Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

If anything, the fact that this movie even exists shows how invincible Marvel feels they are now.  Here we have a film made up of superheroes who even hardcore comic book fans are unfamiliar with, built to be a colorful comedic affair over the grim n' gritty stylings of Man of Steel or The Dark Knight Rises, and given a budget rivaling some of the most expensive summer blockbusters.  While Warner Bros. is too terrified to come out of their shell and make a solo Wonder Woman movie, Marvel Studios is giving us a movie about a gun-wielding talking raccoon and his living tree sidekick going on adventures in space.  Let me repeat that:  Warner Bros. won't give one of their Holy Trinity of superheroes her own solo film while at the same time Marvel is making a film that, in concept, sounds like something a kindergartner would draw.  This.  Is.  Insane.
Ranting aside, Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of  a ragtag group of space-faring rogues who come together after they're thrown in prison.  The main character is Peter Quill, a man who was abducted by aliens as a boy and has been trying to be a legendary space outlaw (dubbed Star Lord by himself) ever since.  While in prison, he meets a beautiful 'living weapon' named Gamora, a super strong tattooed alien named Drax, a talking gun-crazy talking raccoon named Rocket and his walking tree sidekick Groot.  The group at first wishes to obtain a mysterious sphere and sell it for an insanely large bounty, but quickly decide against it when they find out that it is actually a super weapon planned to be used by an alien zealot to destroy a populated planet.

Let's get the problems out of the way right away.  The plot is pretty bare bones.  It's not bad, but it's not going to be winning any awards for originality any time soon. Ronan the Accuser, the main villain, just seems like a generic lackey to Thanos and his motivations (while clearly explained) for destroying the planet Xandar could easily be mistaken for "evil for the sake of evil".

However, despite these flaws, I found the film to be better than The Avengers.  Yeah, I said it.

The bare-bones plot is almost entirely hidden by hilarious characters.  Rocket and Groot are hilarious right off the bat and Peter Quill truly feels like .  However, the show stealer is Drax, who comes from an alien race that takes everything literally.  This leads to numerous confusions involving metaphors and figures of speech, which would be lame in the hands of a lesser writer, but come off quite funny here.  Another show stealer in this movie is Doctor Who's own Karen Gillam, who plays Thanos's daughter Nebula.  Playing a dangerous alien warrior (essentially the mini-boss to Ronan the Accuser's end boss),  Karen shows an acting talent that surprised me (having only really seen her in Doctor Who) and I look forward to anything else she might be in after this film.

The visuals are also fantastic, using a wonderful combination of CGI and special effects makeup.  Rocket Raccoon and Groot both fit in amongst the 'real' actors and actresses almost seamlessly, and both major and minor aliens have gorgeous makeup effects.  The sets are also very well done, being very distinct and interesting in design.  My favorite area was Knowhere, a space colony built inside the skull of a long dead Celestial.  It all just looked cool and colorful, which is a wonderful change from a lot of summer blockbusters (such as the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film or last year's Man of Steel.)

Guardians of the Galaxy is what a summer movie should feel like:  loud, colorful and fun.  While it is certainly not perfect (no film truly is), it is highly enjoyable and easily one of my favorite films I've seen this year.  It understands that these characters are relatively unknown and manages to make them as unforgettable and lovable as any one of the Avengers.  Topped off with great special effects, awesome fight scenes and a post-credits scene that will blow the minds of even the most hardened of Marvel fans, Guardians is a movie that would be foolish for you to miss.

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