I disagree, based on the various kid-inclusive movies I’ve seen. I agree there are inherent limitations. What I don’t agree with is that these limitations are causing the vague sense of dissatisfaction. Rather, I feel that the dissatisfaction is coming from the fact that people are feeling like they have it figured out. If Guardians isn’t so good, my guess would be that it might have to do with rehashing the last Guardians movie, one that was immensely enjoyable. Do the same thing too many times, it stops being interesting.
Looking at the latest ‘big’ movies to have disappointed me, I can’t imagine they’d have been any better with more sex, or more politics, or more religion. What I think would have made The Force Awakens better would have been a stronger focus on a relationship between Han and his son. Or on the idea of the stormtrooper rebelling against what he always used to know. Or on how Rey gets inspired to join in the rebellion. The biggest problem TFA had was a lack of focus on any of these. And none of them would have benefitted from more sex or violence or trauma or philosophical conundrums.
I definitely agree there are limitations. I think it’s a mistake to tie these limitations to the feeling of dissatisfaction. I have to ask if your friend really went INTO Guardians of the Galaxy looking for violence as a horrific, traumatic experience, or explicit sex scenes.
I think it’s a problem when said limitations harm what the creator intended to do. Looking at, for example, the Wolverine movie before this one, the creator clearly WANTED a more violent, bloody film. That time, being kid-inclusive hurt it. Rejecting your limitations instead of acknowledging and working within them is bad.
But I don’t think that the dissatisfaction comes just from the limitations. I don’t think it’s that superheroes and adventure and all that have stretched their limits and just can’t go any further. I think the dissatisfaction comes from them not TRYING to go any further, and feeling like they’ve found an answer. I don’t know what will replace the Superhero movie when its replacement inevitably comes. But whatever its issues are, I doubt they will come from allowing kids in on it.
Though on a separate a cultural note, I think we need to re-evaluate what counts as ‘kid-friendly.’ Kids love “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” a game (even on its surface level) about avoiding being murdered by horrific Chuck-E-Cheese monsters, and on a subtextual level features a lot of reference to children being murdered and/or molested. In the ’90s, I read Animorphs. Those books featured passages describing lead characters looking at their intestines trailing out of their bodies, exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, and dealing with fairly complex moral issues. Back in the ’80s, kids loved Ghostbusters (with heavy sexual references) and Nightmare on Elm Street (featuring gory disembowling.) Hell, in the 18th and 19th centuries, fairy tales about people getting their eyes plucked out abounded. Kid-friendly is a lot darker than we seem to be willing to accept.