Marvel’s Cash Sucking Formula

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Title: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Rating: 4 Stars

I have to hand it to Marvel. They really do have the formula for making money down pretty pat. I’m not a huge fan of the Avenger’s universe. I couldn’t care less what happens in the X-Men universe. The Fantastic Four? eh…

However, they suck my wallet dry with the Guardians of the Galaxy. For whatever reason, it has the exact right combination of snark, slapstick, action, thwarted love interest, daddy problems, anti-hero, and overt, maudlin, violin-string schmaltz that makes me rush to the theater and leave oh so satisfied.

It clearly is a formula. I picture a room full of psychologists, comedians, and stunt coordinators, carefully designing a script via an extremely explicit deterministic process in a massive war room full of charts, graphs, and stop watches.

But, goddammit, it worked. I laughed and was thrilled, and a couple of times pieces of dust blew into my eyes.

Each character has a role. There is Drax, who is hilariously socially inept. You have the sociopathically amoral raccoon that of course has the secret heart of gold. You have the strong heroine, Gamora, not so secretly in love with Quill. You have Quill himself, the prototypical action hero who’s actually a charming doofus.

And of course, you can’t forget about Groot, the most adorable sentient plant to ever exist.

The charm of all of these characters is their emotional frailty and their uneasy dependence upon one another. They are a self-chosen family that probably at some level, we all wish that we could be a part of.

With the exception of Groot, they all have family problems. The most obvious is Quill, who feels abandoned by his father as he watched his mother die. He was then kidnapped and raised by a semi-father figure Yondu, who terrified him but yet raised him, albeit in a haphazard manner. In Vol 2, we get to meet Quill’s real father, a god named Ego.

This is the main source of conflict in the film. You have Quill’s real father finally coming into his life and offering him everything that he can imagine, but at a cost Quill pales from paying. In comes the reprobate thief, Yondu, to try to save Quill and be the father that he wishes that he could have been.

Will Quill choose the god-like Ego or will he choose the thieving but true Yondu? If you really think there’s any doubt about his choice, then this might not be the movie for you.

Along with that, you have the two sisters, Gamora and Nebula, constantly at each other’s throats, all because they both, even now, are themselves subconsciously competing against each other for their absent father’s (Thanos) love.

It’s not exactly subtle that the names of the fathers at the center of the plots are called Ego and Thanos. Thanos was the Greek god of death. The Latin meaning of the word Ego is I. Can there be two words that are more self-centered than I and death? The two names speak to the impossibility of ever understanding or getting succor from the father figure.

Parental loss is a common theme across comic books historically. Superman’s parents died on the planet Krypton. Batman’s parents were murdered. Batman became Robin’s guardian after Robin’s parents were murdered. The X-Men mutants are sent off to live at the X-Mansion. Tony Stark’s (Ironman) parents are killed in a car wreck. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) lives with his uncle and aunt, and his uncle is then murdered.

This is not a coincidence. Clearly the comic superhero archetype has now gone mainstream, but remember that the original comic books were targeted at young boys. Breaking free of the parental bond, especially if the young boy reading the comics had a troubled relationship (or no relationship) with his parents must have made seductive reading. This was a major theme in Chabon’s novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

With comic superheroes now gone mainstream quite literally around the world, the missing / troubled paternal relationship truly does seem to be a universal motif.

Having said all of that, it was a fun movie. I have no idea why Sylvester Stallone was in it, but thankfully his time was short. On the other hand, David Hasselhoff has a brilliant cameo.

Speaking of cameos, Stan Lee as usual makes one. In hindsight, it’s obvious, but when you first hear of it, it seems amazing that Stan Lee is the greatest grossing movie star of all time. Clearly, the lesson to learn here for movie studios is that they need to cast Stan Lee in more movies.

So, you win again Marvel. Although I despise what you and your ilk are doing to the movie industry, I had a wonderful time watching Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2.

Congratulations Marvel, and fuck you.

 

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