film reel image

film reel image

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

Guardians of the GalaxyDirector: James Gunn
Year: 2014
Rated PG
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker

In my forty years of existence, I've seen plenty of films based on Marvel Comics. I've seen the good (Spider-Man 2, Blade, Iron Man), the bad (Hulk, Ghost Rider), and the flat-out ugly (Howard the Duck). Guardians of the Galaxy (the flick I'm now reviewing) falls somewhere in between. And at just over two hours, it plays like this: bang, bang, punch, kick, punch, tell a joke, blurt out a zinger, shoot, shoot, kill, knife, throw up against a wall, strangle, tell more jokes, etc..etc. It's safe to say that this thing never lets up. It's dark and dangerous with nasty characters and even nastier creatures. And there's an opening scene (which involves the quietness of death and dying) that might make you forget that "Guardians" even has plenty of tongue-in-cheek overtones to boot.

With non-stop action, plenty of sturdy violence (think lots of martial arts and assaults with space age stun guns), and writing that permeates at times to be lazy, Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in present day 2014 (just in a completely different realm or you know, terrestrial realm as Charlie Sheen would say). Four space criminals consisting of a thief (Star-lord), a trained killer (Gamora), a warrior (Drax), a humanoid (Groot), and a genetic animal (Rocket), join forces to save the universe from an evil ruler named Ronan the accuser. They steal a sphere-like artifact from this blue, pigmented maniac that if activated, can kill millions of people.

Now from what I observed, the look of "Guardians" feels like Star Trek meets Stargate. It has characters that reminded me of the ones from Star Wars and even The Wizard of Oz (Chris Pratt as "Star-lord" is a modern day Han Solo while Groot somehow gives off the whole Chewbacca vibe). They are differing personalities and they come together as journeymen looking for one common purpose.

"Guardians" also has a top notch cast bringing these characters to life. They are comprised of actors/actresses that are known and not so known. The best performance, well it belongs to Bradley Cooper. He doesn't appear on screen but he's perfect as the voice of the talking raccoon named Rocket. Vin Diesel does voice work as well and he plays the branchlike Groot. I've heard how much money Vin demands per movie. If he got paid handsomely for uttering just one line (all he says is, "I'm Grrroooott!"), I'm insanely jealous.

What drove me nuts however, was how military peacekeepers played by Glen Close and John C. Reilly only appear in maybe two scenes total. Was their material left on the cutting room floor? Who knows. But here's the thing: solid and well established movie moguls like Close and Reilly deserve a more respectable level of screen time. Then we have Zoe Saldana channeling her earlier stint in 2011's Columbiana. She handles as usual, a lot of the butt kicking here playing hungry assassin Gamora. That leaves quirky lead Chris Pratt as Peter Quill (aka Star-lord). Based on "Guardians" ginormous box office take, it seems like he might emerge as a huge star one day. He's not bad but despite getting physically fit for this role, he still sort of goes through the motions. If you wanna see his true comedic gifts, check him out in 2013's Delivery Man. He's the best thing in it (and the only good thing in it).

Finally, there's the clunky, musical soundtrack which seems like the film's main selling point. As a young boy, Chris Pratt's character (spoiler alert) gets abducted by aliens and has his walkman with him during said abduction. The songs in the background are heard through his obsolete relic and are fully comprised of ditties from the 1970's (even though they are recorded on a tape labeled "awesome mix volume 1"). Hey, I like bell bottom induced music just as much as anybody else. But with the exception of the song "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways, most of the playlist featured, is comprised of material that has been sledgehammered (or overplayed) on radio stations everywhere. Personally, I'd rather hear a hidden gem like Jethro Tull's "Look Into the Sun" as opposed to "Hooked On a Feeling" for the umpteenth time.

In conclusion, I tried hard to embrace a film that critics and audience members (all over the world) have been salivating over with glee. Sadly, I consider this to be familiar stuff. I couldn't help but be reminded of the space operas of George Lucas and many of the other imitations that took place previously in a galaxy far far away. Guardians of the Galaxy left me feeling empty while yearning for a sense of mystery and aura that I didn't receive. Its one hook, is that it provided humor (very mild humor consisting of a few chuckles) in places where so many other Marvel Comic movies tended to pile on the seriousness. Here though, it's uneven and the obviousness by director James Gunn in terms of distributing a certain brand of funny, is purely noted (the villains are hideous and caddy while the heroes are the class clowns). To the chagrin of most moviegoers, I'll probably avoid a second or (gulp) third viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy. It may be hailed as an entertaining, exhausting sci-fier with status as a critical darling. But in my humbled opinion, it's just another excuse for me to pop in my DVD of Episode IV one last time.

Of note: I had a feeling that during the film's ending, I'd see some kind of closing credit titles stating that all the characters in "Guardians" would be back for more giddy fun in the franchise's next installment. I was right and the effect which seemed completely lifted from the Star Wars movies, didn't feel as earned as it first did back in 77'. Nice try guys.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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