Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (Film)

I’m sure by now we’re all aware of Marvel Studios' latest offering, Guardians of the Galaxy; judging by the Box Office numbers we’ve all gone to see it at least once. Tagged as Marvel’s riskiest film to date GOTG managed to become one of the year’s biggest hits. I am a little late to the party as my current life situation did not allow me to see this film at a Thursday midnight showing like I would have years ago but I was able to see it after opening weekend and I feel I can properly review it today. However before we get into the movie let’s look back on the comic that inspired it.

First appearing in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 in 1969 the original Guardians of the Galaxy seemed to be Marvel Comics’ answer to DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes, in that both were about a superhero team operating about one thousand years in the future. GOTG was more of a rebel faction fighting against an alien empire rather than a team of super-teens fighting future crime. This incarnation of the team lasted for some time but was never really popular outside its niche audience and never received an abundance of attention outside the hardcore comic book fanbase (which is why you’ve probably never heard of Charlie-27; I sure as hell hadn't).

Cult worthy title or Silver Age silliness?
You decide!
In 2005 Marvel launched a pretty massive crossover event called Annihilation that untied most of their cosmic (i.e. “outer space”) characters in one epic storyline. The comic was extremely well received despite still being more of a cult hit, and ended up getting several sequels and spin-offs over the next few years. One of those spin-offs was a rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy book in 2008. Rather than taking place in the far future this title took place in the Marvel Universe proper, just in space, and was formed by several per-existing cosmic characters: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Phyla-Vell (the third Quasar), and rapper Adam WarRock Adam Warlock, who is definitely not a rapper. Though pretty much being exclusively fifth-string characters the team carried on the reputation Marvel had created for itself in recent years for their best storytelling being in the cosmic portion and thus the title garnered a very vocal following.

While the book has been off and on the radar since it's initial launch someone over at Marvel Studios thought it’d be an a awesome idea to make a film version based on the cult title that features characters that no one in the general public had ever heard of. And as the film has made millions and millions of dollars it’s hard to say that wasn’t a brilliant move. This film was directed by James Gunn who also directed the cult films Slither and Super, which makes him an interesting choice to helm this flick. Many people are saying this movie was very good but there are also people who are saying it’s highly overrated. Seeing as I can think of at least one other film that was highly overrated by the internet in recent memory (coughcoughfrozencouch) I think it’s best I examine it myself.

They're like the Avengers...IN SPAAAACE!!
Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: This review contains some spoilers. Nothing too bad, and really nothing that hasn't been floating around already, but they are still there and unmarked. Read at your own risk.]




Pretty much everything Groot does is weird and freaky
Years ago Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was abducted by aliens as a child and thus grew up in the far reaches of space. Now an adult Quill is an outlaw and a rogue that calls himself “Star-Lord” (though no one else does). Quill double-crosses the gang of Ravengers he works for by stealing an ancient artifact, an orb, but is arrested when he tries to sell it on planet Xandar after getting into a four way fight with the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and bounty hunters Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). While in prison the four, along with fellow inmate Drax (Dave Bautista), decide to break out together and sell orb while splitting the profits. Meanwhile a Kree terrorist called Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and his forces are looking for the orb as part of a deal with a mysterious benefactor. As Ronan is very powerful but not very sane he is a major threat to everyone in his way.

If I were to summarize my feelings about this film in one sentence I would be “Guardians of the Galaxy is the most fun I’ve had in a summer blockbuster in a long time”. There are so many soulless, heartless films that Hollywood throws at us during the summer that it’s easy to forget that good movies can come out this time of year as well. There was great action, it looked good in the visual department, a lot of funny moments that had me laughing out loud in the theater (this flick is an action-comedy), and distracted me from its flaws with its positives. Avengers was probably the most successful movie I’ve reviewed in that specific regard which is appropriate since this is easily Marvel’s best film since Avengers.

Space Operas should be fun, or else what's the point?
Chris Pratt is a surprisingly effective leading man. I say "surprising" because I’ve never warmed up to Pratt outside of Parks and Recreation as he seems to just play less charming/lovable versions of Andy Dwyer (though it’s important to note I never got around to seeing Zero Dark Thirty). Here he still makes use of his comedic timing but the things that would make him a decent sidekick seem to make him an effective main character; he’s flawed and believable while at the same time he’s charming and hard to dislike. Also he manages to be kind of a badass without it being silly. Zoe Saldana is pretty good as Gamora but at times it feels like she’s the least interesting member of the main cast but that’s more of a script issue than an actor one as Saldana does a good job with what she has. Gamora is considerably more developed than Black Widow was in the Avengers so there’s that. I’m am shocked how much I enjoyed Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket as he managed to give the character far more personality than I would have ever thought he’d be capable of. Vin Diesel is great as Groot but that doesn’t surprise me as he’s the type of actor that’s capable of cool things but is rarely hired to do anything other than be xXx over and over again. Most people are saying that Bootista Dave Bautista was the breakout here and it’s hard to argue that as Drax had some of the best lines in the film but I think a lot of this had to do with the script and Bautista being suited for this exact type of role. I would caution Hollywood about casting him to too many type of things because as far as wrestlers turned actors go he’s not the next Dwayne Johnson. That said he was similarly good in The Man with the Iron Fists while playing a similar character (way less funny) so he’s got it in him to do well in the movies.

I wish there was another female Guardian in this film as I think that would have really helped the balance of the cast. I’m not sure who I would have put in as Phyla-Vell has a pretty complex backstory and most of the other cosmic women associated with the team are human which would have interfered with Star-Lord’s arc (though they could just change that aspect like they did with Drax). Here’s hoping that gets fixed in the sequel.

Ronan the Accuser may be the worst dressed villain yet
Lee Pace is fine as Ronan the Accuser. He’s not going to be revered like other villains from the Marvel movies but he is NOT the worst villain of the franchise as some reviewers have said. He’s functional and has a reason for his evil plan that makes sense (unlike say, Ivan Vanko from Iron Man 2). He’s certainly not the deepest or the most interesting but let’s all try to keep this in perspective.

I thought the incorporation of Star-Lord’s tape as the soundtrack of the film was a neat idea, even if I’m not fond of every song.

The plot is good though perhaps not the deepest one to grace a movie. It’s certainly nothing I haven’t seen before in a space opera but it was executed well. It almost reminded of Farscape if Farscape was a big budget film. The script is usually really good but every once in a while it flubs up and someone says something really dumb, usually Star-Lord. In those cases I try to remember that Quill is essentially a man-child who never properly grew up and thus will say unfunny, dumbass things regularly.

For a movie that manages not to be too heavily connected to the rest of Marvel’s film it sure put a lot of effort into hyping up Thanos in this film and it felt pretty insincere. Seeing as Thanos plays no direct role in the plot his appearance feels more like fanservice than anything else; like it’s a teaser for different movie that will come out one day (Avengers 3?). For example the scene where Ronan and Thanos meets face to face feels very superfluous as we don't learn anything new about either character. It just shows how “awesome” Thanos looks and that feels like a waste of time. Seeing as his role in this film is nearly identical to the Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back (who only appears in one scene via a communication device) I feel we could have dialed back on the guy a bit and it would have been the same movie. Hell, technically if he wasn’t even mentioned at all the film would only be slightly different.

Which one of these guys is Keyser Soze?
(I'm leaning towards the tree)
I can’t really think of a ton of things that bothered me about Guardians of the Galaxy because I walked out of the theater loving it to death. It hits a lot of the right notes for me: a funny, action packed space opera with a great cast of memorable characters that is extremely quotable. If you can’t make art you can at least make something extremely fun and I think that’s what happened here. Is it the best space opera ever made? No. Is it the best space opera to be made in recent memory? It seems that way. This flick is pure fun and if you didn’t like, or God forbid you hated it, then I feel bad for you. I’m a lifelong pessimist who is currently going through one of the lowest, most depressing points of my life and I still managed to have a fantastic time with this film. What’s your excuse? This is the best movie of the summer, possibly of the year so far.

Guardians of the Galaxy gets 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


Pros 

-Great cast of characters 

-Good action, good special effects 

-Hilarious in all the right places 

-Just 100% pure fun 

Cons 

-Gamora could stand to be a stronger character 

-Some of the stuff with Thanos felt superfluous

1 comment:

  1. The film ended with the perfect lead in to another sequel and I can hardly wait. When the DVD is available I will certainly purchase it. This film was entertaining in many ways and it is the kind of film that makes me go to the movies. There are a couple of things that pop up once the credits start so hang around and catch them.

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