Monday, August 4, 2014

WE ARE GROOT - The "Guardians of the Galaxy" review

2014 has been a really good year for Marvel fans, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 notwithstanding. This year we have been blessed with arguably the best Marvel Studios solo film to date (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), an X-Men film that managed to rejuvenate the entire franchise without simply rebooting everything (Days of Future Past, taking the Terminator approach to render the abomination that was X-Men: The Last Stand null and void), and a sci-fi action film that even gives The Avengers a run for its many fat stacks of money (Guardians of the Galaxy). It is Guardians that I intend to review today. 

My expression through pretty much the whole movie. 

First off, the poster’s tagline says it all: “You’re welcome.” True, nobody asked for this movie to be made, and odds are nobody even expected it to be made, but somehow … it happened. And somehow it managed to exceed any and all expectations to become the Star Wars of the 21st century. Director James Gunn, a goofball after Joss Whedon’s own heart, truly outdid himself.

Thank you. Thank you so much. 

Indeed, the film does borrow heavily from Star Wars, but only in the best possible ways. Rocket Raccoon and Groot (voiced very effectively by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel) are basically funny CGI versions of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill, a.k.a. “Star-Lord” (even if only to himself), who has the wonder and bravery of Luke Skywalker but none of the whininess. And Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the most dangerous woman in the universe due to her fighting ability and the fact that she is the adopted daughter of the intergalactic conqueror Thanos (Josh Brolin, who may have been miscast ... an excellent actor, but he didn't sell me on the character in his brief appearance), is a useful version of Princess Leia. 
Some critics expressed dissatisfaction with the casting of Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, the fifth member of the Guardians. I felt he was one of the better-rounded characters of the film and found him to be quite entertaining. He is motivated by grief for his family, murdered by the arrogant Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) on orders from Thanos. Drax is focused on revenge alone, no matter the cost, and that nearly costs him his own life and the lives of his companions. But he is not incapable of humility and even shows a softer side when comforting Rocket in a moment of grief. 
The film balances slapstick comedy with action, intrigue and most importantly heart. As outlandish as Rocket and Groot are, they become the most beloved characters, particularly Groot, who manages to convey a great deal of emotion despite his vocabulary being limited to “I am Groot!” It’s reminiscent of the Hellboy films in that the most inherently inhuman characters manage to be the most endearing. Pratt, too, is a joy to watch, and the character of Star-Lord is equal parts cocky, kind and self-deprecating. 

Oddly, this "censored" version from the trailer is funnier
than the version in the movie.

The lovely Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) plays Thanos’ biological daughter, Nebula, although there’s not much biological about her at this point due to her many cybernetic implants. She’s the evil flipside of Gamora, and although their confrontation in the film is brief, it sets up a pretty great conflict for future films. I would have liked to see their fight run a bit longer, though. 
Nathan Fillion provides voice-over for a blue-skinned prisoner on the receiving end of a painful game of “I’ve Got Your Nose” with Groot when the crew gets taken into custody by the Nova Corps. Glenn Close plays the head of the Corps, and John C. Reilly is surprisingly effective and likable as one of the Novas. I was a little disappointed to see the Novas presented as pilots rather than superheroes in their own right, however; hopefully we’ll get a spin-off solo film for Richard Rider, the original Nova of Earth. 
And no James Gunn venture would be complete without Michael Rooker in a memorable role. Rooker, who appeared in Gunn’s Slither, plays Star-Lord’s deranged friend/nemesis/father figure Yondu, a blue-skinned, red-Mohawked space pirate with an affinity for dashboard knickknacks. He’s often unpredictable, usually vicious and always wonderful, chewing up and spitting out the scenery as only he can. He also whistles really well. 


Also memorable, despite only appearing for a few moments, is Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, a hoarder on a cosmic scale who is interested in buying the trinket Star-Lord finds at the beginning of the film (this trinket ends up having a great deal of significance, and is sure to cause comic readers delight when they find out what it is and what it means for future films). And do stay after the credits … the little Easter egg has no real bearing on anything but it’s entertaining, and has a very surprising cameo. 
Overall, I’d give Guardians of the Galaxy an outstanding 4.8 out of 5. It didn’t make my childhood nerdy dreams come true like The Avengers, but for what it was, a delightful and unexpected treat, it made me very happy, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for these wonderful characters. 

If only ...

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