Guardians of the Galaxy is, for the most part, exactly what you’d want from the Marvel Comics kind of movie in which a ragtag bunch of scoundrels save the world (or, at least, a world). The plot involves a pretty glowing purple rock that looks like something Link needs to collect in The Legend of Zelda. One character’s hideout is on a space station that is built on the severed head of a massive cosmic creature. It’s got scope and shiny effects and the kind of beautiful aerial battle sequences that give a nerd like me pretty intense goose bumps. It co-stars the usually insufferable Bradley Cooper as a talking raccoon who, along with his utterly magical sentient-tree buddy Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), might nigh-on move you to unexpected tears.
It’s also got lady problems.
There’s a quiet moment in the final battle wherein Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a highly literal, rough-spoken sort of fellow, tells his new comrades that he’s pleased they’re his friends. Groot is the “dumb tree.” Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the everydude reluctant leader, is just “Quill.” Gamora (sci-fi goddess Zoe Saldana), a deadly assassin often required by the plot to be saved or taken hostage, is the “green whore.”
We should have seen this coming: In Quill’s initial escape sequence, he finds a young woman getting tossed about his ship. He’d forgotten she was there. (You’re supposed to laugh.)
Even if you wanted to write off Guardians as just another comic book movie and therefore for dudes — you can’t, really. Reportedly 44 percent of its opening weekend audience was female. The cultural myth that science fiction and comics are only for boys is long dead. So why does it seem like so much to ask that we not have to swallow a giant helping of casual sexism with our space action?
There’s much to like in this movie; it’s not brilliant, and the fate of the world is never really in danger, but it’s clever and glossy and all the things you’d expect from Marvel’s B-team. Adventurous and funny, occasionally beautiful and never too stupid until, that is, it reminds half of its audience that it’s not for us at all.