Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy - Review

Thank the Star-Lord for a great soundtrack. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the final installment of Marvel's Phase Two before the AVENGERS sequel next year, effortlessly makes its way into the viewer and strokes his/her pleasure senses routinely, due to the compilation of pop and rock songs assembled by director James Gunn. You may think that this creative decision is just an exploitative way to make us quickly care about the product and its motley crew; After all, didn't we as an American movie-going society decree that Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" is to be banned from further mistreatment? Well, Gunn read your book, you magnificent bastard. The licensed music often serves a crucial purpose to the space story and, more importantly, to the characterization of its human lead, as fully revealed in its closing moments. As an additional bonus, the audience-friendly soundtrack supports the movie's identity as a healthy alternative to the traditional tropes that STAR WARS set for all fantastical sci-fi films. Why bother trying to support another John Williams when you, like the lead during the opening credits, can walk your own eccentric path, put on a pair of headphones, enjoy the melodic grooves of Redbone, and forget the generic troubles of the galaxy for a change.

Of course, as best illustrated in the gut-wrenching prologue, an awesome mixtape is only a gift, unable to wipe away all troubles. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the silver recipient of the Phase Two lineup but features a slew of faults that severely crippled its engines: Important exposition goes by too fast to grasp on to in the early goings. Various action sequences are muddled and near impossible to comprehend, made worst if you are a desperate sucker for 3D projection. But most distressingly, the main antagonists, though deadly and caked in impressively designed costumes and makeup, oddly twiddle their thumbs during the first half until a sheer dumb plot twist of "come at me bro" gets their butts in gear. Despite these heavy blows, the movie stays its course as an entertaining, nearly stellar ride, where the laughs greatly outweigh the thrills.

Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), a "Terran" thief that has a Mike Mignola-inspired helmet and the combined traits of Han and Luke, finds himself in a big pickle with his latest snatch-and-grab. He easily steals a barely guarded orb on a desolate planet, a job that he was to do with his blue-skinned father figure Yondu (Michael Rooker). Though an intruding third party tries to kill him over it, he spirits away just in time to avoid their weapons and the wrath of Yondu's army of Ravagers. Unfortunately for his fortunes, his buyer refuses to take it off his hands when news spread that Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a genocidal extremist and a subordinate of the space tyrant Thanos, is the one also seeking the sphere. He sends out one of his borrowed talents to retrieve it: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a deadly assassin and Thanos' adopted daughter. Yondu further twists the knife by placing a price on Quill's head, which draws the attention of raccoon-like bounty hunter Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his plant pal Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). A drag-out public melee between the four gets them all arrested and shipped out to a space prison, where they eventually meet up with a disgruntled muscleman named Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista).

The story does move beyond the prison, which is simply a small hiccup for the five; I just wanted to preserve the rest of the adventure for you, solely for the wonders of joy Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman have in store. The script, though troubled at times, alleviates its few errors of judgment and standard action set-pieces with a huge heaping helping of cartoonish anarchy and bonding buffoonery. The picture becomes fully alive every time the ragtag team communicate with each other, spewing out outrageous wordplay or unleashing a killer closer to a scene. It's pretty fair to say that you will be quoting many of these spoken treasures. You can even feel the inner joy in all of the actors, as they often keep a straight face while delivering lines that range from deliberately stilted to irrelevant nonsense.

All five main actors clearly got something out of the rich material. With this, Pratt gets to become a bonafide action star, showing off a mean streak and a muscular frame that many will be shocked to see. Thankfully, he retains and expertly uses the foolish side of his own demeanor to make Quill a well-rounded, lovable charmer. Saldana got to play another brave and defiant warrior but with a nice little feminist twist added in. Though the animators had all of the fun with Groot, Diesel does give the creature the same innocence and pathos as his Iron Giant. But the two that came away with more to benefit are Cooper and Bautista. Not surprisingly, Rocket is the true shining light of the picture, a darling furry scamp whose hard-edged personality is built from unchecked experimentation and rampant discrimination. Cooper's voice truly makes the character a dynamite presence, hitting the exact right notes when humor or turmoil is called for. On the flip side, semi-professional wrestler Bautista, who has etched a small career nabbing the spotlight in action flicks, is a shocking revelation. Given the arduous task of uttering the most dense dialogue while maintaining a brutish attitude, the big guy exceptionally pulls it off without breaking kayfabe. I would be remiss if I didn't also call attention to fine work put forth by Pace, Rooker, and Karen Gillian as Thanos' other adopted daughter Nebula.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a gratifying superhero movie that any person can view and not have to worry about things like continuity. It is also the anti-AVENGERS, for better and worst. It avoids weighing down the audience with team-building cynicism in order to make sci-fi fun again but its dramatic stakes border on total inertia. Regardless, in a genre overcrowded with more and more films each year, filled to the brim with brooding, angst-ridden outcasts and citywide destruction, it's nice to kick back and spend the entire time laughing out total bliss.


No comments:

Post a Comment