?

ANTONIO: Winter Soldier. The moving van that hits one of the cop cars chasing Fury.

(Marvel) somehow have managed to transform good actors into transcendent ones and cast bad actors so perfectly that it takes advantage of all their strengths and disguises their weaknesses. -Katherine

DUY: I was really scared about Batista playing Drax since I have a general aversion to wrestlers acting and since I don't even like him as a wrestler, but he made me love him. "Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too quick. I would catch it."

ANTONIO: His acting in this is pretty bad, but he gets a lot of good lines and gimmick so he gets a pass. He definitely grows as an actor by the time he shows up in the new Blade Runner movie.

DUY: His character in this one is such that I think the bad acting even helps. And also highlights his overall growth for Volume 2.

JD: I was confident in Batista. Before he left WWE he was did a program with Rey Mysterio that was a best friend break-up angle. He had morphed his character and it was compelling.

MAX: His acting works like magic for Drax. I think he’s perfect.

KATHERINE: Drax is hilarious. I didn't know anything about Batista before but walked out thinking that he may have been the funniest out of a cast of insanely funny characters. If he's not a good actor, I couldn't tell because he was pitch perfect for the character.

TRAVIS: I can't get behind Bautista being a bad or weak actor. He's not moving out of range, but I've never had issue with him in a movie.

DUY: I have a general aversion to wrestlers acting in big movies, because I'm generally unable to see them as anything other than the wrestler. Yes, this applies to the Rock too. But Batista is one who at the time I wasn't even convinced of in terms of his wrestling character, so there's that.

KATHERINE: That should say everything about Marvel's casting prowess. They somehow have managed to transform good actors into transcendent ones and cast bad actors so perfectly that it takes advantage of all their strengths and disguises their weaknesses.

DUY: It definitely does go towards Marvel's casting prowess. Up to this point, the one piece of casting I was absolutely sure would work was Ed Norton as the Hulk, and... it didn't, really.

MATT: Yeah, Drax was a surprise. I think they played into Bautista's strengths (i.e. don't say much and certainly nothing complicated). Plus, not he gets to have fun pretending not to understand metaphors.

Does anyone think that GotG can be a lasting sci-fi franchise, like Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens? -Jeff

ANTONIO: So there’s this part in the ship where Ronan knocks them all down and Drax falls back against the steps, right? He barely lands before he’s back up and running at Ronan. I hate that part.

TRAVIS: The cameos in this one were heartwarming. Lloyd Kaufman could have completely thrown me out of the "world" and instead I was laughing and felt more in the world. Completely missed Rob Zombie, though.

JEFF: Does anyone think that GotG can be a lasting sci-fi franchise, like Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens?

MATT: Since it’s set reasonably far away from Earth, for now, maybe.

DUY: I don't see any reason why it couldn't be. The Marvel Universe has a lot to choose from, especially now that Fox is back.

JEFF: I think that this is an area that Marvel is missing in its TV efforts. They could bring Nova or Mar-Vell to the small screen and explore a lot of the cosmic landscape that they'll never have enough time for it a film.

DUY: When the movie was coming out, there was talk that Nova was going to show up, played by Nathan Fillion. He instead voiced an alien prisoner that Groot ends up putting in his place. At this point, Nova has yet to show up in the MCU, but he does seem to be someone that the internal fandom hopes will show up at some point.

DUY: Favorite Guardian?

ANTONIO: Rocket, of course. Dude broke out of 23 prisons. You gotta respect that.

KATHERINE: I find Drax the funniest, but overall favorite would probably have to be Groot. For the juxtaposition of his purehearted innocence and his capability for super deadly force. After he skewers a line of soldiers and smacks them around, his big sweet smile is so damn charming. Also, Baby Groot is so cute I can’t even stand it (more of a discussion for the second film, but since he makes a cameo here he kind of counts).

JEFF: Groot, and honestly without him I don't see this movie being anywhere near as successful.

DUY: I feel like my favorite is Gamora, just because of her backstory, but she was also my biggest disappointment, and this is where prior knowledge of the whole thing works against me -- I know she's supposed to be much more dangerous than she's portrayed. But "I have spent my life surrounded by my enemies. It would be an honor to die among friends" hit me hard.

JD: I like Gamora a lot. I think there's tons of potential for the character and I can't wait for her to interact with Thor and Tony and Natasha.

DUY: Favorite song from the soundtrack?

JD: The correct answer is "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways. Any other answer is wrong.

JEFF: Without a doubt "Ain't no Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. It's such a great feel good song and it fit perfectly with what they showed after Quill read his mother's letter and opened her gift. Gamora dancing a little, Yondu smiling at the troll doll in the orb he was tricked with, the Nova Corps officer embracing his family. It all fit together perfect and the music resonated with me a lot. I've been using an part of that song for my ringtone ever since.

DUY: Mine is probably "Ooh Child," likely because it's connected to my favorite Tupac song. But "Come and Get Your Love" really does just kinda get the movie going

MATT: Why do you make us choose? It's like choose your favorite member of the Marvel family. We know you want to choose Mary, but secretly we all know you're an Uncle Marvel. The correct answer is "Hooked on a Feeling."

MATTHEW: "Come and Get Your Love."

I like Gamora a lot. I think there's tons of potential for the character and I can't wait for her to interact with Thor and Tony and Natasha. -JD

DUY: Who wins the Kilmer Award for the movie?

MATT: Yondu, hands down. Second is Rocket.

JEFF: I'm going with Groot here, he's the show in every scene he's in.

DUY: Comics recommendations for Guardians of the Galaxy?

LAMAR: Annihilation, no question.

JEFF: After Annihilation, Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, volumes 1 and 2. Then Cosmic Avengers; this version of the team is pretty recent. These books are the start for them as the Guardians. Also the 2007 Nova series is an underappreciated book.

TRAVIS: The Ellis/Pacheco Starjammers mini. And, the Morrison/Jones Marvel Boy.

ANTONIO: Annihilation: Conquest, you heathens!

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