Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: "I am Groot!"

When you go see Guardians of the Galaxy for the second time [and you should, you Philistine], you probably won't cry as hard as you did the first time because you already know the story.

Probably. You might cry harder, though, because you are freer. You won't let fear or the common anxiety that the filmmaker will break your heart stop you from expressing deeper emotions. I know some films I did NOT cry at the ending on first viewing because I was in hopeful denial and wanted to see the resolution before I dropped my heart guards.

As Dr. Steve Brown, my favorite curmudgeon pastor noted: "You ever see a child cry AFTER mommy has found them? That's because children cry only when they know they are safe." That's me too. When I watch films at home and it is late, I find myself open and vulnerable then - not before.

So you owe it to yourself to see a great, fun, action-packed movie that has a moment of heart-wrenching love RIGHT in the climax and let your heart be warmed. By a tree that can only say three words.

Too good not to share. The Giving Tree re-done
by Isaac Goodhart
Three Words, Multiple Meanings
After being arrested and sent to The Kyln, a horrible space prison for the worst criminal scum of the galaxy, he tries to speak with our hero Peter Quill / Star-Lord.
"I am Groot."
"Yes!" says Quill over his shoulder. "That was as fascinating as the first 89 times you said it." [Addressing Rocket] "What is with 'Giving Tree'?"
"Well he don't know talkin' good like me and you, so his vocabulistics is limited to 'I' and 'am' and 'Groot,' exclusively in that order." 

"Well I tell you what -that's gonna wear real thin, real fast, bud!"

Later, we catch on that though the words are the same, they mean different things. Like some Terran languages, the communication is in the tone, not the actual words themselves.
Rocket Raccoon: She's right, you don't get an opinion... What percentage [of a plan]?
Peter Quill: I dunno... Twelve percent?
Rocket Raccoon: 12%? [breaks into laughter]
Peter Quill: That's a fake laugh.
Rocket Raccoon: It's real!
Peter Quill: Totally fake!
Rocket Raccoon: That is the most real, authentic, hysterical laugh of my entire life because   THAT IS NOT A PLAN!
Gamora: It's barely a concept.
Peter Quill: [to Gamora] You're taking THEIR side?
Groot: I am Groot.
Rocket Raccoon: So what, "It's better than eleven percent!" What the hell does that have to do with anything?
Peter Quill: [to Groot] Thank you! See? Groot's the only one of you who has a clue. [Groot then eats leaf off of shoulder]

Those who know him begin to 'hear' what he means. Like watching C3PO translate for R2-D2 or Charlie Brown revealing what the "Adults" are saying by his reply. We get it. We grow to love Groot.

Then Groot chooses to do something to save them all, at the cost of his own life. Just as he begins, Rocket begins to cry and ask him why. "This will kill you! You'll die! Why are you doing this?!"

For once, he doesn't say "I am Groot."

He says "We are Groot."

Like Rain Man, these limited words work like a laser to pierce the damned selfish soul we humans are all cursed with. Groot loves them. They are one with him.

He doesn't mind. They are more important than his life.

Oh God, I am starting to cry.

"What is with 'Giving Tree'?"

He's Jesus, Peter. Yeah.

He's Jesus.

"I am."

So what?

"I AM."

So what? I've heard that a thousand times!

"I AM."

He's alive. Now. Present. Dying for you. Alive for you.

Dancing from the grave.

He is. We are because He IS.

Folks, the best part of Guardians of the Galaxy is that one character with three words broke the heart of every sane soul in the theater.

He was Groot.

And Groot was Jesus.

Amen.


Cue Jackson Five, please.

p.s. BTW, The Giving Tree is also Christ - the Tree wants the boy's love by giving of itself, only wanting the boy to be happy. In the end, after giving all, what makes the boy - and the Tree - happy is that they are together, though the Tree has no more to give and the boy is an old man.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: Chosen Losers

"Say hello to my little friend!"
You gotta love a movie that has Bradley Cooper voicing a talking, gun-toting over-sized raccoon with a chip on his shoulder.

And you gotta cry when said raccoon gets so drunk he slobbers out his pain at being a genetically created Freak, cast into life without any decent hope of love or friendship, absolutely alienated from birth from the rest of humanity and her near-cousins, be they red, green, blue or magenta skinned.

He's a raccoon, and he's unique.

"Ain't nothin' like me, 'cept ME!" he boasts, as he marches into a galactic prison filled with killers.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a great movie, comparable to a great meal, where the appetizer was delicious, the salad was fresh, the steak and lobster were cooked to perfection and as you cry no more, a triple-decker chocolate cake with coffee icing is set before you with real whipped cream on top.

That's what watching Guardians was like. They could have stopped layering goodness on us 90 minutes into the movie and we'd have been happy. They don't. They just keep going and going.

That unexpected richness echoed the very characters: they are almost two-dimensional at first, and then we find out something honest about them that makes us choke up in recognition. They start off attacking each other and by the end, they won't let another soul touch their fellow Guardians. Classic character growth trope, I know, but when done right... well, you remember my analogy about a well-cooked steak, right?

Peter Quill - a.k.a. Star Lord - sums up the reason that they need each other, in a howlingly bad attempt at sensitivity that is par for the course for him:
"I look around and I see losers.[stunned looks from fellow Guardians]
Folks who have lost stuff. [a beat] Life generally takes more than it gives."
That's what makes this movie heroic and comedic at the same time: facing the ugly truth and not letting it stop you from being better - even great.

Quill also makes a little speech at how "the Universe" has given them a second chance. "Something good, something bad... a little bit of both." It is a non-heroic, non-judgmental call to be better.

It's a speech given to a murderer, an assassin, two thieves and a not-too-bright giant.

The outcasts, the misfits. Chosen from above, they don't fit in, but they are right for the job. These "Chosen Losers" end up being the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Like Israel was, when God called them to be His people. He wanted them to be His family, His friend. He chose them, but NOT because they were cool or great. Just the opposite in fact.

Read this from Deuteronomy 7:7, 8:
7 “The Lord did not set His heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!
8 "Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and He was keeping the oath He had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt."

God chose slaves out of Egypt for the same dramatic reasons we love to watch represented in Guardians of the Galaxy.

They were the weakest. The outcasts. The unwanted. God chose them to love them, to make them great.

So watch the self-pity if you feel that you are a loser who does not fit in with the galaxy.

God just may have chosen you to guard part of it. Even if you feel as dumb as a tree or are generally accepted about as well as a large rat, you have something to do. Something just for YOU to do.

Something good, something bad...maybe a little bit of both. It happens like that.

Just make sure that you seek to serve the God of the galaxy who died for you.

He chose you, after all.

Amen.