Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review - Guardians of the Galaxy

I know I'm super late to the space launch on this one, but it's not as though the Guardians of the Galaxy are going anywhere anytime soon. Having rocketed to the top of the domestic box office (and still climbing) in just one month of release, there's no arguing that Marvel Studios has yet another bona fide hit on their hands, but does the product really befit the hype?
Even if not, one can only congratulate Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige and director James Gunn (Slither) on their success. Unlike the reliably profitable Avengers universe that oils their movie-making machinery, Guardians of the Galaxy was a more commercially risky project, mining the farthest reaches of space for characters that would have anyone but comic book buffs scratching their heads.

Characters like, for instance, our roguish antihero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, best known for playing lovable man-child Andy on Parks and Rec). He's a Han-Solo-esque artifact thief who is so esoteric that even characters in his own movie have never heard of him! “Who?” asks a befuddled Djimon Hounsou when Quill introduces himself under his self-proclaimed alias, Star-Lord.

Morsels of meta-humour like that one can't help but make us smile, and most of the jokes that pepper the script by Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman are funny, although some of the cultural allusions feel out of place in outer space. Quill was, after all, abducted and adopted by alien junkers when he was only a boy, making it hard to believe he'd remember much about Jackson Pollock or Kevin Bacon after 20 years away from Earth, however witty his one-liners about them are.

But his charm, quick-thinking, and good luck eventually fail him. After getting busted for pilfering a mysterious orb and thrown in a celestial slammer, Quill is forced to team up with a ragtag group of inmates in order to escape and sell his stolen cargo. His new, untrusting allies include: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a no-nonsense, green-skinned assassin; Drax the Destroyer (David Bautista), an alien strongman with a blood vendetta; Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a lippy bounty hunter who just so happens to be a raccoon; and Groot (Vin Diesel), a walking talking tree creature whose linguistics are limited to the phrase “I am Groot”.
Unbeknownst to Quill and company, this McGuffin of an orb they're trying to unload is more than meets the eye, and has particularly attracted the attention of the murderous war-monger Ronan (Lee Pace) who would use its hidden power to achieve galactic domination. That means it's up to our reluctant band of “guardians” to collectively put the galaxy's needs ahead of their own for a change.

From a synopsis alone, it's not hard at all to see why Guardians of the Galaxy is so popular. One need only look to another massively popular sci-fi blockbuster from the summer of '77. Indeed, it's impossible not to detect the Star Wars DNA that courses through this film's alien tree veins. You've got the group of misfits who can't stand each other being forced into heroism, you've got high-speed adventure on spaceships, dramatic laser battles, bizarre extra-terrestrial species (makeup designer David White clearly had a heyday), spectacular special effects (with special mention to the animators at Framestore and MPC for bringing Rocket and Groot to life), and of course it's all tied together with a wry sense of fun.
But even this solid imitation has some difficulty juggling its various tones, sometimes foisting comic relief onto scenes where one would hope they'd take their foot off the comedic thrusters, or turn the volume down on the nostalgic soundtrack (however awesome a mix tape it may be). There are even logical nits to pick that shouldn't be nearly as distracting as they are. Why does this blue alien speak with an accent that can be traced to very specific regions of the United States? Or, why does Drax – who has trouble wrapping his head around metaphors – misinterpret some turns of phrase, but not others?

It's best not to waste any of the brief run time over-thinking such things, lest you miss the point. Guardians of the Galaxy is good, simple fun, even when the fun makes little sense.

**1/2 out of ****

1 comment:

  1. I loved this film. Like Pacific Rim last year, was just too much fun and had me feeling like a little kid again, same with another Chris Pratt film this year, The LEGO Movie. But yeah, Guardians is great. Excellent review as always.

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