This article contains spoilers for the guardians of the galaxy film franchise in his discussion of character imperfection. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 spoilers are pretty light until the last two paragraphs!
Towards the climax of the second act of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) interrupts a reasoned rant from the villainous High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). Peter understandably has little time for genocidal monsters offering easy justifications for their plans to take over the universe. However, the High Evolutionary is keen to correct Peter. “I’m not trying to conquer the universe,” he tells the hero. “I’m perfecting it.”
by James Gunn guardians of the galaxy The franchise stands out from a lot of modern superhero media because all three movies make an aggressive case for the virtues of imperfection. The modern superhero blockbuster is the product of an overwhelming corporate machine. These films are so expensive and so risky that they have to be perfect.
This desire for perfection is reflected in the way these films come together. Physically, it seems like every actor in these movies has to be sculpted into an Adonis, with the first guardians of the galaxy transform Chris Pratt from the cuddly guy on Parks and recreation pure shredded wheat. The films themselves are rigorously put together and often dramatically reworked in post-production. They aspire to the same visual and sound aesthetics. The desire to give young audiences what they want leads these films to be pre-memory.
This quest for perfection has a cost. This year, New York Times Film critic AO Scott has announced a move to the newspaper’s book section. For Scott, part of the problem was the generic polishing of franchise fare. “If criticism is about arguing with or about a film, the attempt to make argument-proof films that no one will argue with, that no one will argue with, I think that’s very troubling to me. “, he conceded. Several years earlier he had noted, “With Marvel, the only option is submission.”
Reflecting this desire for perfection, the protagonists of these films are presented as paragons rather than people. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is cast as a hero from the start, with the super soldier formula giving him the perfect body to complement his pure soul. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is continually tested by his magic hammer, which constantly reassures him that he is “worthy”, even when Jane (Natalie Portman) wields it in Thor: Love and Thunder.
Even disreputable heroes have their roughest edges sanded down. The Hulk (Bruce Banner) goes from a public threat to a celebrity taking restaurant selfies with adoring fans. When Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) gets out of prison in The ant Man, it is clarified that he is a “good” thief, who was arrested for forcing an evil company to reimburse the customers it exploited. Even Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) grows increasingly wholesome, as later films tone down the character’s alcoholism and feminization.
There’s an irony in this push for bland perfection within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For decades, the Marvel Comics brand was built on the idea that its characters were human and flawed. “If you can have a good guy who has blocks and flaws and failures, he’s more interesting because he not only has to overcome the bad guy, but he has to conquer and overcome his own flaws and inabilities,” Stan explained. Lee. “It complements him and makes the character empathetic.” This was especially true unlike DC’s godlike heroes.
THE guardians of the galaxy the films are built around the idea of imperfection. The heroes of these films are deeply and fundamentally flawed people. At the start of the first film, Denarian Garthan Saal (Peter Serafinowicz) describes the team as “a bunch of A-holes”. Later, trying to rally the group to save the day, Peter confesses, “I’m looking at us, you know what I see? Losers. He clarifies that he means “people who lost things,” but that’s still a far cry from how one might describe the Avengers.
They are not nice people. Many of them are not even functional people. Peter Quill is introduced by crossing paths with his surrogate father, Yondu (Michael Rooker). Yondu was exiled from the Ravagers because he traded children for Ego (Kurt Russell). Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is so obsessed with his quest for vengeance against Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) that he summons Ronan to attack the civilian population of Knowhere. They are not models of virtue. They are not idols.
The franchise’s supporting cast grows to include a menagerie of monsters and failures. Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are the daughters of Thanos the Mad Titan (Josh Brolin). Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is a good-natured idiot who accidentally causes a mutiny against Yondu, resulting in the deaths of several of his friends. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is an accomplice to Ego’s evil plans, the monstrous Celestial murdering hundreds of his own children. Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) is a physically perfect specimen, but removed early from his cocoon by the High Evolutionary and thus left without morals or intelligence.
This theme of imperfection is such a consistent guideline in the guardians of the galaxy franchise that it even applies to Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, in which Mantis and Drax kidnap Kevin Bacon (himself) to help cheer Peter up. The feel-good premise itself is flawed, with Peter lamenting, “It’s not a Christmas present!” It’s human trafficking!” Beyond that, a big emotional beat in the special is Drax and Mantis realizing that Bacon isn’t a perfect hero; he’s just “a disgusting actor.” However, everything ends up working out.
Indeed, while the heroes of the guardians of the galaxy films are defined by their imperfection, the villains are often presented as monsters in search of perfection. At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the Sovereign’s High Priestess (Elizabeth Debicki) ponders Peter’s “reckless” genes. Peter’s imperfect make-up is a foreign concept to the golden-skinned ruler, as she explains: “Each citizen is born exactly as designed by the community. Impeccable, both physically and mentally. It’s horrible.
One of the franchise’s recurring motifs is the idea that despite their dysfunctions, these characters face continued pressure to be perfect or perfected, often from abusive parental figures. Thanos would force Gamora and Nebula to fight for his approval. Nebula would still lose, prompting Thanos to take her apart piece by piece, replacing her with machinery in hopes that he could craft a girl suitable for his cosmic purpose. Adam was developed to specification as a weapon to defeat the Guardians.
Rocket was the result of genetic experimentation by the High Evolutionary, as part of efforts to construct “a utopia”. In guardians of the galaxy, Rocket’s account of this experience is very similar to Nebula’s. “I didn’t ask to be done!” he laments drunk. “I didn’t ask to be torn up and put back together again and again and turned into a little monster!” Like Nebula, Rocket could never be perfect enough. The High Evolutionary planned to reject it, treating it as a failed experiment.
Peter has a similar relationship with his father in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Ego is a Celestial, trying to create a child strong enough to wield his power. “None of them carried the celestial genes,” Ego explains. “Up to you, Peter.” Ego talks a lot about “meaning” and “purpose”. He aspires to high ideals. He explains how the song “Brandy” speaks to him. “The sea calls him as history calls great men,” he explains of the song’s narrator. Ego considers himself and Peter to be “great men”.
In some ways, Ego’s plan in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 plays as a commentary on the power fantasy of Marvel Studios movies like Captain America: Civil War. The ego has the power and the vision. Why shouldn’t he use it? “Only we can remake the universe,” he tells Peter. “Only we can take the bridle of the cosmos and lead it where it needs to go.” Ego sees destiny there. “You cannot deny the purpose the universe has entrusted to you,” he warns.
The two Egos in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 plan to create an orderly cosmos perfected as a monument to their vanity. The same goes for Thanos to some extent, especially in his longing to “see the sun rise over a grateful universe.” Each villain seeks to create a conflict-free universe – Thanos by eliminating competition for resources, Ego by making the entire universe an extension of himself, the High Evolutionary by stripping humanity of Earth’s culture.
In some ways, it feels like a commentary on the growing cultural ubiquity of Marvel Studios and how the production machine works. In particular, Ego’s desire to literally replace existence with his own will plays as a somewhat prescient commentary on the “wonder-ification” or “wonder-ization” of broader pop culture, foreshadowing debates over how the company’s house style and desire to create “argument-proof films” spread to wider pop culture.
Ego tells Peter that he is special and that he is perfect. He sells Peter the power fantasy that defines so many modern comic book movies, telling his son he can do whatever he wants. “Stop pretending you’re not who you are,” chides Ego Peter. “One in billions, trillions, or even more.” In their final confrontation, Ego warns Peter of the consequences of his rejection. “You are a god,” Ego said to his son. “If you kill me, you will be like everyone else.” Peter replies, “What’s wrong with that?”
The superhero film has become more and more detached from humanity and reality. Despite their fantastic settings, the guardians of the galaxy films celebrate humanity in all its imperfection. guardians of the galaxy begins with Peter rejecting reality, retreating into fantasy after the death of his mother (Laura Haddock). However, later films see Peter return to this humanity. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, he rejects divinity. At the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3he finally returns home to find his grandfather (Gregg Henry).
THE guardians of the galaxy franchise often finds its heroes struggling with the very idea of perfection. In this struggle, they find a warmth and a humanity that these kinds of films often lack.
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