Austin reviews James Gunn’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY!

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Before I go into anything about what this movie is about or what I thought, I’d like you to take a moment and look at the poster I have posted to the right……and take it in.

That’s right!  Michael Rooker has his own poster for a 200 million dollar Hollywood blockbuster!  How fucking cool is that?!?  So right now, I’d like to thank the film’s director, James Gunn, for that.  He’s used Rooker in his 2 previous (much smaller) films, so I’m glad he brought him on board for this summer blockbuster.  Nice work!

Now, on to the review!

One could argue that Marvel is getting a little out of hand with all of the movies they’re shooting out here, but I’m loving it….. though I haven’t “loved” everything they’ve done (I’m looking at you THOR 2!!!).  Now, I don’t know much at all about the Guardians of the Galaxy.  I consider myself a casual fan of the Marvel comics.  I’ve read a bunch of stuff from the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, but I haven’t read anything after that.  I like the idea of heroes probably more than reading the comics themselves.  Superheroes are just cool!  So I went into this movie knowing absolutely zero about these heroes, but I was pretty excited going into this because Marvel has given a large chunk of money to Indie horror filmmaker, James Gunn!  Now that’s awesome.  I was really curious to see how he would transition into making “big boy” movies.

I’m sure I’ll screw up the plot, but here goes:  The film opens with a brief prologue in the 80s about how Peter Quill as a young boy gets abducted by alien bounty hunters right after his mom dies in front of him in the hospital from cancer.  26 years later, Quill is a sort of quirky outlaw who still listens to his “super awesome” music mix of mostly 70s rock on his vintage Walkman.  He steals this magic orb that holds a power that he’s not even aware of (I won’t spoil what it is here), but lots of folks are looking for it, including the guys who took him in, led by Rondu (Michael Rooker!!!!!).  They put a bounty on his head which leads to a raccoon named Rocket and his tree bodyguard Groot looking for quill (who also goes by the name of Star Lord…. or at least tries to).  There’s also a bad dude named Ronan (Lee Pace) who is after the orb and sends green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after Quill as well.  Before you know it, Quill, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora have a scuffle, arrested, and sent to prison.  Once behind bars, they begin to become friends and meet a big alien dude named Drax (Dave Bautista).  They break out of prison and decide to find out what the orb actually is.  There’s so much more going on in this movie, so I’ll just say that this all leads up to a big confrontation between The Guardians of the Galaxy and Ronan’s army…..and then throw Rondu and his crew into the mix….and you have a big special effects laden finale.

Like I said, there’s just so much going on in this movie that I feel like I haven’t scratched the surface.  And I think that’s for the best.  It’ll be better for you to watch the story unfold for yourself.

So the fanboy community are just blowing their load over this movie.  Every geek review site I go to is just giving this film spectacular reviews, calling it the best movie Marvel has put out, according to some.  I knew this going into the movie, so my expectations were extremely high.  Were they met?  Are the fanboys overselling it?  The answer to those two questions are, No and Yes.

Now before you start sending me hate mail, or leaving nasty comments, let me explain my feelings about the film.

Let me talk about what didn’t quite work for me fully, which is probably what everyone will love the most about it.  The humor, for me, was inconsistent.  There were times where I thought it fit and it was great, and others where it felt like it was forced and too much.  I feel like THE AVENGERS and IRON MAN got that balance perfectly.  Now, I have talked to some folks that say that this is supposed to be sillier, and I recognize that, so I did let some of the humor go by.  But every once in a while it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Like, I knew what was happening was funny, and I would even laugh at some of it, but at the same time, I felt like it didn’t quite fit the material.  I don’t know if that makes sense to you.

Also, I had a trouble connecting with the material during the first hour.  Things were happening to these characters that I didn’t know too well, and I just didn’t really care about them.  Especially during the first 20 minutes.  Quill is running from flying bullets and explosions, and…… why should I care?  I don’t know him yet.  There was just sort of a story disconnect for me during this first half.

The other problem I had was Chris Pratt.  I’m on the fence.  I’m not sure if I thought he did good or not.  With some of the silly, smart ass comments, I wasn’t sure if it was “Chris Pratt” or “Peter Quill” I was watching.   It felt like maybe Pratt was improvising a bit?  Or was Quill saying the word “Turd Blossom” really in the script?  That, I don’t have the answer for.

Now, before you write that piece of hate mail, let me also add that….. I didn’t “dislike” this movie.  In fact, as the movie went on, the characters started to grow on me.  I actually did start caring for these goofball heroes.  And I did laugh quite a bit.  Not at Pratt, but at Drax, who was easily, and by far, my favorite character in the movie.  Now in the trailers I saw, they don’t really show too much of him, but his Native American type of literal delivery just cracked me up every time.  And just how he tries to interact with the current society and to fit in with the rest of the Guardians supplied most of the laughs for me.  Loved Drax!

I liked the other Guardians too.  Rocket took awhile for me to warm up to, but I thought Gamora was a good character, and Groot was a hoot, also supplying lots of chuckles to the film, especially the fact he only says one thing in the movie repeatedly: “I am Groot”.   But that actually turns out to be quite clever.

The movie is filled with lots of oddball characters who are kind of a treat to watch.   I’ll get this out of the way and say that Michael Rooker is a blast, and appears to be having one as well.  I’m pretty damn sure that Gunn wrote a specific scene with just his character just to have Rooker have his own “hero” moment.  That’s fucking cool!  Gunn even throws his brother Sean into the mix as Rooker’s right hand man.

The bad guys are decent.  I’m not sure if one is supposed to be a secret or not, but I’m not going to risk it, so I’ll just mention Ronan.  Lee Pace does a serviceable job, if not too memorable.  Benicio Del Toro gives an odd performance as “the Collector”.  Though not bad guys, I enjoyed Glenn Close as Nova Prime, but seeing John C. Reilly was a bit distracting as some kind of military officer.  He’s fine, but he kind of sticks out like a sore thumb.  Like, when he first showed up, I didn’t think of what his character was, I just said “Hey look, there’s John C. Reilly”.  But oh well.  I still like him.

Let me get more into the Guardians themselves.  Like I said, I’m still not sure about Pratt.  He’s definitely got some moments of heroism, and even some inspired comedic moments, but then sometimes it felt like he went a little too far.  At times I felt like he thought he was in a “parody” of a superhero film, and not a “real” one.  I need to watch it again I think.  I love the chemistry between all five though.  Loved the relationship between Rocket and Groot.  And speaking of Groot, that has to be some kind of inside joke to cast Vin Diesel as his voice, right?  I mean, he says one phrase repeatedly, and then the voice has modulated effects over it so you can’t even tell its Diesel.  Anyone could have done that voice, which brings me to think that putting his name on the credits “Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot” has got to be some kind of inside joke between Gunn and Diesel.  I personally think it’s funny as hell, but wonder if the joke was intentional or not.  Either way….Groot is awesome!

We know how I feel about the story and characters, but is the movie well made?  The answer to that is easy: HELL YES!  Gunn has technically hit this one out of the park.  Every shot looks to be perfectly thought out.  The editing isn’t super fast, the camera work is mostly stable, so you can see everything very clearly.  The effects are also first-rate.  I would say this has some of the best effects of the year, if not THE best.  The action set pieces are very thrilling and even have some clever bits of humor thrown in to.  I know there are a few stand out moments that will get the audience cheering.   So bravo!

I was worried a bit about the use of 70s music in this space opera, but within context of the characters and the fact that Peter Quill listens to his walkman all the time, it really does work.  I did really enjoy the opening credits especially because of the music.  Then seeing the gang gear up for battle while The Runaways “Cherry Bomb” is being played got me pumped.  Tyler Bates score was decent, but overshadowed by the rock music.

So…..yeah, I know……I threw a lot of different opinions at you.  So what’s my final verdict?   I am recommending this.  I admit that I had a bit of a disconnect during the first half, but man, once the second half rolled along, I was totally rooting for the Guardians.  And then thinking about the first half again, I feel like that I will enjoy it more a second time because NOW I know who these characters are.  So I WILL be seeing it again this weekend.  I think I will enjoy it more.  We’ll see if my opinion on Pratt changes though.  But there’s enough awesome things in this to make it worth a trip to the theater for.

I’m going to say that 90% of everyone who sees this will be absolutely blown away by it.  Most people will welcome the humor and Pratt’s cutesy performance.  I’m disappointed that I didn’t like it as much as everyone else, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.  I thought it was fun.  It’s decent.  It just didn’t blow my socks off.

But still….. MICHAEL ROOKER!

★★★ (out of ★★★★)

 

– Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.

– Running time: 2hrs.



Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

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