In the wake of Guardians of the Galaxy, a genuinely fresh-feeling Marvel space opera that’s getting great reviews and making tons of cash, many critics and fans are clamoring for Marvel to finally make a female-led action movie. I kinda think Marvel already did, by accident. It’s called Guardians of the Galaxy.
Let’s look at the evidence: Yes, Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt, is definitely positioned as the movie’s hero. But his supposed love interest, Gamora, an alien played by Zoe Saldana, knows more about the mysterious orb, which the movie is built around. Gamora ends up making all the big decisions in the movie. She is the one who sets up the initial buyer for the orb and, when it gets stolen during that transaction, she’s the one who knows how to get it back. Gamora also has the most interesting backstory— she turned her back on her evil adopted family to save the universe. And because of this, Gamora’s the one who gets to have the Luke Skywalker-fights-Darth Vader moment, except it’s her sister who fights for the dark side, not her father.
And what does Peter Quill do? He makes a speech, drives the spaceship, and is a white guy, so he’s treated like the leader. When, in the end, Gamora tells Peter that the group is following his lead, it actually makes no sense given everything that’s happened before. Sure, Peter rescues Gamora from certain death, but then she returns to her main role as ass-kicker. She drives all the action, but in the end, he gets to kill the bad guy because that’s what dudes do.
Not to take this too far, but: The push-pull between the two heroes of the movie is, from what we know, evocative of the real life push-pull over the screenplay, which is credited to both the director James Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman. Perlman is the one who came up with the idea for a Guardians story and who spent years working on the original drafts. Gunn, however, came in and did extensive rewrites. “James definitely put his stamp on it for sure. He added a lot,” Perlman told BuzzFeed.
Gunn put it a little more forcefully to BuzzFeed: “The original concept was there, that was sort of like what’s in the movie, and then there’s the story and the characters — those were pretty much re-created by me.”
One thing that seems evident is that Peter Quill was the protagonist from the get-go. But regardless of intentions, you cut out Peter’s big speech, and you have a movie about a green alien lady who, with the help of some adorable sidekicks and her goofily charming love interest, knows how to get things done.