Caveat: I’m a little hesitant to even write this, because I’m not sure I’m right. I’ve only seen the movie once, and I didn’t go into it my critical analysis goggles on. So it’s entirely possible that this isn’t an entirely coherent take on Gamora.
But, that having been said, I don’t think I’m wrong to be confused by reviews or meta that blow Gamora off. I mean, it’s actually a little difficult to find something to say just about her role itself, because it seems so straightforward. Once you realize that her goal is to stop a pair of genocidal monsters from getting their hands on a superweapon, pretty much everything she does makes perfect sense.
Not that there’s no meat to the role, mind you. It’s just that her behavior isn’t muddled or mysterious or whatever. I mean, she’s a grown-up child soldier in the service of a death-worshipper who’s still found it in herself to take a stand against an overwhelming force. She’s got nothing but herself and her wits and whatever dregs she can manipulate into helping her, and she’s voluntarily going up against a warlord who gives an interstellar empire’s homeworld defense forces a run for their money even before the doomsday device comes out.
It’s brave, and it’s desperate, and she pulls it the fuck off.
Her motives aren’t made perfectly explicit, but look at Nebula’s response to roughly the same situation. Gamora revolts in the face of worse odds and tries to keep the stone away from both Ronan and Thanos. She’s trying to take the doomsday weapon out of play. Presumably this is fueled by a personal desire for revenge, though there’s an equally presumable sense of altruism guiding her strategy. When Nebula sees the chance to make Thanos pay and take her own revenge, her response is a stark contrast. Ronan can give her what she wants? Let’s burn this mother down, then. She’ll set a thousand worlds on fire to get her shot.
And Gamora’s doing all this essentially on her own. She can’t just call up the Nova Corps and go “Hey, guys, I’m actually trying to be a better person and so here’s the deal.” They want her dead. Thanos has everyone she knows so fucked up that she can’t even get Nebula to do it her way once it becomes apparent that they want the same thing. There’s no chance of recruiting from the ranks of people she already knows. She’s fucked from the start, and that doesn’t stop her from not just trying but actually pulling it off.
Like, oh, you want revenge? Great. Get in the spaceship. We’re gonna go get revenge. Oh, you want money? Great. Get in the spaceship. We’re gonna go get money. Oh, did I forget to tell you about the fine print? Surprise, motherfuckers, we’re gonna save the galaxy too. Get in the fucking spaceship.