Back in April, I noted that the publicity campaign for Captain America: The Winter Soldier here in Germany as well as reviews of the film seemed to focus far more on Black Widow than on Captain America, the actual star of the movie.
Back then, I assumed that the phenomenon was due to the fact that it’s kind of hard to sell a guy calling himself Captain America, who was created to fight Nazis in WWII, to German audiences, so a butt-kicking Russian ex-assassin turned superheroine was probably more palatable, particularly when played by Scarlett Johansson.
However, I noticed a similar phenomenon in the media coverage for Guardians of the Galaxy, which premiered in Germany this week. One of the comparatively few TV reports (apparently, covering period dramas of questionable historical accuracy such as some Volker Schlöndorff film about a Nazi general who is ordered to blow up Paris and doesn’t, because it’s so beautiful*, or a Dominik Graf movie about Friedrich Schiller having a threesome with two sisters** are considered more deserving of coverage in many quarters) breathlessly announced Zoe Saldana’s new movie Guardians of the Galaxy, followed by footage of Gamora kicking arse and being awesome, an interview soundbite of Zoe Saldana, the Zoe Saldana baby bump watch, more Gamora being awesome, some team footage and Vin Diesel saying “I am Groot”. All in all, it was certainly an interesting take on the movie.
Now Zoe Saldana is certainly the most famous among the main Guardians actors actually seen on screen (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are only heard and not in German, where Rocket Raccoon is dubbed by Fahri Yardim), since nobody here knows Chris Pratt, cause Parks and Recreation does not air in Germany. Indeed a rather good Austrian TV report about Guardians of the Galaxy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general (a phenomenon the German language cultural press is only now taking note of) called Chris Pratt “a largely unknown actor”, while the review in my local paper (amazingly the reviewer actually enjoyed the movie) meticulously listed every single supporting part Chris Pratt previously played.
So it certainly makes sense for German reports to focus on Gamora rather than Peter Quill, it’s nonetheless notable that German coverage of two subsequent Marvel movies focussed more on the female leads, both of whom just happen to be tough arsekickers with a shady past, rather than on the male stars. Add in the fact that Luc Besson’s Lucy – which isn’t a Marvel movie, but features Scarlett Johansson kicking arse and coincidentally hints at how awesome a Black Widow solo movie would be – is currently sitting at the top of the German cinema charts and that Maleficent, another female led fantasy film, was also a big success in Germany and I think it’s safe to say that German audiences do like female led action movies and heroines who kick arse.
While on the subject of the much maligned Lucy (yeah, so the scientific premise is nonsense, but then it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of movies full of nonsense science), here is a great post in defence of the movie by urban fantasy writer Kyoko M.
Indeed, the most fascinating thing apart from the Gamora focus is that even the notoriously snobby high-brow cultural press here in Germany completely enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, as these reviews from Spiegel Online, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (which even detects some social and political criticism in the movie), Die Welt (which doesn’t quite understand the movie, but still believes it’s a masterpiece) and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung*** attest.
In fact, a friend just recently noted that she hadn’t heard a single negative opinion about Guardians of the Galaxy anywhere. It seems to be that rare movie everybody seems to enjoy.
Though come to think of it, those high-brow cultural publications that actually lowered themselves to review The Avengers generally enjoyed it as well, as this Spiegel Online review as well as this marvelous review from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung show.
*It’s quite possible that what swayed the otherwise very obedient general was less the beauty of Paris and more the fact that there were better uses for explosives in late 1944 than blowing up a city. Besides, as the host of one of those cultural programs on TV said, that same general had zero qualms about rounding up and deporting Jews earlier.
**It’s doubtful whether Schiller ever really had a threesome with the sisters, all we know is that he wrote letters to both of them. But most certainly, Schiller and the sisters did not engage in a poly relationship in the modern sense.