I get it. I do. Audiences were waiting to have some big fun at the movie theaters and have wholeheartedly embraced “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
It’s not just a crowd pleaser, either. Critics, too, have fallen over themselves singing the praises of this space-hopping adventure, referencing such hallowed hits as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Star Wars” in raving about the adventures of goofball hero Peter Quill (aka—at least to himself—Star-Lord) and his ragtag group of pals, including a (barely) talking tree and a machine-gun-toting modified raccoon.
It all seemed promising to me when I saw the trailer months ago. But “Guardians of the Galaxy” didn’t give me anywhere near kick that the original Indiana Jones or “Star Wars” packed. It didn’t come close to the comic-book excitement of “The Avengers” or the misfits-in-space crew on "Firefly."
Except for Groot, of course. Groot rocks.
I’m not saying “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a bad film. Not at all. And I’m not trying to convince you that you didn’t have a good time at it. For me, though, it just doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table except for not taking itself as seriously as a lot of other recent adventures. There's something to be said for glibness, but it gets tiresome when it has nothing to serve.
After a while, instead of laughing at many of the jokes, I felt the writers patting themselves on the back. "Guardians" also contained way too much spaceship clutter (Will someone PLEASE tell Hollywood that sometimes five enemies are more interesting than 500?). And there just didn't feel like there was clear forward motion to the plot that swept me up with it.
Throw in a forgettable villain, a not-particularly interesting quest, a lone female character who could be interesting but turned into just another lame love interest, and an unfortunate level of redundancy (how many times can they say they've become friends?) and, well, for summer science fiction pleasures, I found it light years behind the smart (and exciting) “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and the loopy “Snowpiercer.”
Heck, I thiink I enjoyed "The Last Starfighter" more.
Addendum: I shared some of the above with Facebook friends and, not surprisingly, one such friend quickly responded that, as a critic, I was incapable of having “unsophisticated appreciation” of such a cotton candy product.
It’s a common assumption regarding those of us who end up writing about our A&E experiences. Truth is, though, when I walk into the theater (movie or otherwise), I’m ready to be swept away. The worst thing you can say to me during a movie is "wow, what a cool shot" or "What else was she in?" I hate being pulled out of the experience (unless it’s deliberate on the part of the artists). That’s one of the many reasons why I rail against cell phones and other distractions in theaters.
It's afterwards that I try to write coherently about my experience with the work. In my view, filmmakers, theater artists, musicians in concert…they build a road for you to ride down. We don't have to stay in the middle of the road. There can be escalations and slow downs. That's okay. And some roads are deliberately created in such a way that you don't know you are even on it but, in the end, realize you've been moving all along.
But if you find yourself spending too much time off the road, or stalled, then disappointment follows.
That's what happened for me with "Guardians of the Galaxy."