Friday, August 8, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Director: James Gunn
Notable Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Dijmon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has essentially changed the battlefield on how to build a franchise by creating smaller interconnected franchises with The Avengers heroes, their first big deviation from the structure comes in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy. Even as a somewhat knowledgeable comic book fan, I wasn’t sure who these intergalactic outcasts were when the film was announced - only knowing the name as a sort of footnote in the Marvel catalog. With this latest film though, Marvel certainly flexes their movie muscles in ways we haven’t quite seen before and the result is a pretty stunning feature full of quirkiness, heart, and some seriously hilarious moments.

The galaxy is a massive place and for a renegade scrapper like Peter Quill (Pratt) it’s a trove of wonders to sell for big bucks. A recently acquired orb though has brought quite a bit of trouble with it, including a massive bounty on his head. The only way to find out what’s in the orb and get away clean will be with the help of a rag tag team of villains…who just might find out they are more than criminals when a vicious warlord threatens to destroy an entire planet with the orb.

Guardians of the Galaxy is not quite like anything else Marvel has touched. It’s one part Buckaroo Banzai, one part The Ice Pirates, and one part The Avengers. The basic plot is pretty simple and one that you’ve seen before – a relic is wanted by the bad guys and the lesser bad guys (good guys) have to stop them. In fact, our main protagonist Peter Quill even makes a reference that it’s something like the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark in the film. He’s right. We’ve seen it before and it’s a comfortable story that works in the blend of action, humor, and heart that we’ve come to expect from Marvel at this time period. It just so happens to be damn near perfect in execution of said basic plot progressions. Even though we can basically set our watches to when our anti-heroes will save the day, it’s a blast getting there.

Slow walk. Go team.

Inside of said plot though James Gunn has populated Guardians with a massively charming group of characters. Whether it’s the dumbass charm of Quill, the asshole nature of Rocket Raccoon (voiced to perfection by Bradly Cooper), or the simplicity and humorous moments of Groot, Guardians is a ball to watch. Playing to his strong sense of timing and comedy, Gunn slathers the film quirky banter. Don’t get me wrong, he also shows a strong ability to craft some fun and outrageous action sequences, but it’s almost more fun to see Quill and Rocket argue about a bomb or that wonderful moment when they decide to work together by hashing out an attack strategy. Even the secondary characters like The Collector get to have their fun moments on screen. It’s dedication to this element that really makes the audience ease into this large new universe with ease. Truthfully, the one issue that this film has is the villains. Ronan the Accuser lacks any kind of charm or screen presence outside of his looks (I’m sure it was intentional to have him be the opposite of our heroes, but he’s kind of a snooze) and even his hench girl seems to lack a lot of personality.

The revolutionary element of Guardians is not the plot or even the characters. It’s that weird pop referential treatment of all of the above. In a weird way, James Gunn has crafted a film that’s completely self aware of just how bat shit crazy it is with its silly alien designs and ‘end of the world’ plot. Guardians plugs in jokes about Ninja Turtles and Trolls, the offbeat design of many of the characters, and plays it all to a super soundtrack straight out of the 70s. It’s irresistibly charming in this sense. It knows it’s a ridiculous space opera and it plays it up to its full potential. 

Fire on the woods!

While I wouldn’t say that Guardians is the best Marvel film to date (the lack of a great villain hurts), I will go as far as to say it’s my favorite. It’s a fun romp of ridiculous asshole anti-heroes who have to overcome their differences to save the day. Not wholly original, but wholly enjoyable. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

1 comment:

  1. Good review. The story is a bit typical and was a bit bumpy at first but it smoothed out and got better.