The Marvel movie I’m most excited for is “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Yes, yes, I want to see “Captain America 2: Electric Boogaloo” as much as the next person, and I can’t wait for James Spader to charm and creep me out in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but it’s time for something new. Except that new thing isn’t really new, but it’s new enough that it can be something different. Wait, what?
So, “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I know next to nothing about the story. Whereas with established comic universes like that of the X-Men or the newer Avengers universe or Batman and Superman, “Guardians” exists in a relatively actually new comic universe (established in 2008, though a series with the same title from ’69 exists), which means that its inclusion in the Marvel film canon so soon is, well, a little bit ridiculous? But in a good way or a bad way?
The thing is, despite people being all like “Wait, a talking raccoon?” or “Oh man, Zoe Saldana is playing another brilliantly-skinned alien hottie,” we’ve seen the “Guardians” roundup before, just not, y’know, in this current form. Because — wait for it — these “new!” and “strange!” faces are all iterations of what are relatively familiar character tropes.
Peter Quill aka Starlord – comical, easy-going, prone to indulging human vices but more than capable of stepping it up when the moment calls for it
Gamora – thick-skinned femme fatale (though one with exceptionally on point tresses)
Drax – bruiser with a tragic past
Rocket Raccoon – tiny kleptomaniac (I’m immediately reminded of the dwarf from Artemis Fowl) who’s a smooth talker but can pull things through
Groot – tall, mostly silent (though again, this might just be a first impression thing), stoic; the straight man to his more manic counterpart
It’s tempting to draw a direct parallel between this group of superhuman saviors and Marvel’s more recognizable, human counterpart, and it kinda works but not exactly. Black Widow = Gamora because duh, Iron Man = Starlord because of the comic/dramatic counterpointing, Drax = the Hulk because big man feels much (let’s just leave Bruce Banner out of it). It gets tricky with Cap and Hawkeye though, but enough of the central characters can be pinned back to what the movie audience already understands about Marvel film supes, who as a whole are much more prone to humor and good times conclusions than, y’know, those other guys.
As I’ve written before, much of the difficulty in fantasy/sci-fi is in world-building. In literature, this has to take up a lot of text, but the eye can physically take in certain world/phrase combinations and then the mind will automatically begin to build those descriptions (imagine an abandoned castle — chances are you’ve never been in one, but you can feel its clawed-out seep, and see the moss fringe its crumbling stone walls).
But with film or TV, it’s all already there, and “Guardians” is taking its visual cues from the elaborate, intricate fantasy set-building that we’ve seen Marvel do again and again. So we are literally seeing things that we’ve seen before, just in their specific iterations this time around. And that makes it a little easier for the audience to swallow whatever narrative and character developments that are about to be thrown at them.