Thursday, August 7, 2014

Salem Watches A Movie: Guardians of the AAAHH IIIIEEE AHHH HOOKED ON A FEELING

I'm high on believing. That I'm in love with this film.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way...

     So the last few times I've watched a movie for Erin's blog, it hasn't turned out well. I was rendered nearly unintelligible by World War Z, and simply confused by Age of Extinction. I'm happy to report that, this time around, I can not only recommend, but heartily urge anyone who hasn't seen Guardians of the Galaxy to go see it. I'll try to avoid spoilers. I've only lightly skimmed the comics myself, so I'm not overly familiar with the characters. I know who they are, but I don't know how accurately they are portrayed. I can say, however, that they stand on their own without prior knowledge of the team. I described this film as Han Solo guest-starring in the greatest episode of Farscape ever, and I stand by that description.

     The tone of this film is set from the very first moments where the main protagonist, Chris Pratt's “Star Lord” (aka Peter Quill) clomps menacingly onto the screen only to press play on an ancient Walkman, pop his mask, and proceed to lipsync and, in glorious fashion, shuck and jive his way through the ruins of an ancient city to the tune of Redbone's “Come And Get Your Love,” punctuated by moments of catching alien rats and using them as cod-microphones. This movie steadfastly refuses to take itself too seriously, and it benefits greatly from it. It's not technically a comedy, and it's not technically a space opera, but it's got enough of both to succeed as either simultaneously.

     On paper, this really shouldn't have worked, either. I mean, yes, it's a Marvel film. It had budget behind it and momentum from Marvel's previous films, but on paper? It's a smaller, niche group of characters with less exposure. Iron Man? Lot of people know him. Captain America? His death in the comics hit mainstream news. Guardians of the Galaxy? Totally niche, and to the rest of the public evokes such cinematic disasters as "Masters of the Universe" or "Prisoners of the Lost Universe." It's directed by a guy that used to make films for Troma Films. TROMA. Toxic Avengers. The team has a wrestler, two CGI characters, and a TV comedy actor. Zoe Saldana is the only one with major mainstream success in the main cast. But it all falls together. It all works.

     This is a team of distinct protagonists with great chemistry between each character. Dave Bautista's performance was probably the weakest, and he was still a great character. Vin Diesel managed to take a CGI character with one (repeated) line and give it so much depth that it made cry a little at one point. Chris Pratt was the perfect balance of absurdity and competency. Zoe Saldana's Gamora was menacing, dangerous, and a little bit vulnerable. And Bradley Cooper's (cast for his voice, known for his face) Rocket stole every scene he was in. Even the bit players, like the Nova Corp or Space-Merle (Michael Rooker's portrayal of Yondu) were memorable.

     The villains were a little on the weak side. Thanos, the big bad teased at the end of Avengers, was very sinister and threatening, but Ronan and Nebula could have been handled better. By the end of the film, I'm still not sure (besides possible religious zealot) what Ronan's motivations are. Nebula was excellent (angry shouty stabby Scottish cyborg) and came across as a very competent baddie, but I just kept wanting to see more of her than Ronan, especially the scenes where she and Gamora interact. There's chemistry between these two that I can only hope we'll see in later installments. The menace was there from the baddies in the film, but they could have had more impact.

     Early on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I kept thinking things like “How can they make an Iron Man movie?” “How can they make a Thor movie?” “These characters aren't big enough to headline their own films.” But this one? This could be Marvel's Star Wars. Guardians of the Galaxy and its success (92% fresh rating on RT, $94 million opening weekend) has proven, at least in my mind, that Marvel can make films out of any of its properties.

    Or even resurrect a previously shamed one. Stay after the credits, folks.

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