Guardians of the Galaxy part 9

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As the second half of Guardians gets underway, Ronan has the orb. Instead of getting it over to Thanos straight away though, he decides to keep it for himself — he did not know that it contained an infinity stone. Which begs the question, what on earth (so to speak) did Ronan think the orb was, if Thanos wanted it so badly? Did he think that Thanos had sent him across the galaxy to fetch the equivalent of his Awesome Mix? For that matter, if Thanos wanted it so badly, why didn’t he climb down off his floaty chair and get it himself? For that matter, why didn’t Ronan get it himself, instead of sending first Korath and then Gamora, both of whom were inadequate to the task? What is it with this galaxy’s megalomaniacs, that they won’t pursue the things they want more than anything? The answer, I think, is that, for them, power over others, respect, that is, is more important than the item itself. The fact that they’ve got dispensable minions means more to them than obtaining the tools of power themselves. In any case, Ronan’s interception of the orb gives him the golden opportunity to both destroy Xandar himself and, after that, kill Thanos himself. (This is another juncture where it’s made clear that the insertion of Thanos into the narrative of Guardians came late in the game; the story is much cleaner and more linear if Ronan knows from the beginning that the orb contains the stone and the stone will destroy the planet.)

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Meanwhile, Peter is reunited with his ersatz father-figure Yondu, leader of the gang of space-pirates. Yondu, Peter thinks, abducted him on Earth for no reason. He doesn’t know that Yondu was charged with delivering Peter to his (still unknown) space father. Like, say, Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean, Yondu barks and stomps his feet a lot, but he’s an essentially comic character, and, what’s more, it seems clear to me that he kept Peter instead of delivering him because he loves him. We don’t believe for a moment that Yondu intends to kill Peter just for running off with a valuable artifact (for that matter, why didn’t Yondu go and get this most-valuable-artifact-ever himself?). His threatening of Peter is clearly tough love, as we see when Yondu yells at Peter for Gamora making Peter’s brain “soft.” Thirty years ago, Yondu would have been played by Robert Duvall in his Great Santini mode: a father jealous of his own son’s youth. Yondu’s mistrust of Gamora has nothing to do with the orb, but that she has staked a claim on Peter’s affections. You can see the relief on his face when Peter gives him a plan to steal the orb back; he was worried for a moment that he’d actually have to make good on a threat.




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Rocket, Groot and Drax show up to “rescue Quill,” anti-climactically. It’s a great scene, and a great tonal addition to the narrative, because what would have been Rocket & Co’s third act — “Let’s Rescue Quill From the Space Pirates” — turns out to be an unnecessary blip in the story. No rescue is needed or desired, and, as a result, Rocket’s character goes right back to square one — wanting to get away from all this meshuggahnah power-struggle. His moment of altruism is met with disdain and shrugged off — once again, a lack of respect for the oddball.

The scene that follows, where the re-assembled gang discusses Peter’s plan/non-plan for dealing with the Infinity Stone, is the centerpiece of the movie and the heart of the narrative. A scene where five characters, three of which are aliens, two of which are computer-generated, banter with the swiftness of improv. The stakes — get the stone or the galaxy will be destroyed — are pitted against a team of genuine losers, wash-ups and fugitives. This scene shows the team at their most vulnerable, and, as such, it is the scene that cements our love for them. They obviously don’t stand a chance of winning, and, because the scene is so comic, we know that they are certain to win. The fulcrum of the scene, Peter’s plea for the team to “give a shit for once,” is his declaration, finally, of love. The lessons handed down from his mother to him, which he’s listened to countless times while traversing the wonders of the universe, have finally taken hold. He’s fooled around — a lot — but now he’s fallen in love. His call to action is the call he couldn’t make when his mother was dying. He couldn’t win against her cancer, and he can’t win against Ronan, but at least now he can admit that the attempt to beat death matters to him.

But that’s only Peter and his struggle. What does Gamora want? She puts it well — she’s lived her life among her enemies, now she’s willing to die among her friends. Her life has been, in a sense, a performance, a forced performance, where she’s had to grit her teeth while her captor Thanos shaped her to his ends. To die in a fight against Ronan gives her life a meaning it otherwise wouldn’t have. Drax, the man who just recently learned his insignificance, is prepared to die in his struggle against his nemesis and therefore be reunited with his family (Drax apparently believes in an afterlife). As for Groot, who knows why Groot does anything, except that he’s found a connection with this group of oddballs, and, as a one-of-a-kind tree-alien, this is as close as he will ever come to having a family.

Rocket, though, still has no reason to engage in all this suicidal tomfoolery, but agrees to do so anyway. Or, rather, he gives in, buckles under peer pressure. He still can’t admit he’s in love, but, as the only one left sitting, he knows that taking off on his own would make him truly alone. The team member who most bitterly regrets being born is also the one least looking forward to dying, but living the horror of existence alone is more than he is prepared to do.

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6 Responses to “Guardians of the Galaxy part 9”
  1. Sasha says:

    My one problem with this scene is that the hyper-literal Drax didn’t ask why he would present anyone with fecal matter.

  2. Chris Adams says:

    If you’re interested, Todd, Jeff Goldsmith’s ‘Q&A’ podcast recently did an episode with James Gunn, and he talks pretty openly about how the film changed during his involvement.

  3. Mark says:

    You keep asking why so-and-so didn’t get the Orb themselves. Although not explained in the narrative, it can make sense why things happened that way.

    I’ve been watching some Korean historical dramas, and the high-ranking nobles and royalty often cannot act directly, because they are being watched by enemies (and temporary allies looking for weakness). If Ronan or Thanos went after the Orb, it would have revealed its importance (which only the Collector knew at the time). By sending underlings and spies, they have a chance to get the item but still keep it mostly under the radar.

    Besides, Ronan leaving the Dark Aster or Thanos leaving his asteroid throne leaves them a bit more vulnerable to attack. (Ronan doesn’t go out into the field until Thanos tells him directly to do so.)

    As for Yondu, he did go after the Orb directly. In that phone call early in the film, he is upset that Peter acted more quickly and ran off. (“I’m here on Morag. Ain’t no Orb, ain’t no you!”)

  4. Mark says:

    Although Thanos was shoehorned into the story, I think he still works (even though he is somewhat a distraction).

    The heroes fight between themselves, Peter betrays Yondu, Nova Corp bicker with the Kree, Gamora and Nebula have their sibling rivalry… Makes sense that the egomaniac bad guys are also back-stabbing and penis-comparing each other.