Saving the World Again

I had been reluctant to watch Guardians of the Galaxy even after I heard from comic book fans and superhero fans that it was a good movie; so finally, last night, with family visiting and the need for a way to pass a couple of hours pleasantly, we queued it up to play. It was a safe enough choice given that a more serious movie would have required a good deal more commitment than any of us were apt to give it after overeating for most of the afternoon, a Sunday tradition. So it would prove, too, safe enough and pleasant and hardly much more than that.

More fun than the movie itself was figuring out who the actors were and where we had seen them before. Glenn Close was minor but well chosen given that she sported such a splendid hairdo. Vin Diesel saying the same line over and over again provided a good deal of sport. His casting as a big-eyed moveable tree might have struck me as an unlikely choice but proved interesting enough to discuss with my family. I told the story of Chris Pratt’s weight loss since I had read about it somewhere but I had no idea what movies he had been in before becoming buff, and really had so little interest in it that I couldn’t even be bothered to search online. I was pleased to recognize Zoe Saldana and surprised when I saw that Karen Gillian played the sister with whom she had to fight to the death or whatever during one of the movie’s pre-climaxes. Bradley Cooper should always play a raccoon, in my opinion. I recognized Lee Pace’s name before I realized I had seen him in the perfectly endless adaptation of The Hobbit. He had a role in which he did a good deal of shouting and such, and it was his job to play the powerful, evil villain that everybody fears who is ultimately defeated in about twenty minutes.

The script was funny and even made my mother laugh at moments; she usually plays Farm Town when we watch a movie like this one, so that says something for the film’s amusement value.

What struck me most, however, was the tiredness of it all: the evil villain, the ancient relic too powerful to control, the hero who turns out to have a mysteriously powerful father in the background, the threat to destroy the world of the heroes; the foe too powerful to defeat who in fact crumbles in fairly short order; in fact, all this is so tired and second hand that even my complaints about it are tired and second hand. Yet this movie was a tremendous hit and made fortunes for some people and assured long careers for others. Capitalist art at its finest.

Yet on a Sunday night for tired old people this was what we chose even when we had other more interesting choices, not because we are failing at life but rather because we preferred a movie we could make fun of and pay scant attention to rather than art that absorbed and moved us. The point of the movie was to serve the function of a campfire at which we could stare; anyone who could claim to be enthralled by such a movie as this would be far sadder than we, who simply watched it halfheartedly as something to keep us in the room together. Still, there is something intensely meager about a culture that recycles the same script-lines, exploding cities, alien bar scenes, and space fights; along with the superhero movies in general, now so numerous that one needs a family geek to keep the scorecard straight.

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