Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of The Galaxy

Aside from the first IRON MAN, and THE AVENGERS, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY has been my most anticipated Marvel Studios movie. It's a bold, audacious move by Marvel to release a huge Summer action movie that stars a group of characters that almost no one outside of comic fandom has ever heard of...I can almost picture Marvel thumbing their nose at the Hollywood establishment and saying "We're big enough and rich enough to do whatever we want now!" So they went and made one of the most outright FUN movies I've ever had the pleasure of seeing.

 The film starts with a poignant scene that shows the Earthly origins of Peter Quill, A.K.A. "Star-Lord"; He's a young boy, waiting outside the hospital room of his dying mother, listening to her "Awesome Mix Tape 1" on his Walkman. After she passes, Peter runs outside the building in tears, where he is promptly abducted by a spaceship and whisked away to outer space.

 This is immediately followed by a scene that made it clear that I absolutely WOULD love this film. (This happens in every film that I've been anticipating for a long time: There will be a scene early on that will make or break the film. IRON MAN 3 had a scene that made me think they were going to fake us out with a faux-Mandarin, and I thought "I'm gonna hate this film....". And I did.) GUARDIANS has a great title sequence that features a now-grown Peter, 26 years later, dancing around in an ancient alien temple to Redbone's "Come and get your love"...and Director James Gunn had me in the palm of his hand.

 The maguffin of the film will be familiar to fans of the Marvel cinematic universe: It's another one of The Infinity Stones, which we've seen before in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, THOR, THE AVENGERS, and THOR: THE DARK WORLD.This particular stone is wanted by Ronan The Accuser, a genocidal Kree madman who wants to use the stone's power to wipe out the planet Xandar, home of The Nova Corps. Ronan, allied with Nebula and her "Father", Thanos (First seen in the mid-credits sequence in THE AVENGERS) is seeking the stone, and they're opposed by the rag-tag "Guardians of The Galaxy": Star-Lord, Rocket and Groot, Drax The Destroyer, and Gamora. The Guardians first band together out of greed (And the possibility of revenge), but soon take a turn into heroic territory when they realize that the stakes are higher than mere money.

 Tons of credit has to be given to co-writer/director James Gunn, who has delivered the most unabashedly fun film since THE AVENGERS. This is going to be one of those movies, like STAR WARS, GHOSTBUSTERS, and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, that young viewers are going to treasure growing up, and share with their children and grandchildren as THEY grow up. It's funny, action-packed, and emotional, the effects are amazing, the performances are perfect....this is a beautiful-LOOKING film, too. It's almost head-to-toe effects, but Gunn never loses the characters in the spectacle. Rocket and Groot steal the show, closely followed, surprisingly, by Dave Bautista as Drax, who has some of the best lines in the film. I remain unsold on Zoe Saldana, who is the weak link on the team, and in the film as a whole. Chris Pratt is perfect as Star-Lord, this generation's Indiana Jones; Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel nail it as Rocket and Groot, respectively. They're the best comedy duo since Abbot and Costello. Karen Gillan manages to make Nebula adorable and creepy at the same time, and Lee Pace does a great job making Ronan  a complete scumbag. We also get out first listen to Josh Brolin as the voice of Thanos (Not what I always heard in my head when reading about The Mad Titan, but not bad.) Benicio Del Toro appears again as The Collector (First seen during the credits of THOR: THE DARK WORLD), in a pivotal scene that pretty much lays bare the overarching background plot to all of the Marvel movies. (This scene is a "Buy it on Blu-Ray and freeze-frame it!" bonanza...I had a blast spotting all of the little cameos and Easter eggs in the background.) Glenn Close and John C. Reilly appear as Nova Corps members, and Seth Green has a cameo that had the audience howling. As with all Marvel movies, stay until after the credits. There's only one post-film scene, not the two that we've been getting for the past few Marvel films, but it's a good one. Try to avoid the spoilers until you see it for yourself.

 The 3-D was AMAZING, but that was at an IMAX showing. 3-D in regular theaters doesn't do much for me, so I usually only see 3-D films in IMAX, otherwise I don't bother.While IMAX 3-D always looks great, it really added a lot to this particular film, with it's bright colors and intricate backgrounds. You really can't go wrong with IMAX, especially since the added ticket price (It cost $32.00 for two tickets to a matinee on Fandango....) keeps the riff-raff out. I've never encountered frequent pissers, texters, talkers, or constant-phone-lookers at an IMAX showing. Those extra few bucks are like an insurance policy that fills the theater with people who REALLY WANT TO WATCH THE MOVIE. Everyone is quiet, respectful, and aware of the fact that they're not sitting in their living room. It's almost always sold-out, which means ***shudder*** people sitting next to me ***shudder***, but they're always cool at the IMAX shows. Fellow geeks geeking out over geeky movies. I had a blast.

 On the non-geek front, my wife laughed and cheered throughout, but pronounced the film "Too out-there" and "weird" to fully get behind. "I enjoyed it, but it was no AVENGERS." She loved Groot, found Rocket "creepy and funny", and wondered why we have to keep seeing "That purple guy" in all of these movies. (Two times is "all these movies"...?) She also took off for the bathroom as the credits started, and never came back, missing the last scene. I was aghast, but she didn't seem to care what she missed, until I told her what the scene was, and THEN she was sorry. Take THAT, dummy! I told you to pee BEFORE the film!

 She was right that GUARDIANS was no AVENGERS, but I have a feeling that a lot of what made THE AVENGERS so amazing was seeing all of these characters that we already knew from their individual films interacting. James Gunn managed to build a whole universe of possibilities in this film, and introduce us to a large cast of characters, and still deliver a film that's a solid 8 or 9 out of 10. (I rated THE AVENGERS a perfect 10.) I can't wait to watch this again with my five-year-old son, who will probably love it as much as his old geeky dad did. Highly, HIGHLY recommended.

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