Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 3 and The Western Religious Subconscious
Marvel does Dostoevsky
[SPOILERS] The most recent work of James Gunn is a timely, Dostoevskian meditation on transhumanism, technology, humanity, and God wrapped in the gaudy upholstery of an absurdist Space Opera. Being currently immersed in Joseph Frank’s masterful biography of the Russian master of the novel, I spent the whole movie thinking about this (as well as cringing, laughing and thoroughly enjoying myself).
The basic narrative of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is quickly summarized: Peter Quill (aka Starlord) is kidnapped as a young child by space pirates (Ravagers) shortly after the death of his mother and comes of age in the galactic theatre as a hedonistic Ravager before fate brings him together with a band of plucky, traumatized outlaws like himself who, in response to coming face to face with a massive threat to all life as we know it, gradually transition from cosmic bandits to virtuous “guardians of the galaxy.”
The moral thrust of the first two movies lies in the developing familial bonds between Quill and his mates- two sisters, Nebula and Gamora, who narrowly escaped a literally torturous childhood at the hands of the megalomaniacal ideologue and genocidal psychotic Thanos; Groot, a lovable sentient tree-person; Drax, a vengeance obsessed warrior who lost his family to said Tyrant; Mantis, an antennaed empath who can both feel and manipulate other’s psychic states; and Rocket, an ingenious, perpetually raging, surgically enhanced Raccoon who is a weapons expert.
This chaotic bunch all begin as self-absorbed, traumatized loners. By the end of the second movie they are fiercely loyal to each other and are finding a kind of healing in the realization, amongst themselves, of chosen family and repairing capabilities for attachment. Throughout the movies draw heavily on the Biblical subconscious of Western culture.
The enemy in the first movie is a personification of Death and Pride, in the second he is literally called Ego. Quill, it turns out, is a kind of god-man, child of a immensely powerful if narcissistic celestial; Quill renounces his divinity and union with the father to save the cosmos. All of the characters must survive and grow by renouncing passions- revenge, victimhood…