In the 10th installment of Marvel's ever-expanding Cinematic Universe, Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) is a “legendary” space outlaw with a cool mask, a cassette deck, and a ship named after Alyssa Milano. He finds the
Aether Tesseract Cosmic Cube Orb, and a big scary space man named Ronan the Accuser wants it for ~evil~ because it’ll wipe out the galaxy or whatever. Star-Lord teams up with a rag tag group of people who also hate Ronan and by association, Thanos: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a giant turtle that is the friend to all children, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a prisoner whose wife and daughter were murdered by Ronan, and bounty hunters Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Chewbacca Groot (Vin Diesel). Like every other Marvel movie, the good guys must get to the magical space thing before the bad guy or everyone is going to die.
As you can see by the plot summary above, this isn’t the most complex movie ever made. Plot-wise it’s pretty standard Marvel movie fare, for better or worse. It doesn’t need to be complex or cerebral to be a fun movie. Guardians is entertaining on par with The Avengers, and it owes most of it to the characters: both the actors and the writing and directing of James Gunn behind them.
Chris Pratt has just cemented himself as the next leading man in Hollywood. This performance alone has me unbelievably excited to see Jurassic World next year. Don’t get me wrong, I was already excited to see another movie with dinosaurs because I’m a big manchild, but knowing he’s one of the stars makes it that much more appetizing. He’s shown for years on Parks and Rec that he’s hilarious, but Guardians proves he can be more than just comedic relief. He’s proven he can be a charismatic leading man and I truly believe he will be a huge star.
Pratt said he modeled his performance as a mix of Han Solo and Marty McFly and that's really the perfect comparison for Star-Lord. He's a smarmy asshole, but you believe that when shit hits the fan he's perfectly capable of holding his own. He's Luke Skywalker in the sense of he's the human main character in an insane and unfamiliar world. He's who you look to when everything is going bugnuts insane. When the raccoon is devising an elaborate escape from space jail, he's your linchpin to center you. He's the focal point of all the madness, and you never get sick of seeing him onscreen. He oozes charisma and charm and I look forward to seeing him shoe-horned into watered down all-ages comedies that don’t fit him or his comedic sensibilities in between LEGO and Marvel sequels.
I love all of Star-Lord’s ties to Earth, and more specifically Earth in the 1980’s. His Awesome Mix Vol. 1 of tunes like "Cherry Bomb," "Hooked on a Feeling," and "Spirit in the Sky" comprises the soundtrack of the film and serve as a “cultural reference point” throughout the movie. You’ll watch them meet with The Collector (Benicio del Toro), who explains how tiny Infinity Gems have godlike powers and the one in their possession has the ability to wipe out all life on an entire planet just by touching it to the ground, but then you’ll hear If You Like Pina Coladas... and remember Star-Lord is just a dude from Earth like any of us. He’s got Alf trading cards on his ship, a troll doll, and speaks highly of Kevin Bacon’s heroic adventures in the Earth adventure Footloose.
I was expecting good things out of Pratt, so the biggest surprise for me has to be Dave Bautista. Being as I live in the South, I’ve dabbled in WWE here and there since I grew out of the Attitude Era in the early 2000’s. What can I say, it got in my blood at a young age and I can’t help but to peek in at it every one and a while. All I can say is nothing I ever saw of “The Animal” Dave Batista made me think he’d be a strong contender for my favorite character in a Marvel movie where almost every other character is memorable and stands out in a significant way. Pratt was funny, but Bautista’s comedic moments stood out more just because of how unexpected they were. He’s a character who’s trait (besides anger) is that he has no concept of sarcasm or metaphors, and his hysterical, joyous laughter as their ship crash lands is my absolute favorite part of the movie. I know that the concept of "large muscle man doesn't understand jokes" doesn't sound very groundbreaking. It's not that he just sat there with a straight face while Chris Pratt and the raccoon acted crazy all around him. He was spot on with deadpan humor and there is even a callback to his inability to understand metaphors in the third act. The problem with describing it is so many of his brightest moments are plot-centric, and there's nothing worse than someone repeating a joke second-hand and then waiting for you to laugh at them.
Saldana as Gamora was…fine. She was serviceable; never bad, but never great. When you have such little time to create an entire universe, a green girl who was adopted by Thanos just comes across less interesting than an alien bipedal raccoon being ripped apart and put back together again and again by scientists until he became Rocket. I was never rolling my eyes when she was the focus of a scene, but I was never giggling like an idiot like I was when it was anyone else. I guess in a way, the green alien girl is the straight man in this movie. Good on her for going with full body makeup instead of CGI, though.
The standouts are obviously Rocket and Groot. Han and Chewie. They’re both completely absurd and both of them, Rocket especially, had the potential to be Shia LaBeouf in Indiana Jones 4. Sinbad in every movie he’s ever been in. Jar Jar fuckin Binks. Two characters that are so outlandish, so absurd, so full of potential to completely wreck any good will the movie has going for it. Think about it, if I sat you down to watch a cool space adventure movie and then right before it started I told you one of the main characters was a talking raccoon, chances are you’d be furious. So I guess in a way you could say this 170 million dollar movie hinges on Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel not fucking everything up. And they completely nail it. It’s the most absurd shit possible, the thing that when normalcools saw the trailer made them think “oh shit, Marvel is about to go too far and finally have their first bomb.” The shots of them in the early trailers were the things that made people worldwide speculate that this would be the movie that proved Marvel couldn’t just stamp their logo on anything and print money. Jokes on them, because they steal every scene they’re in.
|I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I am Groot.|
The biggest problem with this movie is its villain: Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). In keeping with Marvel tradition, he’s a pretty run of the mill who-gives-a-shit bad guy who’s chasing the same MacGuffin as the infinitely more interesting heroes. I could go into a rant about how every Marvel movie has heroes that are way more interesting than the villains, but I’ll just say I cared more about the brief glimpses of Thanos than anything Ronan did. He’s not any more interesting than the Dark Elf from Thor 2 who wants to shut the lights off; a character who was so interesting I didn’t bother to look up his name, because who gives a shit. He’s the bad guy who wants this super powerful weapon and is going to destroy [insert planet here] unless our heroes stop him. But then he gets the weapon and becomes super powerful. Will our heroes triumph? You’ve seen a Marvel movie before, you know how it ends.
Another problem I had is the sudden tone shifts. It’s mostly a comedy but it has its dramatic moments. The problem with them is that they seemingly come with the flip of a switch. It’s funny, it’s funny, a joke about a blacklight, I DIDN’T ASK TO BE MADE LIKE THIS. Funny, funny, I’LL AVENGE MY DEAD GAY SON. Funny, funny, ANGER ISNT THE ANSWER. If this was The Winter Soldier I’d be more annoyed at the clumsy tonal changes, but I’m willing to put on the “popcorn movie blinders” and enjoy it. It’s a copout, but I’m always willing to give movies a bit of leeway if I’m enjoying them.
I just can’t believe a movie that looks this beautiful came from James Gunn. No offense to him or his work, but the dude came from Troma. Those are about as humble of beginnings as you can get. Troma was (and probably still is) the king of low budget, independent horror. If you’ve never heard of Troma, go on Youtube and search for clips of The Toxic Avenger just to put all of this into perspective. Gunn went from Tromeo and Juliet to writing both Scooby Doo movies to making the criminally underrated Slither to arguably one of the top 3 Marvel movies. It’s amazing to go from Tromeo and Juliet's cow monster (complete with 3 foot long penis) to an astonishingly beautiful movie. It’s not just gorgeous compared to trashy 80’s horror, it even surpasses Marvel’s other works. Think of Thor 2’s cheap ass, which only bothered to show 4 realms when a portal opened a link to all 9 of them. Every planet is gorgeous, and more importantly distinguishable. This movie has drawn a lot of Star Wars comparisons, but Lucas’ distinguishing planets are the snow planet, the sand planet, the swamp planet, and the cloud planet.
|I mean Hoth is cool and all, but this is an entire society that lives in the head of a dead Space God|
The most interesting thing about this movie to me is how it relates to what Warner Bros is trying to do with the Justice League. For the last year we (read: us big fat nerds on the Internet) have been laughing at them for essentially running around screaming “OH FUCK” as they scramble to compete with the Avengers. “FUCK IT, THROW BATMAN IN THE SEQUEL. AND WONDER WOMAN. AND THAT HOMO WHO TALKS TO FISH. FUCKIN DO ALL OF IT JESUS SHIT THEY’RE PRINTING MONEY WITH TONY STARK’S FACE ON IT.” We laughed at every press release from them, throwing any big named caped crusader they had the rights to into a sequel of a movie most people weren’t crazy about to begin with. We all shared a big fat laugh at them for not laying the ground work. Marvel took their time, paving the way with origin stories and post credit teases that carefully linked all the films together into one universe until the big team-up payoff made a gorillian dollars. But then Guardians comes along. Five characters many comic fans knew nothing about thrown into a movie that might as well not even take place in the Marvel universe, as the only tie-in is Thanos, who has a combined minute of screen time through the other 9 movies. And not only did it work, it’s worked to rave reviews and huge box office success. So maybe we’re being a bit too pessimistic about Justice League. An entire galaxy, five heroes, side characters, a villain, the Nova Corps, space bounty hunters that I didn’t even fucking mention. All introduced and given varying levels of backstory. If they can cram Drax’s history with Ronan into a couple of scenes, why couldn’t we get all we need to know about Wonder Woman in the same amount of time? Not only did I come away loving this movie, but I have more optimism for DC than I did back before Green Lantern came out. Remember when that was going to be the start to DC’s cinematic universe? But for once, I have faith that they could put this together and we could have dueling massive blockbuster franchises bringing out the best of each other, daring the other one to go further and crazier.
Oh, what’s that? Zack Snyder’s still directing? Nevermind, fuck it.
I still can’t believe it. The chubby comedic relief from Parks and Rec, Uhura, a boring pro wrestler, the guy from The Hangover, and Riddick got thrown into a movie and it’s the most fun I had in theaters this year. It’s a simple movie, but god damn is it fun. I had a smile on my face the entire time and for a couple of hours my cold, dead heart was filled with joy. Captain America 2 is a better “film,” but this one is as re-watchable as The Avengers. If Cap 2 is on I’ll give it my full attention and be fully captivated, but I’ll throw this on in the background and rewatch it far more often.
It was everything a big fat little nerd like me wanted out of the Star Wars prequels: Characters you have a vague understanding of in a universe you’re familiar with getting into exciting shenanigans in space. I tried to keep the Star Wars references to a minimum considering it’s the exact same comparison everyone else has made, but can you blame me? It’s been a great summer for movies, and I for one am excited to cap it off by not watching Ninja Turtles. I will instead enjoy spending the next month rubbing the success of this movie in all of my friends’ faces. All of those people who, after the trailer premiered before The Winter Soldier, said it looked dumb as shit and would bomb horribly. Every single one of you can just suck it. Forever and ever.
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