You wouldn’t expect a movie whose heroes include a talking raccoon, a tri-syllabic anthropomorphic tree and an ultra-literal alien with no concept of metaphor to be particularly subtle or topical. Yet this year’s breakaway summer hit, “Guardians of the Galaxy” somehow manages to be both, as its central conflict maps almost perfectly onto the current struggle in Gaza between the state of Israel and Hamas, and delivers an anti-Hamas metaphor so potent it wouldn’t even go over the aforementioned Drax the Destroyer’s head. And not just because, as he says, “My reflexes are too fast.”
For those who have not seen the film, be warned that spoilers follow.
While it might be easy to ignore the plot-driven antagonists of “Guardians” in favor of its zany protagonists’ antics, doing so misses some surprisingly subtle political thinking. Start with the villain – namely, the ultra-conservative renegade Kree admiral, Ronan the Accuser, played with chilling humorlessness by Lee Pace. Pace himself has likened his character to Osama bin Laden, and it’s easy to see why. In his introductory monologue, Ronan rails against those who decry him as a fanatic and terrorist, claiming he is only acting to preserve the traditional ways of his people, the Kree, over and against their government’s rapprochement with their longtime astro-political foes, the Xandarans. It is for this reason that Ronan is especially incensed by the fact that the Kree government has just signed a peace treaty with the Xandarans, effectively making him a terrorist not just against them, but against his own government.
What would Ronan prefer? Nothing less than total genocide against the Xandarans, and destruction of their entire homeworld. To that end, he has allied himself with the evil Titan, Thanos (played by Josh Brolin), described by one character as “the most powerful being in the universe.” The contours of their agreement are simple: Ronan must collect an ultra-powerful weapon known as an Infinity Stone for Thanos, and in return Thanos will destroy the Xandaran home planet. However, as soon as he has the stone, Ronan reneges, deciding to destroy the Xandaran homeworld himself and turn on Thanos, under whose dismissive leadership he visibly chafes throughout the film.
Despite Pace’s likening of his character to Osama bin Laden, a far more plausible (and topical) comparison presents itself – namely, that Ronan the Accuser is one of the great satiric representations of the terrorist organization Hamas ever put on film. This is especially apparent when the Xandaran leader, Nova Prime, tries to get the head of the Kree Government to issue a condemnation of Ronan, only to be met with Yasser Arafat-like indifference. While the current regime outside Gaza under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is substantially more willing to condemn the mad fanaticism of Hamas, the parallel is striking.
Moreover, Ronan’s simultaneously religious and nationalist desire to cleanse the Xandaran homeworld of all its inhabitants is right out of Hamas’ 1988 Covenant, which states, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it” in its introduction, and which sneers at Israel itself: “Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. ‘May the cowards never sleep.’” The exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, certainly sounded Ronan-esque notes recently, when he refused to accept any coexistence with Israel.
What is more, one can see another parallel to current events in Ronan’s choice of tactics and allies. During the film’s climax, when Ronan’s ship, The Dark Aster, attempts to land on the Xandaran homeworld so that Ronan may use his newly acquired Infinity Stone to wipe out the Israelis, Ronan adopts the Kamikaze-esque approach of sending ships holding his own men to explode against the surface of the planet to try and break resistance by the Xandaran blockade. Similarly, Hamas has consistently refused to adhere to ceasefires that it itself has agreed to, puts its own people in harm’s way with its choice of tactics, and have promised “suicide attacks on every bus, café and street.”