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Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

What She said:

She

Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest offering from Marvel Studios.  Yes, the same people who brought you Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers are back with a film that falls into a slightly different category.  This isn’t your standard superhero faire.  Instead, Guardians of the Galaxy is more of a fantasy, action/adventure comedy with a little bit of a space soap opera element.  Some have compared this film to Star Wars, with larger-than-life characters, multiple other-worldly settings, and a protagonist who is just trying to get by. 

The movie opens in a way you may not expect.  The year is 1988, and a young Peter Quill is at the hospital visiting his ailing mother who is on her death bed.  Overcome with emotion, he races out of the hospital and is abducted by a bunch of aliens called the Ravagers.  The Ravagers are kind of the lowest of the low in the universe.  They are space pirates and mercenaries who will do pretty much anything for a buck.  Quill is raised by these hooligans and as we flash forward to present day, we learn that the 30-something gent has taken on some of their less ideal qualities.  He’s a scoundrel who wills steal and pillage without qualms.

The adult Quill steals an orb, but quickly learns that this treasured item is not worth the heaps of trouble he now finds himself in.  The theft has left him with a bounty on his head by former father figure Yondu, and he’s made his way on to the radar of a fanatical leader of the Kree, Ronan.  Ronan is absolutely nuts.  He’s a follower of the quite powerful Thanos, but he’s also a bit of a rebel, driven by his own emotion and obsession with power, instead of logic or the greater good.  He sends a trained assassin, Gamora, also Thanos’ adopted daughter, after Quill to retrieve the orb.  In the meantime, a couple of bounty hunters, including a genetically engineered raccoon named Rocket and some sort of super-strong plant-being, Groot, are also after Quill.  They just want the cash payout from bringing in Quill and the orb. 

So, Quill, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot all find themselves at an impasse.  Quill is smarter than he seems.  Gamora has her own motivations for finding the orb (counter to those of Ronan), and Rocket and Groot just want some money.  With the promise of an even larger payout looming if they band together, the group decides to team up and get the orb to Gamora’s alternate buyer.  But along the way they encounter many hazards and have to overcome a slew of challenges.  They also learn that in this Wild West-like cosmos, no one can be trusted.  Before they know it, the team, with the addition of hothead jailbird Drax, find themselves in the unlikely position of holding the future of the universe in their hands.  They literally are the only ones standing between Ronan and the destruction of the planet Xandar.  It’s a little bit more than Quill and crew had initially bargained for.

Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s safe to say that Guardians of the Galaxy sort of feels like a space-western.  The movie successfully blends elements of action, comedy, and fantasy into 122 minutes that pass by fairly painlessly.  This film feels pretty contrary to the other Marvel films of late—a little less heavy—but it certainly has a heart.  Quill’s backstory is somewhat heartbreaking, and it’s easy to see why he has turned into the person that he is as a grown man.  The movie makes a point of presenting Quill’s character as someone burdened by his past, and still heavily connected to that childhood.  In fact, Quill seems pretty hip because he carries around an old Sony Walkman and a mix tape of oldies songs, but the reality is that the reason he does this is because he’s truly unable to let go of the past.  He also keeps a gift that his mother gave him shortly before her death, unopened and still wrapped all these years later.

So there’s definitely a bit of darkness there.  In fact, all of our characters in this movie do have some baggage.  Gamora has adoptive daddy issues and is rebelling from Thanos.  Rocket is in a serious identity crisis, dragged down by the fact that people constantly make light of the fact that he’s a raccoon, even if he is genetically modified to be intelligent.  And Drax cannot rest until he avenges the death of his wife and child, even if that means he should die as well.  So yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy does have a degree of depth to it.  But it also has a little less muscle than your typical superhero film.

I was initially unsure of, but was altogether pleased with the cast of this film.  I had only seen the somewhat goofy Chris Pratt in some off-hand episodes of Parks and Recreation on TV, and so I had no idea if he had the acting creds or the versatility to handle the role of Quill.  But Quill is sort of like a big kid, and Pratt seemed to embrace the role.  I also was not convinced going in that the skinny-mini Zoe Saldana could play a character that relies so heavily on her physical prowess.  However, it does appear as though she bulked up a little and endured adequate training to handle the action scenes and come across on screen as a baddie assassin.  And then we’ve got Dave Bautista aka WWE star Bautista taking on the role of Drax.  I’m always scared when someone from the WWE universe tries to take on a more challenging mainstream acting role.  Bautista was, for the most part, solid.  There were a few moments where I could see some of his inexperience in his verbal delivery of lines.  But overall, he was pretty good, and provided a little bit more than just muscle.  Of course, someone has to voice the CGI raccoon, and that individual turned out to be Bradley Cooper.  I didn’t really think he’d have an issue with the part.  In fact, two things stood out about Rocket to me—1.) I kept forgetting that he was being voiced by Cooper, who essentially sounded like a different person and 2.) I also kept forgetting that he was animated, and not actually physically present for the filming.  These are both good things, I assure you!  I should mention that Vin Diesel voiced the character of Groot, also CGI.  I cannot say too much about this role really challenging Diesel because the character is only capable of saying three words, “I am Groot.”

Visually, the film was quite good.  The makeup for so many of the alien characters was amazing, and the special effects were believable.  All of this is to be expected with a film operating under a Marvel-level budget.  I would be disappointed if I saw otherwise.  The movie’s plot had a few moments where it was somewhat jumbled, but I was able to stay relatively on track from start to finish.  I enjoyed its mix of action, comedy, and sentiment, and think the final product was a nice entry to the summer viewing season.  There seem to be so many mindless action movies out there right now.  This one is a little bit more well-rounded.  It’s a multi-purpose film that fills many roles.  However, I would not be too quick to take your young children to this movie.  It has enough foul language and adult jokes that it’s much more appropriate for teens and up.

A very solid movie that was fun to watch.

Thumbs up.

Guardians of the Galaxy

What He said:

He

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is an average kid…that is until aliens abduct him and bring him into deep space, where he spends the next 26 years. During that time he lives and works with a group of space pirates and learns the art of savaging.

His most recent mission is to retrieve a mysterious artifact. It is an orb that is said to have great power. He’s not the only one after this enigmatic orb. While retrieving it, he is attacked by an alien named Korath (Djimon Hounsou). Korath is a member of the Kree race and his master is some whackjob named Ronan.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Ronan (Lee Pace) is a fanatical outcast of his people. His people were at war with the planet Xandar, which consists of many different races, but seems to have had a common enemy in the Kree folk. The Kree and people of Xander signed a peace treaty and that did not make Ronan happy. In fact, he refuses to accept the terms of the treaty and has waged a personal war on Xandar and the people who guard it, the Nova Corps. He leads a small army in a quest to destroy Xandar and this orb plays a part in that.

Ronan is trying to retrieve the orb for an old and powerful being named Thanos. Thanos (Josh Brolin) promises to destroy Xandar for Ronan in return for retrieving the orb for him. Thanos made his first appearance at the end of The Avengers and is said to play a role in the series final chapter. I’m a little concerned about that, but more on that later.
The problem for both Thanos and Rona is that Quill (AKA Starlord) gets it first. The problem for Quill is that he was doing this on his own, without the knowledge of his fellow scavengers. As a result, being pirates and all, they want him dead for betraying them. The pirates are led by an alien named Yondu (Michael Rooker). Yondu puts out a bounty for Quill because of his betrayal. A lot of people want Quill dead.

This leads to Rocket (a walking talking raccoon) and his muscle Groot (a walking talking tree) to pursue him. They are bounty hunters and looking to score some money. A gal named Gamora, who is the adopted daughter of Thanos, and is currently working for Ronan, is also sent after Quill. The four of them meet on Xandar and a chase ensues. They all end up getting caught by the Nova Corps and sent to a prison. There, they meet an angry fella named Drax (Dave Bautista). Drax is an alien who has sworn to seek revenge against Ronan for the death of his family. During the course of his war, Ronan killed Drax’s wife and daughter. After some early “disagreements” they decide to form an alliance so that they can escape the prison, retrieve the orb, get it as far away from Ronan and Thanos as possible, and maybe even kill Ronan in the process (this mostly stems from Drax and Gamora; who secretly hates her stepfather and Ronan).

Guardians of the Galaxy

Over the course of the movie they have to avoid Ronan’s army, Yondu’s men, and the Nova Corps. When Ronan gets too hot on their tail, they turn to the latter two for help, but being that Quill betrayed one group and the other considers them nothing but criminals, it’s uncertain how they will respond. They also don’t trust each other. Gamora thinks Quill is nothing more than a dishonorable thief (but also thinks he’s hot in the way Leia does Han), Rocket and Groot were trying to turn Quill over to the authorities for money a few hours earlier, and Drax hates just about everyone. So, it’s safe to say our heroes have trust issues.

I had to mull this one over for a while and I will tell you why. It wasn’t because I disliked the movie. It was because I found the villains to be totally forgettable. I didn’t think the performances were bad, I just found them to be extremely bland characters. Ronan and Nebula (another one of Thanos’ daughters working for Ronan) were as boring as they get. No charisma, no interesting backstory, not a thing about them that was special.

The other thing that bothered me was that a couple of the action scenes were a little ho-hum. It wasn’t Man of Steel bad or anything, and it wasn’t a lot of the scenes, but it was enough that I was twiddling my thumbs a few times.

That being said, I found this movie to be quite enjoyable. It was very funny, had a surprising amount of heart, all of the Guardians were likeable, and was an all-around entertaining movie.

Chris Pratt’s character was cracking jokes left and right with a Han Soloesque charm. The guy starts out as little more than an opportunistic thief, but remains quite likeable; especially as he makes that turn from scoundrel to hero. I was concerned that being the only female led Zoe Saldana might get left out a bit, but she was busting Pratt’s balls the entire movie and it was hilarious. When he was hitting on her and she said something about resisting his “pelvic magic” I absolutely lost it. Dave Bautista really surprised me with the humor as well. As the she mentioned, his lack of acting experience was a little obvious at times, but he was also hilarious in the “I want to kill you, but speak like something out of the middle ages” kind of way. Rocket and Groot were also a wonderful dynamic duo. Rocket does most of the talking – Groot only knows three words – but his demeanor and facial expressions were a wonderful contrast to Rocket and his Napoleon-like personality. Pratt was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. But the odd couple nature of Rocket and Groot – and how well it worked – was a pleasant surprise.

Speaking of Rocket and Groot, the camaraderie between the two characters had a surprising amount of heart. Rocket is cocky and loud, but don’t let that fool you. The character has a big heart. And speaking of heart, I can’t believe how much emotion they were able to portray with Groot. He only knows three words for God’s sake, but he’s so loveable to be totally honest. Groot can  lay the smack down when he wants to, but most of the time he is a big softy. This accomplishment is all the more impressive, because they are both animated characters! Kudos to Bradley Cooper (voiced of Rocket), Vin Diesel (voice of Groot), and the actors (in Groot’s case) and animators (in Rocket’s case) who brought the two characters to life. There was some impressive work going on here.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt’s character also had a surprisingly sad backstory. Dave Bautista’s did too, but we didn’t see it, so it’s harder to identify. We saw Pratt’s character’s backstory in greater detail and the effect was surprisingly touching; especially when you consider the fact that this movie has a talking tree and raccoon. I really didn’t expect that much heart out of a movie with some frankly silly stuff going on. The movie starts off with Pratt’s character going through some tough stuff and that theme is present – and executed well – throughout the entire movie.

Yondu, I almost forgot about Yondu. My review is already long enough, but I just have to say Michael Rooker was awesome. Yondu isn't a good guy or a bad guy, he's Yondu. He's a space pirate. He will do anything for money if the price is right. He's also not a total maniac like Ronan, so he'll take up arms for the cause if he has to. Just don't expect him to stick around.

The movie was fun too. I mentioned there were a few boring action scenes, but most of it was fun. You’ve got a raccoon with giant guns shooting up the joint left and right, a giant walking tree mowing through bad guys like bugs, fisticuffs, fire fights, space battles, colorful costumes, a variety of creatures, and other-worldly environments. It was a good old-fashioned adventure film in space.

I also really liked the whole rag tag group of individuals thrown together for a common cause approach to telling the story. It’s nothing new, and used in fantasy (like knights and wizards) all the time, but when done well, you don’t even care that it’s not original. And in this movie it is done well. These characters are bickering – and even at each other’s throats when they first meet – but they eventually become a family. It feels very natural. The cast has great chemistry.

So despite a few things that bothered me – the villain thing was a biggie – this movie was able to overcome its weaknesses and yield a pretty damn entertaining product.   I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie. These are not mainstream heroes, there’s some downright silly things in this movie, but it embraces it. This movie prides itself on being light, fun, and goofy.

I am a little concerned that the build up with the Thanos character could lead to a disappointing showing or that they are simply going to make him so powerful, that you wonder why he didn't get more involved to begin with. But I can't predict the future, so I have to wait and see.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on August 13, 2014.

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