The latest movie vehicle from the Marvel universe is about to land at your local cinema, ready to unload the usual explosive combination of ultimate evil and heroic goodness. What’s also on board, though, is a sadly familiar take on faith.
Guardians of the Galaxy orbits the comic series of the same name, chronicling the adventures of Peter Quill, a hapless young boy who stumbles out into the night after his mother succumbs to cancer and has the misfortune of being picked up by a passing spacecraft. Twenty years pass in the blink of a subtitle and we find Peter has grown up to be a disco-dancing freebooter who likes to style himself as the ‘Starlord’ – a self-aggrandizing title made all the more ridiculous by his bad luck and frequent slip-ups. But when a peaceful planet comes under threat from a radical cleric-cum-warlord who plans to unleash the power of an ancient relic, Peter and an unlikely bunch of petty criminals swing into action as The Guardians of the Galaxy.
Most Marvel comic films include a dash of humour that acknowledge the larger than life characters populating their universe. My favourite would have to be Captain America’s reaction to seeing Thor called a god in the Avengers:
“There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that!”
But Guardians of the Galaxy will be the first of Disney’s spin-offs to make comedy a staple. Bradley Cooper plays a genetically altered raccoon with self-esteem issues; Vin Diesel a tree-like creature with only one line (repeated constantly); Dave Bautista, the over-muscled Drax the Destroyer who’s cursed with taking everything said absolutely literally. And then there’s Chris Pratt who steals the show as the comic ‘Starlord’ – imagine his Parks and Recreation layabout Andy Dwyer with lazer guns. It all adds up to a fresh take on what is a fairly familiar save-the-universe science fiction plot. Sadly, though, there’s also the inclusion of a spiritual judgment that’s becoming just as recognisable…
It’s fun to look back on the history of action films and spot the targets safe enough to be termed the ‘bad guy’. Hollywood has previously taken aim at Russian spies, North Korean generals, Chinese crime lords and even South African diplomats. In Guardians the part of ultimate evil is played by a religious zealot called Ronan the Accuser. And like most of his kind, his fanaticism is defined by his determination to believe only one thing:
“They call me radical – terrorist! – because I obey the ancient laws of the Kree and punish those who do not!”
For many this might just reflect another current in America’s troubled international relations, this time with the Middle East. However the wider picture is a postmodern rejection of any belief system that just won’t let people be. And the darkest capes are reserved for the religions who preach judgment coming on those who reject their message – which includes Biblical Christianity. Tolerance is the highest and now only virtue, which leaves Peter free to finish the film by asking his team,
Starlord: “What will we do next? Something bad, something good – or a bit of both?”
Gamora: “We’ll follow your lead Starlord.”
Starlord: “A bit of both!”
And so it seems that we’re happy with idea of someone saving the galaxy, just so long as they set us free to do whatever it is we want.
Release Date: August 7