Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

So far, every Marvel movie has received a ton of critical praise and it seems like there can be no fault in the movie studio juggernaut. However, most of the Marvel Phase 2 movies have actually been fairly mixed in terms of their reception. Iron Man 3 was loved by some and hated passionately by just as many people. Thor: The Dark World was good, but generally seen as one of the weaker movies in the franchise. Even Captain America: The Winter Soldier fell prey to a ton of hype and while it was a good movie, it's not the best Marvel movie made according to a large amount of Marvel film fans. So now we have Guardians of the Galaxy, which is trying to bite the bullet and give us a formal introduction to Marvel's version of deep space, a part of the Marvel universe that is mindboggling even to comic fans. I guess what I can say is that even though there's a lot going against this movie, Guardians of the Galaxy pulls through in spades. This is the summer blockbuster to beat.

As a young boy, Peter Quill lost his mother, his father, and was abducted by a crew of space bounty hunters. Now as an adult, he works as essentially a treasure hunter for hire and was commissioned to find a mystic orb and give it to his buyer. However, the orb has a deadly secret behind it and is sought after by Ronan the Accuser, a powerful warlord that directly works under Thanos, the strongest being in the universe. So Peter Quill eventually teams up with Gamorra, a daughter of Thanos that wants revenge on him, Drax the Destroyer, a man who wants revenge on Ronan for killing his family, Rocket Raccoon, an intelligent raccoon played by Bradley Cooper, and Groot, a tall tree man that can only say the words "I am Groot". These five must band together to discover the secret of the orb, defeat Ronan, save the galaxy, and make some money along the way.

What's tricky about making a Sci-fi movie of this caliber is that Marvel is notorious for making its galactic characters and its galactic continuity VERY dense and hard to follow. Character change allegiances on a damn, there's a plethora of planets with opposing ideologies, and all of them are convoluted to the nth degree. In Guardians, everything is simplified to its basic components. In fact, most of the dense continuity is outright ignored and not even touched upon. Ronan himself is a member of a race called the Kree, and trying to explain what the Kree are would talk an eternity. The Kree are only shown for one scene, and even then their presence is barely explained, but that is a strength of the movie. It doesn't try to load the viewer down with massive amounts of continuity. It gives across the basic motivations of people and ignores all of the nuances that they've accumulated over the span of several decades, making something that would come across as challenging to comprehend much easier to follow.

The fate of the universe rests in these five. They're screwed.
Stepping away from all of the continuity and history with the comics, how does the movie stand on its own? Well for one, it's funny as all hell. From the very beginning, after a morose opening, the movie literally dances to its amazing soundtrack and just has a grand old time. Quill dances around and sets the tone that "We're gonna have a good time with this", and indeed the audience does. Rocket gets drunk, one liners are spouted, quotes are uttered, and people get destroyed with glee. It's been a while since a movie tried to be this fun, which makes it much funnier than any other comedy that I've seen this year so far. It just wants to put a big grin on your face and keep it there.

Most of those grins come from the dynamic duo of Rocket Raccoon and Groot though. These two absolutely steal the show from everyone else. Actually, they don't steal the show from everyone. They reenact the closing scene of Inglorious Basterds on everyone, burning down the whole show and killing everyone in it. They're that awesome. From great lines like "You're making me kick grass!" to "For this plan to work, we need to steal this guy's eye", Rocket Raccoon and Groot will forever be remembered as being some of the best characters to come out of the whole MCU. In fact, Groot is even more badass than Hulk was when he threw Loki around in The Avengers. Groot makes Hulk look like a puny god.

Unlike with Winter Soldier, the reason why I don't want to give too much away is because this is a movie that has its best moments in its characters interacting with each other. I can give the plot away if I wanted to since at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. This is a movie that is good based on the sum of its parts. Every scene is well written and well acted and it made me split my sides with how funny it was. I can actually kind of see this movie as a much more successful Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. It's a movie that is designed to have a strong cult following and has enough fun with itself to please all audiences. If you're a fan of Scott Pilgrim, this movie is going to be perfect for you.

This movie also has something that I'm sure a ton of Marvel fans will die to see though. For the very first time in the MCU, we get a full scene featuring Thanos and we finally get to see a full body shot of him. To say that Thanos is a presence is disrespecting the big man himself. Thanos is one of the most feared and powerful comic characters ever created, and just seeing him sit in his chair is enough to make even the staunchest of cynics pee their pants just a little. Seeing him justified the two year wait from seeing him after The Avengers and makes it all the more real that he's going to be a genuine threat incredibly soon, and this movie only goes to prove even more that The Avengers 3 will center around the Infinity Gauntlet, and that story is truly sight to behold.

Getting back on track though, if I could have a single gripe with this film, it's that its villains never feel fully developed. Yes Ronan is fearsome and strong, but I never saw him as anything more than a stock villain, as someone to give the Guardians someone to fight against. He's almost like Electro in Amazing Spider-Man 2; he's exists to give the movie conflict, even though he technically doesn't have to be in the movie. However, unlike Amazing Spider-Man 2, the set up in Guardians of the Galaxy is worth the creation of the film. We get more details about the overall MCU, we see what Thanos is up to, and we even get some nods to future events that will be coming very shortly. Plus, it establishes a new part of the MCU that didn't need to exist, but now is very crucial to the franchise and it houses some its most enjoyable characters. But yeah, most of the villains are very stock and have no discernible personality other than being evil for the sake of evil.

Even then, I'm not too bothered by the lack of developed villains because our main characters are so well developed. All five of our protagonists have clear motivations, backstories, scenes, and identities. We can relate to them and what they've gone through, and we always support them no matter what they do. They're just a lovable ragtag group of misfits. Everyone loves the lovable ragtag group of misfits.

I wonder what's inside the orb?
I want to say that this was one of my biggest surprises for the summer, but I'm not surprised at all that this movie is good. In fact, I expected it to be just as good as it is. It's a glorious sci-fi action movie with a lot of heart and soul to it. The movie's soundtrack is a love letter to the 80's, and that's what this movie feels like. It feels like a modern sci-fi movie in the same fashion as Flash Gordon. It has a great time with itself and never takes itself too seriously. This is the movie after all where "Hooked on a Feeling" is the movie's main theme song. It's never stupid though, which makes it even better watch. It never feels like it goes for the low hanging fruit to get a reaction. Everything is carefully constructed and planned to set its best foot forward.
If you couldn't tell by now, I loved this movie. Hell, I went to see it the day before it released. This was a movie that made me see it before its launch day, and that is not an easy task to do. There are only a few movies that I will go see on the day that it releases, and this is one of those few movies. And just as a heads up, this will not be one of those cases where I take back my score about this movie a few months down the road. I've given this movie time to set, and I can clearly give this movie the score that it deserves.
Can we all get dancing Groots please? That kinda needs to be a thing.

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