As the steady stream of superhero movies gushing from Hollywood can attest, comic books are a treasure-trove of inspiration to draw from. With hundreds of characters and a half-century of storylines to choose between, this isn’t a well in danger of drying up soon (whether that’s a good thing or not is rather more complicated). However, they can also clip a film’s wings. Despite their whimsical brilliance – and I’ll hear nothing else, damnit – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 and its predecessor suffer from this. For instance, galactic assassin Gamora often feels like a third wheel. There’s a whiff of her only being there to move along the plot, be Star-Lord’s bae and/or because she’s a corner-stone of the comic iteration. Zoe Saldana’s great in the role of course, but the character’s arguably the team’s least-developed member: she gets the frailest arc. Where Star-Lord learns to let others into his life, Gamora just wants to save the galaxy. While Drax and Rocket must move on from their past by accepting a new family, Gamora… well, she’s not really any different from beginning to end. Her moment of growth – turning on her adoptive father and rediscovering morality after all she’s done – happens before the even story begins. As a result, I wonder whether her sister Nebula wouldn’t have been a better fit for the team.
Menacing, tragic and more than a little unhinged, she’s arguably more compelling than her straight-laced counterpart. Gamora always earned daddy’s praise for a job well-murdered, so Nebula was ripped apart and replaced with robotic bits to make her the former’s ‘equal’. That’s a significant knock to your ego. Moreover, being kidnapped and turned into Thanos’s right-hand murderer has left Nebula a broken husk who refuses to let herself feel lest it hurt her. By comparison, Gamora doesn’t seem too weighed down by the guilt of what she’s done. Although she’s trying to make up for it by saving the galaxy, this merely presents itself as a stoic and predictable (if acerbic) decency. Meanwhile, Nebula is emotionally unstable and volatile. Furthermore, she’s every bit the killer we’re told Gamora is… yet rarely get a sense of.
Simply put, I think there’s more that can be done with Nebula. Her angst is a goldmine of character development for writer/director James Gunn to uncover. She’s a damaged young woman who’s desperately trying to prove her worth, and that’s a hotbed of conflict waiting to happen. I may be alone in this, but I find that so much more engaging.
As such, I’m glad she got more screen-time for the sequel. More for Avengers: Infinity War, please!