Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Very Special Review of "Guardians of the Galaxy

Tonight, you folks are in for treat.

I saw "Guardians of the Galaxy" today, and I am ready and rabid to discuss my reaction to it. But why just limit this discussion to one voice? For the first time on this blog, you will be getting two perspectives on the highly-anticipated Marvel movie. 

My good friend Hunter Kelly has been a buddy and fellow movie nerd of mine since high school. We used to discuss film all day long at school and he has been a strong advocate when it came to this blog. So much so that I had to get his opinion on here sooner or later. I like the idea of sharing different perspectives on a film on this blog, and I like providing different opinions on one movie. I think it will enrich the outlook of a movie and it will give you multiple voices to read. Though for this particular movie, I think you'll hear a little much of the same, but who says we can't agree?

From my good friend Hunter Kelly: A Review of Guardians of the Galaxy:

After more than 2 years of waiting for this movie, on August 1st Guardians of the Galaxy was FINALLY released. As of this weekend GOTG WAS Marvels riskiest film to date. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. After a 90 million dollar domestic opening with a cumulative sum of 160 million worldwide, Guardians is a smash hit! I myself had to delay gratification and see it on Friday night as instead of an early preview on Thursday. As for my thoughts on the movie, James Gunn's first attempt at big blockbusters films was a massive success. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it didn't quite hold it in as high regard as a movie such as Captain America The Winter Soldier, GOTG has earned it's spot in the highest ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If I had to put a number on it I would say that Guardians is number 4 out of the 10 movies released thus far. The only movies I feel like are better than Guardians are 1) Captain America The Winter Soldier, 2) The Avengers, and 3) Iron Man. But let's get to the meat of this. Guardians starts out where we first encounter Peter "Star Lord" Quill as a young boy on Terra, or Earth as we call it. Quill is devastated by the passing of his mother and is soon after taken from Earth. We then jump to 26 years later where Quill aka Star Lord is now an Indiana Jones type outlaw, in search of a mysterious orb, the big McGuffin of Guardians. After a daring escape Quill soon finds himself the target of 2 mercenaries, an alien raccoon by the name of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, who is the man) and the adopted step daughter of the mad Titan Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Now for those unaware Thanos is the main villain that ALL of the Marvel movies have been building towards since the post credit scene at the end of the Avengers. After a scuffle on the Nova Corps home world of Xandar, Rocket, Groot, Quill and Gamora are sentenced to the Kyln, a space prison that houses the galaxy's worst. It is there that the 4 misfits must team with a maniacal maniac named Drax, whose sole purpose on life is to kill Ronan, the villain of the movie. Ronan, a Kree extremist, is tasked by Thanos to retrieve the orb and bring it to him, in return Thanos will destroy Xandar. The 5 criminals must team together to escape prison and save the galaxy. And they do, in awesome fashion. I don't want to spoil the movie but the standout of the movie is Rocket Raccoon. Initially I was hesitant about the casting of Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket but I can now sleep easy knowing Cooper was phenomenal. I now fully believe Cooper was cast perfectly. With only 3 words in his vocabulary Vin Diesel was AWESOME as Groot. I now honestly believe Vin Diesel is the only person that could play Groot. Dave Bautista was hysterical as Drax and Zoe Saldana did her thing as Gamora. Chris Pratt was the PERFECT Star Lord. His portrayal was hilarious and heart felt. I know Chris Pratt is now worthy of being a leading man. Overall GOTG was heartfelt, funny and action packed. The best blockbuster of the summer.

Much appreciated Hunter, now my turn!

At this point, you are probably sick of hearing about Marvel’s success. You are probably thinking I am a broken record, and that I can only say that Marvel can do no wrong. I will not apologize for what I am about to say. It is not my fault that the artists in Hollywood are finally treating these characters with respect. Let us not forget that there was a time when these characters were not treated with the respect they deserve. They were mere devices for the studios to get rich quick. Look back at “Daredevil,” “Hulk,” “Elektra,” “Fantastic Four,” “Ghost Rider,” “Spiderman 3,” “Superman Returns” or “Punisher: War Zone.” The superhero and comic book genre was a joke. Then around 2008, artists were determined to make these characters matter, and audiences have been reaping the rewards ever since. Sure, we get a “Green Lantern” every once in awhile and some work better than others, but as a comic fan, you don’t know how good it feels to live in an era of great comic book cinema. That tradition is not going to end with “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

I don’t think I can say that “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the best Marvel movie, but one thing is for sure, it is the most fun, most charming and most sincere of the Marvel movies. I can also say that it is one of the coolest science fiction films to be released in the last five or so years. It is a movie full of colorful planets and even more colorful characters. There is also plenty of awesome hardware that will make any science fiction geek smile like the Cheshire Cat. What surprised me the most was that even though there is barely a sapien face in the whole movie, it is definitely the most human Marvel movie made so far.

The film as a whole may revolve around a group of criminals who become heroes, but the cast is compelled to make this movie matter. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Michael Rooker, Benicio del Toro and Glenn Close maybe the most random cast assembled for any movie, but I think that helps more than it hurts. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is a magnificent lead and Pratt brings an uncanny talent to the role. Quill is not just some charming rogue we usually see in science fiction, he’s a man who was mysteriously abducted as a young boy on the night his mom succumbed to cancer. The opening sequence of the film is gut-wrenching, and director James Gunn does an expert job of drawing the audience in immediately.

We meet Pratt as an adult Peter Quill and he is now going by Star-Lord. He is out trying to retrieve a mysterious orb which will put him on a collision course toward Rocket (Bradley Cooper); a raccoon who was the product of a strange experiment, Groot (Vin Diesel); Rocket’s muscle, Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista); a guy who has a bone to pick with the film’s Big Bad and Gamora (Zoe Saldana); the daughter of a galactic warlord who is not who she seems. This colorful group also bumps heads with the film’s Big Bad, named Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace), who wants the orb for his own sinister plans. Saldana has recently become the go-to gal for science fiction and she once again delivers a great, action performance. I think Drax is the best performance by Bautista to date and I was woefully impressed by Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper who created memorable characters by mere voice work. Even though we are looking at a screen full of aliens, they become completely human by the end of the picture and the audience will have a hard time not identifying with them. My greatest love of this film is that I don’t have a favorite character and the cast seems compelled to steal each scene from each other.

I also really liked the work by Rooker, Reilly and Close. Rooker plays Yondu, who was the one who abducted Quill as a child. The hammy quality of the character matches Rooker’s persona perfectly. Close and Reilly play members of the Nova Corps, a quasi-galactic police force, and both actors shine in their small screen-time. The only character I don’t think works is Ronan. I like Lee Pace but I don’t think Ronan is particularly well-written. Neither is his second-in-command Nebula (Karen Gillan), they both seem very lifeless as villains. Ronan is the bad guy that only spouts out one-liners and looks badass, Nebula is no different. I love the way Pace and Gillan both disappear into their roles, I just wish they were given more to do, out of all the villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these two have the least personality.

I also think “Guardians of the Galaxy” could have benefited from being a stand-alone adventure. There are a couple of moments when this movie stops to remind us that this is a Marvel movie. Under the surface, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a massive set piece that will bring the franchise closer to “Avengers 3.” While I like that this group will come into contact with The Avengers sometime in the future, I am not sure it is fully needed in this movie. I don’t see the need to stop and say “Hey, you will see this later in another Marvel movie!” One thing that distracted me from all the Phase One films was the constant need to remind the audience that Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk would all be teaming up in one big movie in 2012. So far in Phase Two, the need to be tongue-in-cheek has not come up much, except here. I wouldn’t say it derails the movie but it can be distracting.

These are all minor nit-picks. These small grievances couldn't stop me from laughing at the small bits of humor laced in the film. They couldn't stop me from noticing how charming Groot was, even though he only said a total of five words. Nothing could stop me from enjoying the action, the fun and the spectacle of it all. Oh, and the music choices in this film? Spot on, a very nice touch.

Yes, there is a post-credit scene at the end, and it is not what you think it is. I am sure I could say that about all the post-credit scenes in these Marvel Cinematic movies, but I really mean it this time. After each of these films, I feel that Disney and Marvel can’t possibly make things more ambitious, and every time I sit down to watch another movie, I am wrong. I already know that some people are completely befuddled by the post-credit scene, but I say there is nothing to fear. We are beginning to see just how far Kevin Fiege is planning to go, we are seeing just how ambitious he is and how he plans to explore every corner of the Marvel Universe that he possibly can. This is a great time to be a fan of this stuff and it used to be so much worse. So instead of getting mad at me for loving nearly every comic book film that comes out, sit back and enjoy the ride. Who knows when this streak will end, love it while it lasts.

Once again, thanks Hunter for your contribution to the blog. What did the rest of you think about "Guardians of the Galaxy?"

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