Sunday, August 03, 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

The original GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY comic book--the ONLY one for several years!--was a favorite of mine when I was a kid. As I'm sure you've heard, the big summer movie of that name has nothing whatsoever in common with that comic book or its characters.

No, this one offers up a bunch of second string cosmic Marvel characters and ties it ever so vaguely to the continuity established by the other recent Marvel movies. It was preceded by some amazingly entertaining trailers that successfully created enough buzz that people who had no earthly idea who these characters were nonetheless wanted to see this movie.

And it's a good one. NOT, let me quickly add, a GREAT one.

What's right with it? For the most part, after a downer beginning, the whole film is a roller coaster ride--loud and colorful with a "safe" sense of excitement. You know it's all been done before but you relish the fact that you're along for the ride this time.

The plot is a standard one. The bad guys are out to get a McGuffin and a bunch of misfits come together to prevent that from happening and redeem themselves in the process. In this case, said McGuffin is an infinity gem, similar to other all-powerful objects we've already seen in AVENGERS and THOR: THE DARK WORLD. Foreshadowing? Thanos, who cameoed at the end of AVENGERS, cameos here as well, but the Big Bad is Kirby's Kree strongman, Ronan, the Accuser.

The heroes are: Peter Quill, Starlord, who had his own black and white magazine series originally in the seventies; Gamora, co-star of Jim Starlin's WARLOCK series; Bill Mantlo's  Rocket Raccoon (who started as a joke and ended up in his own series), Jack Kirby's Monster-era living tree, Groot, and Starlin's Drax, the Destroyer. None of them would be recognizable to old-time fans except Rocket...because how many talking raccoons does one see?

Also appearing is Marv Wolfman's Nova Corps concept and Jack Kirby's Celestials. And, of course, the long since spoiled but I'm not gonna say it here post-credits appearance by literally the LEAST likely Marvel character to appear on the big screen...again.

The performances are uniformly good all around and make for the most enjoyment even when the script becomes cliched--which is much of the time. Chris Pratt as Quill comes off best in a cast with no losers although one has to give special props to Groot's Vin Diesel who manages to more than make the most of his basic three words of dialogue. My absolute favorite though, is running villain Yondu, whose name is the ONLY thing taken from one of the original comics Guardians. He is definitely NOT that character, though, being instead a scene-chewing Southern-fried blue skinned, metal-headed baddie played with great gusto by Michael Rooker, finally giving him something to be known for other than his early success, HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.

What doesn't work? Well, the trailers promised a music-filled romp but, while the songs do play a major plot role, most are heard only for a few notes or a line or two if at all! Parts of the film have a much darker tone than the trailers, and with some unnecessarily adult language.

It really is pretty cliched all around. There's the escape from prison scene, the pep talk scene, the tricking the bad guys scene, the save the day scene. The entire ending seems to combine the recent CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER finale with the original STAR WARS (with Groot as Chewie I guess). There's even a revelation about Quill's father! EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, anyone? In between the one-liners and the good character bits, everyone just seems to be going through the motions and checking off which cliches they've finished with before moving on to the next one.

There are familiar faces throughout, everyone from John C. Reilly, Benecio Del Toro and Glenn Close to an unrecognizable Nathan Fillion and Josh Brolin (as Thanos). Cameos include the required by law Stan Lee but also Troma's Lloyd Kaufman (who had given director James Gunn his start, I'm told).

One person who is thoroughly and completely wasted here is Karen Gillan, late of TV's DOCTOR WHO. Known for her red hair, her comic timing and her Scottish accent, here she's bald, unrecognizably blue and speaks deadpan metallic lines without any discernible accent. Seriously. What was the point of hiring her then?

All in all, an enjoyable couple of hours but not the belt it out of the park home run of a picture I was led to expect by the trailers. If ever there was proof that trailer-making is a whole separate art form unto itself!


  1. "He is definitely NOT that character, though, being instead a scene-chewing Southern-fried blue skinned, metal-headed baddie played with great gusto by Michael Rooker, finally giving him something to be known for other than his early success, HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER."

    Really? Approximately 15 people saw Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer. But millions of people know Michael Rooker from his role as Merle Dixon on The Walking Dead. That's what he's known for.

  2. Really? Could be. Never seen an episode myself but I'd also never heard of him being on it until you mentioned it. Good for him!

  3. OK, we got a ragtag team of rebels who bicker, but must band together to fight a force much more powerful than themselves. I will give you it's a retelling of the Star Wars story, but it's probably the best retelling of the Star Wars story since Empire Strikes Back.

    I just thought the action sequences were stupendous. We got to hear 70s standards in a whole new way, and they even acknowledged their homages (theft) by giving credit to the Maltese Falcon and the Ark of the Covenant.

    I never read the books, so I didn't have that to hold back my enjoyment, but me and my 6-year-old both had a great time at the movies.

  4. I was underwhelmed but as per the poster above, a little boy 2 seats from me announced "That was awesome!". (Even though I think the language and violence wasn't appropriate for 5/6 year olds).

    Yondu does share one other attribute with the original however- his Yaka-metal arrow, controlled by whistling. An idea of Drake's or Colan? Who knows?