(Disclaimer – I typically try to avoid succumbing to “nerd-rage” and focus more on the things I enjoy, but this time I couldn’t hold back.)
Q: So, what did you think of the Guardians of the Galaxy film?
A: I enjoyed it a great deal. It was a lot of fun. Not perfect, not original, but still enjoyable. It does fall into many of the failings that blockbuster, special-effects laden movies do, such as a dearth of female characters that are actually given any development. But overall it actually had more genuine heart to it than expected.
Q: So was it true to the comics by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning then?
A: Yes and no. A number of characters have been significantly changed; others that were prominent in the comics are missing or relegated to the briefest of cameos. But I didn't really mind those changes because I liked what they did. The scale of the conflict, that blend of personal and galactic, definitely held true though. And the tone that can make you cheer or laugh at one moment and then come around and hit you in the feels in the next was also there. I love that.
Q: Wouldn’t you say that on the surface it seems a lot like the GotG series currently being written by Brian Michael Bendis?
A: On the surface, yes. But you’re also very, very wrong. The film gets a pass on the changes because while inspired by the Abnett & Lanning series it does not say that stuff happened. This is a fresh version, and therefore it is free to make changes. The Bendis book does directly follow the events of the older comic, it explicitly follows some of the plots, but lazily does not bother following the characterization and growth that they had. It is instead dumbing it down and simplifying everyone to a very two-dimensional degree. It’s telling that after almost a decade writing the Avengers the first thing Bendis did after leaving them was bring over an Avenger, Iron Man, to his new project. And it quickly and sadly became a buddy tale of the two white male humans while all the aliens were left in the background. I dropped it a while back, bringing in Angela was the last straw (don't get me started on that), but since then two more Avengers have joined the team! What the hell, dude? You’re off the Avengers, let it go. Meanwhile, the aliens were just as strongly featured as the human characters not only in the Abnett & Lanning series but even in the film as well. Rocket is just as awesome, and just as much a real character, as we all wanted him to be. Even Drax came across much better than I expected.
Q: Wow, really anti-Bendis, eh?
A: No, actually I’m not. I thought his Daredevil run was fantastic. Ultimate Spider-Man ranged from pretty-good to great. His pre-Marvel stuff is all solid. Alias and The Pulse were good steps outside of the typical superhero genre. And his legendarily prolific run on Avengers was mostly enjoyable. (I collected it off and on as it did drag on sometimes.) But I never really identified with the complaints that all the characters sound the same until he started writing X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, characters I’m much more familiar with. Then, yeah, totally, they all are a bunch of interchangeable puppets. Really sad. Add to that problem his penchant for frustratingly glacial pacing and complete lack of direction or purpose for both the characters and the books themselves. So, yep, I‘m done with all that. At this point I will be exceedingly hesitant to pick up anything by him again.
Q: Ok, ok. But now I’m curious about the Drax series written by Keith Giffen, the one that led into the Annihilation crossover which was the origin for the Abnett & Lanning Guardians of the Galaxy series. That Drax series significantly changed the character without any explanation, why does that one get a pass?
A: Because it was good. Seriously, if you’re going to make changes, then at least make them be good. And let’s be honest, the change to Drax essentially just made him into Riddick so it wasn’t exactly original, but it was a hell of a lot more interesting than the big, dumb, child-like brute he’d been portrayed as prior to that. That version had a few highlights, but was overall so underwhelming that making the character a clichéd rip-off tough-guy comes across as pure genius.
Q: Sorry to sideline, but what about the live-action Transformers films? Those aren’t pretending that the previous versions happened so why don’t they get a pass for making changes?
A: Are you fucking shitting me? I just said that changes should be good! Not a single change in the Transformers movies was actually good in any way. They were produced with the most superficial understanding of the property. Look, Transformers hasn’t endured for 30 years because it’s about big robots that change form and beat the crap out of each other. Tons of other things that did the same have come and gone. The Transformers have stayed strong because of compelling characters, those are what drive long-term fans, characters that you actually fucking care about. The movies had no characters, they had special effects and set pieces. Optimus Prime, who is defined by his compassion so much so that IT'S EXPLICITLY STATED THAT HIS GREATEST WEAKNESS IS THAT HE CARES TOO MUCH, is instead portrayed in the films as a brutal warrior that executes defeated opponents. That’s horrible in numerous ways, chief among them the glorification of violence. But, come on, it's like having Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr going around beating homeless people to death with baseball bats. While wearing coats made out of puppies! Not cool, Michael Bay, totally mother-fucking not cool. So that’s just another element on top of being incomprehensible messes of action and so-called “plot” that fail on any objective storytelling scale! Fuck!! Are you trying to give me an aneurism?
A: That’s what I thought.
Q: So… back to Guardians of the Galaxy?
A: Totally go see it. Sure, it doesn’t redefine anything, but a heavy duty sci-fi injection into the super-hero genre is never a bad thing in my eyes. It’s not original, and it could have been a whole lot better, but what it does it does very, very well. Drax, Groot, and of course Rocket are stars, but they aren’t the only ones. The casting was brilliant all around, and so many of the characters were elevated by the actors portraying them. I'm looking at you John C Reilly! And Glenn Close was criminally underused, I hope she returns in a more prominent role if they do a Nova movie. And while Chris Pratt's portrayal of Star-Lord does totally dude-bro all over the place, I'm holding out hope that there will be an overall arc where he grows the fuck up. It's no coincidence that the character's first and last names, Peter Quill, are both euphemisms for dick. In his original appearance he was a real bastard, created to evolve over time into a true hero. And that's exactly what happened with him over the years, that is until Bendis started writing him.
But when all is said and done it's probably going to end up being my favorite Marvel movie so far. I'm looking forward to seeing it again sooner rather than later.