‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and Dealing With Superhero Burnout

Lowlife superheroes I can believe in

Lowlife superheroes I can believe in

By Daniel Ford

Marvel recently released its second trailer for the upcoming summer blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

It actually looks and feels like what a summer blockbuster should be.

Here’s the trailer:

Wonderful. I watch it twice a day.

I’ve complained recently to my nerdery that superhero movies are becoming brooding pieces of rubbish. Batman movies can get away with being über dark and brooding because it’s intrinsic to that character. Peter Parker, however, shouldn’t be so tormented. He loves being a superhero as much as Tony Stark loves being Iron Man (and an alcoholic womanizer). Why does he need to fight off 2,000 CGI under-developed villains while scowling under his Spidey mask?

Superhero movies are quickly becoming the content marketing of the film world. They look slick and pretend to have a story written by actual humans, but in the end they aren’t reflective of anything other than some douchebag advertiser’s overdeveloped sense of worth. The new Spiderman movies play like an extended Taco Bell commercial. Like content marketing, no amount of flash or promises of “real, honest, and meaty content” is going to distract people from believing that you’re trying to sell them total bullshit. Wait, that’s not true because these movies make gobs of money. Damn it.

Anyway, “The Avengers” was clever and fun because of its cast and quality directing by Joss Whedon, but do you remember anything about that movie? Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I don’t think that’s as rewatchable a movie as, say, “Superman II” or the first “Iron Man.” Every movie has to be a set up for the next movie, the next ad campaign, the next press conference. There’s only so much plot and character you can develop before you have to shoehorn your script into the next project.

I let “Man of Steel” off the hook, but that’s because I’m a huge Superman homer and the movie at least tried to touch on themes like alienation, “otherness,” and finding your way in the world. Superman may have brooded in the beginning, but the guy smiles often later on in the film because he’s fucking Superman! He’s got a pulse, which is more than I can say for a lot of superhero movies of late. The director can’t name a movie to save his life, but that’s a topic for another day.

This is turning into a rant and I don’t want it to be. Grantland’s Mark Harris—one of my favorite entertainment writers—published a piece today that asks, “Are We at Peak Superhero?” Harris points out that comic book readers are a small demographic that studios have mined expertly for years now (none moreso than Marvel, he says), but wonders whether we’re in the middle of a boom or at the end of a bubble? I’m inclined to believe the latter, but that’s not to say I want the genre to go away anytime soon. Because I like summer movies. I like superhero movies. I just want them to be done better.

Which is why I’m all in on “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

It didn’t take much to be honest.

Seedy underworld.? Check. Killer soundtrack (based on the two songs featured in the trailers)? Check. Wise-cracking anti-heroes? Check. Chris Pratt from “Parks and Recreation”? Check.

Brooding clearly shouldn’t be an issue in this movie. In fact, I’m hoping this turns out to be a slightly more serious version of Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs.” I can’t be the only one that thinks that this band of criminal heroes would be right at home on Lonestar’s Eagle 5, right?

I’ve never read any of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” books and don’t intend to before the movie comes out (I’ve already made that pop culture mistake with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series). I reached out to a friend of mine from high school who knows more about the comic than I do who said that the trailer gets it right. “These people aren't heroes,” Christopher Morse, an actor, writer, and director, as well as the host of the podcast “Supervillain Corner," told me.” “They're a bunch of assholes who are in the right place and time, and are just the tiniest bit more likely to do the 'right' thing than otherwise.”

I also reached out to the New England Comics store in Cambridge, Mass., to find out if the comic was generating any extra buzz because of the film’s release. I talked to a wonderfully spirited woman named Hanna who told me that the reason Marvel has been so good at adapting its comics to the big screen—besides the quality acting, directing, and special effects—is that it makes movies that are accessible to comic book and non-comic book fans.

“We had a lot of people come in after seeing ‘The Avengers' asking, ‘Hey, who is that purple guy at the end of the film?’” She said. “People started reading Infinity Gaunlet, which eventually led readers to Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Hanna also told me that she expects more people will come into the store after the movie because moviegoers will want all the backstory and anticipate how “Guardians” will tie in with the next “Avengers” movies.

So, I hope that this movie isn’t an hours-long melody of CGI crap with a dash of Chris Pratt wit and crotch-grabbing raccoon awesomeness mixed in. I hope I’m one of those people that heads directly to my local comic book store after the seeing the film to buy as many issues of Guardians of the Galaxy as possible. I hope it’s a lot like the latest “Godzilla” movie, which I found refreshing and something I might actually rewatch eventually. However, Marvel is all about their long-term plan, so I’m trying to temper my emotions.

I’ll just have this song on repeat until the movie comes out.

For more essays, check out our full archive