Last night, I finally went and saw Guardians of the Galaxy. I was a bit slow off the mark purely because I had agreed to see it with a mate and his kid, and that took some coordinating.
While being a little slow to get going, the movie then found its stride and maintained it. The audience laughed more often than at the last couple of Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler movies I had attended. It breaks so many rules. The team is largely unknown, even for comic book fans. Myself, despite having collected comics for years, only had a single Guardians of the Galaxy graphic novel in my collection. And the line up was much different to the movie.
No A-List actor line up. A team that sounds a bit like a bad joke…. ‘So an outlaw wanna be, a green ninja warrior, a purple blue hulk, a talking squirrel and their friend the tree walk in to a spaceport….’
But it worked. It was a fun movie, injecting frequent humour without becoming a parody of comics. A line it walked well.
It was not without flaws (IMHO). Star Lord’s action scenes were horribly chopped and cut up in places. Gamora was underdone. It actually felt like she had more scenes that were cut. I will have to wait for the DVD to see if that is true. Nebula was similarly underused, but I suspect that the sisters are intended to be explored further in sequels.
Plus, the inevitable post-credit scene was sad. Of the group who stuck around knowing Marvel loves inserting such scenes, I was perhaps the only person in the theatre who even got the reference, and even I was wondering why bother.
But Pratt’s Star Lord was excellent. Arguably ranking way up there in the charismatic superhero list, still dominated by RDJ’s Tony Stark, but with Pratt’s Star Lord not being too far off. The Thanos presence was wonderful and provided goose bumps. Groot was legendary with his rampage scene clearly reminiscent of the Hulk in The Avengers movie.
And Rocket worked so well. If it hadn’t been such public knowledge that Bradley Cooper did the voice work, I would not have guessed it was him. He really creates a separate character for Rocket and does so very well.
The ensemble cast triggered some conversations with friends about the delightfully nerdy prospect of building your own ensemble team. Not limited by silly things like film rights or copyright.
Some minds go for the epically powerful types such as Dr Manhattan, Dark Phoenix, Eternity, Thanos, Silver Sufer and the like. But what possible story could you use these characters in that would be compelling? They are simply too overpowered to be interesting.
Or you could be relatively boring and predictable and make a selection based on long time favourites like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc. Essentially a list you could walk in to most any toy store and find action figures based upon. Too predictable.
So I focused on a team designed to have a balance of different roles. There should also be a decent split between male and female. Not just the token female character that sneaks in to some ensemble teams mainly so the assorted male characters can have a love interest. Here is what I came up with.
First I recruit the heavy hitter. I start my line-up with Power Girl. An alternate universe Kryptonian cousin of Superman. Her abilities have been inconsistent over the years, but her current set seems to include all of the classic Kryptonian abilities, strength, flight, speed, invulnerability, x-ray vision, telescopic vision, heat vision, freeze breath and super hearing. Possessing no vulnerability to kryptonite due to her alternate dimension origin, but still being vulnerable to magic. She ticks a number of boxes in team dynamics, but is taken here as the powerhouse.
So where your big gun is vulnerable to magic, the 2nd spot calls for someone with magical abilities. Here I chose one of the coolest comic book characters to get one of the all time worst movie adaptations. Spawn. Another one whose powers have not been consistent. A heavy hitter in his own right, and possessing energy projection, flight, and sometimes personal teleportation abilities. Plus that freaky cape and chain that have minds of their own are pretty cool.
The next choice I include is Deathstroke. I first came across Deathstroke in the comics during a DC crossover event called Panic in the Sky, where Superman recruited him to lead an invasion force against Warworld. Deathstroke provides the tactical leadership, and also ticks the box in highly skilled hand to hand combatants.
Next addition I have swayed on several times. I was initially leaning toward Invisible Woman, whose abilities include stealth, defensive and energy projection. But, being the classic super hero mother character, she comes with baggage. Instead, I settled on Psylocke. Surprise, surprise, yet another character whose abilities fluctuate. Lately, she is a world class telepath and telekinetic. Capable of manifesting a psychic knife and sometimes a psychic katana. Her telekinesis can be used to enhance strength and durability. Plus, full on stealth ninja training.
Transport. While having a team jet or spaceship or whatever is useful, or a bloke with a power ring who can conjure up glowing platforms and carry you to the scene of a battle, teleporters are the way to go. I collected the first appearance of Blink in the story arc that led to the Generation X title launch. Also the Age of Apocalypse story arc that made her awesome. It is the Age of Apocalypse version I recruit. Ticks: Teleportation, ranged attacks. I did toy with a Green Lantern, leaning toward Kyle Rayner. I followed his Ion storyline and enjoyed him. I didn’t begrudge Hal Jordan’s return, but even with the potential to develop one of the least developed Green Lanterns, he is still a GL and while incredibly versatile, they are also relatively boring because they just need to imagine the solution to their problem and concentrate. Too much wish fulfilment for a compelling story for me.
Sixth team member, Vixen. Chosen for her great adaptability. Her animal abilities include flight, breathing underwater like a fish with the sonar of a dolphin, speed of the cheetah, constriction of an anaconda, proportionate strength of a rhinoceros beetle, hearing and sense of smell of a wolf, ability of a spider monkey, venom spitting, protective hide, eyesights of an eagle, regenerative abilities, electric shocks. And plenty more. Once again, her powers are not always predictable and she can sometimes absorb unwanted traits from the animal kingdom such as instinctive rage.
For me, the role that is missing from this line up is the support role. Often responsible for intelligence gathering (eg: Oracle) and/or developing tools, weapons and gizmos (eg: Iron Man, Forge, Mr Terrific). I’m not really a fan of any of those chracter options, but lean toward Iron Man because his arrogance breeds conflict and keeps things interesting. I’d rather avoid Iron Man though, because he has had heavy exposure already. Plus the whole rich benefactor aspect is a bit meh. Maybe here we need a new breakout character to jump in. The girls outnumber the guys 4 to 2 already, so a male. Choosing an Asian character is distastefully stereotypical. Perhaps a young latino supergeek? Just no corny super name such as anything that begins with el….
That makes for a potent team. Plenty of unpredictable or inconsistent abilities maintaining a real X-factor in the squad. Some fundamental differences in morality when you compare the largely traditional sensibilities of Power Girl to the sometimes merciless sensibilities of Spawn and Deathstroke.