Monday, December 22, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy review


    I'm going to make a confession, I didn't watch this movie until recently. I've never been a big fan of the Marvel Space Universe. The only exceptions I make for their space stories are the X-men and it's highly unlikely we'll ever see them visit the Shi'ar on the big screen. I enjoyed Nova's story arc during the Annihilation event but, mostly, I don't have a huge affection for the Guardians of the Galaxy.

    As one of the key memorable scenes of the summarizes:

    "I'm Starlord."
 

    *blank stare* "Who?"
 

    *pout* "I'm Star Lord, man!"

    So, this movie had the task of introducing me to the Guardians, who they are, and what they're about. My Marvel knowledge is great enough I knew who Gamora, Nebula, Drax. Thanos, and Ronan the Accuser were but everyone else? Not a clue.

The prison-break sequence if one of my favorite parts.
    So how did the movie do?

    Pretty good, I think.

    The movie takes the time-honored premise of Blake's Seven, Farscape, and Firefly (a.k.a. a ship full of criminals against even worse people) and rolls with it. The criminals befriend each other a little too quickly and achieve redemption a touch too fast but I understand this is a Disney production. Besides, if you're going to save the universe from an Infinity Stone then your previous criminal behavior is going to look pretty mild.

    The premise is a bunch of these outlaws manage to stumble across an Infinity Stone. Which, for those unfamiliar with them, they're objects which allow the wielders to do more or less anything. Unfortunately, these objects are starting to dominate the movies. Thor: The Dark World, for example, was a poor film due to the focus on the one-dimensional villains as well as ill-described Maguffin.

I will say, I love Starlord's costume. Best mask since Darth Vader.
    Thankfully, the simple premise is rescued by strong characterization. All of the Guardians have distinctive personalities which play off each other well. Starlord is the deadpan snarker, Gamora is the focused assassin, Rocket is a racoon with the personality of Han Solo (it actually makes sense in-context--seriously), Drax is a literal-minded blood-knight, and Groot is Groot. Ronan the Accuser is a one-dimensional terrorist stereotype but he manages to remain threatening despite it. Thanos loses some villain credibility due to everyone turning on him without punishment but, despite this, comes off as very threatening.

    Benicio Del Toro's Collector actually makes a very strong impression despite the fact he's played up as a flamboyant crime lord over a cosmic being. The fact he's got a cute henchwoman and lives in the skull of an alien god go a long way to establishing the character's cool factor. There's also the best cameo of all time in a Marvel movie in the stinger. Best part? It makes perfect sense!

     The world-building is excellent. The movie doesn't attempt to justify why aliens look human and that's probably the best decision they could have made. Thor and the Asgardians look human and so do the vast majority of other aliens. Much of the world feels like Mass Effect, which means it feels like it takes place in a plausible future where technology has changed but people haven't.

Zoe Saldana is excellent as Gamora, the only sane person on the crew. Which is hilarious given she's the intergalactic assassin.
     The action has a light-hearted, Star Wars-esque feel with starfighter fights and plenty of good old-fashioned fisticuffs. There's some incredulous moments like the fact a scavenger army is capable of taking on a terrorist organization threatening a planet and the ending owing itself to the power of friendship (which is NOT something you should see in a heist movie, in space or not) but these are minor quibbles.

    In conclusion, Guardians of the Galaxy is an excellent movie and a great addition to the Marvel universe. It manages to sell a new concept to the public and does so in an entertaining way. The comedy and classic music is sometimes a little too cutesy but, overall, I think this is a good fun movie.

9/10

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