This past weekend, Linda and I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. It was my second time; I caught a matinee on the weekend that it premiered. (Don’t mention that to Linda. She wanted to see something else this weekend, but it was my turn to pick and I inadvertently forgot to mention that I’d seen it before.)
This is a great movie! It’s entertaining, it’s irreverent, it’s filled with action and it breaks nearly every rule in the book about not using clichéd, hackneyed plot mechanisms or silly pseudo-science when writing science fiction or making a science fiction movie. Despite the latter, or maybe because of it, I love this flick.
I’m not going to give you a full review; my good friend Angelo did that a few weeks ago. But, here are a few of my thoughts about Guardians of the Galaxy:
- I would have given anything to be sitting behind Kevin Bacon when he saw the movie for the first time.
- Guardians has the best soundtrack that I’ve heard in a long time. If that ages me, then so be it.
- Raccoons don’t care if they’re on camera. If they have to check their package, they do it.
- It doesn’t make any difference whether Zoe Saldana’s body makeup is blue, green or orange, she’s just plain hot in any color.
- Snappy dialog is great, but optional. Groot used the same three words 47 times in the movie but said something different each time. It’s all in the delivery.
- I’m going to spend the rest of my life looking for a chance to say, “That’s the first thing you said that wasn’t batshit crazy.” Odds are, those will be the last words I utter before starting my early retirement. Thanks Rocket!
Rocket and Gamora (Zoe) had the most memorable lines. In addition to Rocket’s “batshit” quote, I liked:
- “I am not some starry eyed waif here to succumb to your… your pelvic sorcery!” – Oh that brings back memories.
- “I am going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.” – Sometimes I know how she feels.
- “Oh, what the hell. I don’t got that long a lifespan anyway.” – I remember saying that once a few decades ago.
- “Who put sticks in their butts? That just seems cruel.” – Enter Kevin Bacon.
- “Quit smiling you idiot, we’re supposed to be professionals.” – I actually had a boss say this to me one time. It’s a long and very entertaining story.
I’ve read a few reviews on the internet and on blogs that call the movie to task for being too loose with science or for using too many those aforementioned sci-fi clichés. Typically, I don’t put a tremendous amount of stock in what other folks think about a movie or book. Tastes vary too much from person to person, so I prefer to make my own decisions. But, as someone who tries to find the time to write science fiction occasionally, I do notice when critics question someone’s attention to basic craft.
If you google “Science Fiction clichés”, you’ll find that the internet is rife with lists, assembled by a cadre of sci-fi purists, of purported transgressions science fiction writers commit. Some of these lists began as well-meaning aids to new writers. Others are obviously lists of their creator’s pet peeves. Unfortunately, nearly all have morphed into all-inclusive lists that include nearly every plot mechanism, character type and setting an author could imagine. That’s saying a lot since science fiction writers tend to be a rather imaginative lot.
For better or worse, I tend to disregard such lists. In my mind, how you develop a story is much more important than whether it contains a few clichés here and there. However, I do agree with these self- proclaimed writing experts in one key area. Most of them are adamant that science fiction should get the science and engineering parts right. They’re correct, to a point.
So, as I peck away at a book, I try not to make any glaring errors in science. I don’t have sound waves coming from an explosion audible or laser beams during a battle scene visible in space. On the other hand (there’s a cliché), if I need an alien creature, I may, to the consternation of the sci-fi purists, make it a biped. Why can’t it be? Heck, if it weren’t for an errant asteroid a few million years ago, I might be a bipedal velociraptor typing away at my keyboard postulating about mammal based aliens invading the Earth. It’s science FICTION. If you can’t prove me wrong then I’m on solid ground.
Movies have another hurdle. Because they are so sensory dependent, they sometimes have to bend science rules to keep the audience engaged. A space battle would be pretty boring to watch if the audience couldn’t see a weapon discharge or hear the explosion as the target was destroyed. I don’t have a huge problem with that.
To me, the litmus test with a book or movie is whether or not it’s entertaining. If it maintains your interest, makes you think, elicits a laugh or a cheer, causes you to cry, makes you afraid or in any other way touches your emotions, then the writer or director did their job…they entertained you and that’s why you bought the ticket or book. Everything else is nitpicking.
If reviewers want to criticize Guardians of the Galaxy for being too camp or too cliché, let them. I put them in the same class as people who complain that Star Trek uses too much technobabble or that Stargate SG1 used weak science. The truth is, those movies and shows were entertaining and, for a couple of hours, people watching them escaped from reality. That’s what writers and directors hope for when they create. If critics and reviewers think that’s easy, then they should give it a try sometime. If they let me know when they’re done, I’ll be happy to write the review. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer again.