Guardians of the Galaxy part 10

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Act III of Guardians begins with an echo of the first shot of the movie: Peter, holding his Walkman, listening to his mother’s Awesome Mix. The director has changed the angle, but the camera is almost at the same height as it was in the opening. The earlier shot was softly lit, the new one is lit from behind. Everything is different, but everything is the same. Peter is grown up now, he can admit that he’s in love, and as he contemplates his mother’s gift, Joan Jett comes along to warm him up for his upcoming fight with the unambiguous “Cherry Bomb.” The operative line from this song would seem to be “Get down ladies, you’ve got nothing to lose.” What follows is a fairly routine battle-plan-explanation scene, not unlike the ones in Star Wars or Return of the Jedi, but cut together with a prep montage, giving us the best of both cliches and peppering them with humorous character beats, like Drax deciding which jacket not to wear and Groot doing the tree-equivalent of popping a zit. The prep-montage ends with a reference to Armageddon, or Reservoir Dogs, or The Wild Bunch, or any number of heroes-walking-toward-the-camera-in-slow-motion-looking-tough shots. In this case, the heroes include a yawning assassin and a raccoon adjusting his penis.

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On Xandar, our favorite Nova Corps dude, the one played by John C. Reilly, reports to Nova Prime about the whole Ronan-has-an-Infinity-Stone situation, and Peter’s plan. Exposition-wise, the scene brings the Nova Corps into the fight against Ronan, like the Marines showing up in the third act of a James Bond movie (or an army of ninjas, or frogmen, or what have you). Dramatically, it indicates that Peter’s need for respect is slowly being fulfilled — he couldn’t gain the respect of others until he respected himself. We are (later) shown that John C. Reilly dude is a regular cop with a nuclear family, which is what none of the Guardians ever were. But is it what they wanted to be? That’s another question, but by saving John C. Reilly’s family, the Guardians become one themselves. (As yet another meta-joke, casting John C. Reilly in the John C. Reilly part hearkens back to Wreck-it Ralph, another lone, misunderstood outsider who wants only to be respected.)

As Peter and his (now rather substantial) gang attack Ronan’s ship, like sparrows harrying a hawk, Nova Prime goes into statesman mode and orders the evacuation of the city and a call to arms. (The city must have a hell of an evacuation plan; as skyscrapers topple and enormous machines smash into it, we are given no reports of massive loss of life.) The recommendation of John C. Reilly dude has brought the entire fleet of Nova Corps ships to Peter’s aid. The least-respectful Nova Corps dude, the one who sucked on mints in the presence of Nova Prime, has come along despite his reservations — Peter’s new-found respect has its limitations, and will not come without sacrifice.

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Peter drives his ship, containing Gamora, Drax and Groot, into the side of Ronan’s ship and kills a bunch of “paper-people.” “We’re just like Kevin Bacon!” exclaims Gamora, and it’s the first time we’ve seen her crack a smile during the whole movie. Before, she was a scowling Skyler White, spoiling the boys’ fun with her stick-up-the-ass attitude. Now she has embraced Peter’s hard-won pop sensibility and comes to life. She “gets it” now, she sees that Footloose is as important a story as Moby-Dick, and “We’re just like Kevin Bacon” is as close as she ever comes to saying “I love you.”

Nova Prime orders her fighters to “form a blockade,” meaning that the ships link together to push back against the Dark Aster’s descent. How this is supposed to work, physics-wise, I have no idea, but thematically, it appears that Peter has sparked a revolution: the “common people” (in this case, Xandarian Nova-Corps dudes) band together to fight against an oppressor. Ronan is willing to sacrifice everything, including his own gigantic spaceship-home, to land on Xandar. (Xandar, like the planets in the Star Wars universe, only has one location. If Ronan’s goal is to destroy the planet, surely he could find an unpopulated spot, devoid of Nova Corps, to set himself down. But what fun would that be? His goal is not “to destroy a planet” but “to gain the respect (or fear) of the Xandarians.” You can’t do that if they don’t know who’s destroying their planet.

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Inside the Dark Aster, while the battle rages outside, the movie takes a time out for one more flourish of magic from Bodhi-tree Groot. He lights their way through the darkness with some kind of glowing spores. Peter jokingly referred to Groot earlier as “Giving Tree,” a reference to the Shel Silverstein book, but the comparison is apt: Groot gives and gives of himself, literally, through the whole movie, and, as we will see, meets the same fate as his literary counterpart. Nebula arrives for a dramatic showdown with her sister, and, like Rocket’s rescue of Peter, her big moment is stepped on and turned into a joke, this time by Drax, with a bazooka, answering the age-old question “Why don’t they just shoot the bad guy while he’s busy monologuing?”

Peter’s quasi-father Yondu (who had made empty threats against Peter earlier) is shot down. He’s given a moment where he picks up the jeweled frog he picked up at the Broker’s store — Yondu, like Peter, is drawn to the dumber things in life. We are shown that Yondu’s anger is all bluff — his love for his tchotchkes is as genuine as Peter’s love for his Awesome Mix. For all we know, Yondu’s tchotchkes are the thing he shared with his mother, which would make Yondu Road-Not-Taken Peter. Given time, Peter’s laziness and lack of respect might have curdled into Yondu’s posturing and violence.

Ronan sends his fighters on kamikaze missions to the streets of Xandar; it’s hard to feel sorry for an enemy that has no sense of self-preservation. With Yondu out of the battle, Rocket takes over the Ravagers’ command and they become a de facto Xandarian defense team, shooting down fighters before they can crash (although it seems to me they’ll still crash).

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Up on the Dark Aster, Peter runs into Korath and his men. “Starlord!” exclaims Korath. “Finally!” grins Peter. He’s achieved his goal: respect is at hand. We know he is unstoppable now. A huge fight ensues, as Nebula fixes herself and goes after Gamora, and Peter, Drax and Groot take on Korath and his goons. Drax achieves a moment of growth as he kills Korath and declares that he now understands metaphor (he doesn’t). The scene’s exclamation point is Groot screaming as he wipes out a dozen or more goons with a savage flailing of a single arm. If this was a movie about the life of one of Ronan’s goons, Groot would be a monster out of a horror movie, but since he caps his mass murder with a childlike grin we laugh at his good-heartedness; “monster,” indeed, is a matter of point of view.

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One Response to “Guardians of the Galaxy part 10”
  1. Billy says:

    I had the John C. Reilly character as a reprise of the cop he played in Magnolia. An honest hard working loner who’s looking for love and wants to do the right thing for his family and his community. The Wreck It Ralph meta joke interpretation works equally well however.