Thursday, April 20, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy

We are mere weeks away from the release of the latest Marvel Studios film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so naturally it felt right to pull 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy (trailer out of the backlog box. I specifically remember thinking that this was going to be the first full-on flop from Marvel Studios. The comic it was based on was around off and on over the years but I never considered it a top-tier book from Marvel by any means and could not name a single character by the time the film arrived.

GotG was certainly going to be the first Marvel film to focus on a character that was not in the upper-echelon of Marvel Heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor. I also despised the original trailer for the first film. For whatever reason it played before nearly every film I caught at the theater for several months before the movie hit. The preview gave me all the wrong vibes that this was going to be full of bad jokes from a bunch of unknown heroes in the cosmic branch of the Marvel Universe that will go right over my head. I could not have been happier to be so wrong.

GotG centers around one Peter Quill aka Starlord (Chris Pratt). The film starts off with him as a young child at his mother’s deathbed, when all of a sudden a mysterious spaceship abducts him and the film immediately jumps a couple decades ahead where Quill is now a ‘junker’ (futuristic treasure hunter?) residing in a intergalactic community somewhere in another universe. A routine quest for a mysterious orb goes haywire and lands Quill in prison. It is here where Starlord teams up with some unlikely allies. His new comrades consist of Gamura (Zoe Saldana), Rocket the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), the monstrous brute Drax (David Bautista) and a full sized animated tree capable of speaking only five words Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Ronan (Lee Pace) is GotG’s lead villain. He is a lieutenant of the high and mighty Thanos, but breaks off from him after he finds a new source of power.

Minus Groot, Marvel did a tremendous job with the casting. I will give props to Quill for this being his big motion picture breakout performance after several years on the ensemble mockumentary TV series, Parks & Rec. Saladana proved she is already capable of sci-fi greatness in the latest line of Star Trek films and went on to double down on that expertise in another sci-fi franchise. Bautista went above and beyond what anyone expected out of a pro-wrestler. Bradley Cooper shows all kinds of range with his voicing of Rocket, but Marvel could have saved a good chunk of money on the budget by having anyone voice Groot. Vin probably commanded a high dollar since he is in the midst of riding the success of the Fast & Furious money train.

Watching the GotG unwillingly come together to break out of prison in a fantastic scene and transition into a well-oiled machine by the time they take on Ronan in the final act is simply an awesome experience. Part of the reason on how they got there is a stunning job in the CG department. GotG got nominated for two technical Oscars for Best Visual Effects & Best Costume Design. After witnessing a few of its dazzling-yet-intense spaceship duels and watching the behind-the-scenes feature on the multi-hour process of what Saladana and Bautista had to go through in makeup justifies the film as being a Oscar contender in those departments.

What also helped round off this sublime audio/visual package is a five star soundtrack consisting primarily of 1970s pop hits such as “I Want You Back,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” and “Cherry Bomb.” Director James Gunn stated in the commentary for the film that Disney got every single song he requested approved for the soundtrack, and I am presuming Gunn must have spent a great deal timing when each and every song would kick in at just the right moment to add that extra dose of impact. A couple of my favorite examples of this are when the Guardians are planning their final assault on Ronan to “Cherry Bomb” and the opening title screen where Quill is dancing away to “Come and Get Your Love.” I remember being super giddy the day Google generously released the soundtrack for free on its Play Store and it has been in a consistent rotation in my running playlists ever since.

There is only one noteworthy qualm I have with GotG and it is the fact that it is too lighthearted. Do not get me wrong, nearly all the jokes and zingers in here are clever and witty and each character has several standout lines/moments in the film that cracked me up. That there is the problem however! Unlike other past Marvel films that know when to cut back and get serious, this one never lets up on the jokes, so the few times that GotG attempts to have a pivotal, meaningful moment in the movie I found myself waiting for the surprise gag to come from out of nowhere to steal the scene, and in a couple of those moments that is exactly what happened. Again, that qualm is not a deal-breaker by any means and when you are dealing with a talking raccoon and tree as two of your main actors, I could see why Marvel felt like they had to dial up the jokes to help the audience suspend their disbelief. They just dialed it up a bit too much.

There are a few extras on the BluRay you can easily cruise through in no time, but are worth consuming. There are four minutes of deleted scenes with or without commentary from James Gunn. If you have watched past Marvel films on video, you know they have some of the best produced gag reels out there, and GotG does not disappoint with a killer array of bloopers that culminates with a spectacular dance-off you have to see to believe. Intergalactic Visual FX is a seven minute look at the costume and makeup design that made me get sympathetic for what Saldana and Bautista had to go through every day on set. Guide to the Galaxy is a 21 minute all-encompassing behind-the-scenes look at the film hosted by Gunn where he explains the world lore, interviews the cast and goes into what it took to pull off the huge final battle scene. Finally Gunn goes solo for a commentary track on the film, and it is a decent solo commentary where he has a lot of notes filling everyone in on the backstory of the universe from the comics and a lot of recollections about the casting for the film.

Guardians of the Galaxy made me feel like a fool for doubting it as it went on to be both a critical and commercial success. It is one of several movies I have seen in the theater twice. If you somehow had my original premonitions on this film being a flop and avoided it because it featured a lot of characters you were unfamiliar with then go ahead and put those reservations to the side and watch this immediately so you can be ready for the sequel in a few weeks. I recommend watching it solo so you can avoid others judging you as you jam out and get your dance on to the songs throughout the film!

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Christmas Eve
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Dirty Work
Fast and Furious I-VIII
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XIII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

No comments:

Post a Comment