Hooked on a Feeling, And It’s a Good One, Too
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Marvel’s cemented properties have been a hit and then the studio took a great creative and financial risk. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the more obscure Marvel properties, especially in comparison to Iron Man and Captain America. As of today, however, Guardians domestically has surpassed Transformers: Age of Whatever (thank goodness) and even The Winter Soldier. It’s success nevertheless isn’t simply built on the reality that it is a Marvel property. It’s a damn good film and whether or not you believe that it’s Marvel’s “best movie ever” (that entirely depends on the viewer), it’s really hard to walk away from the film and at the very least not be thoroughly entertained. The performances are good, even though I couldn’t help but think of The Hobbit’s King Thranduil whenever Ronan the Accuser was on screen and there is a meta geek factor when you see Amy Pond and Uhura fighting against one another. The visual effects and cinematography are gorgeous, even though the design for Xandar is relatively uninspired. The effects work done on Groot and Rocket especially are astounding – they feel real, and that’s saying something, considering Rocket is blasting a machine gun at some point.
Humor has always been a weak point for Marvel. Robert Downey, Jr. is hilarious as Iron Man, a humorous quality that doesn’t travel to the films themselves. The humor in Thor: The Dark World was especially grating and indicative of a sort of fear that Marvel properties have of going dark in a film that requires it. But while Guardians had an astutely emotional opening, the rest of the film gives comedy and emotion the balance required to tell a good story. NAME and Nicole Perlman’s dialogue in general is pretty sharp but it is especially witty when it comes to the matter of comedy. They’ve written the dialogue with humor that is consistent with the characters’ vastly different personalities but manages to bounce off each other with remarkable ease. The cast is universally excellent and their comedic delivery in regards to comedic timing and body language is especially sharp.
The acting aforementioned is excellent. Chris Pratt is perfect for Starlord, his comedic undertones no doubt perfected by his time on Amy Poehler’s Parks and Recreation. Zoe Saldana’s dry and bitter Gamora softens believably and her line of dying while surrounded by idiots is perfect. Dave Bautista does fantastic work here, his subtlety playing off remarkably well considering the actor’s size. Bradley Cooper’s fantastic voice work as Rocket is the real treat here, arguably. Vin Diesel doesn’t garner much variety in his dialogue but he plays it up by giving great emotional range within the confined vocal threads he’s given. Lee Pace is suitably threatening as Ronan and Karen Gillan’s Nebula is an absolute treat (“You’re both crazy!” is one of the best character cliffhangers ever – and yes, that pun was intended). John C. Reilly is hilarious in his undertones and Glenn Close gives a suitable performance as Nova Prime. Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, and Benicio del Toro round out the cast with great performances themselves, with Rooker delivering the most hilarious performance that makes great use of the Texan accent without going overboard.
The plot is relatively straightforward. There is an orb with the power to destroy all organic matter (think of a portable Death Star but with a giant purple crystal in the middle). Thanos wants to get his hand on the orb and has enlisted Ronan to do the dirty work for him. It’s a simple plot but frankly the film doesn’t really need a plot that’s complicated. When it comes to the orb, the film does falter a bit. It falls into the annoying pitfall of having to explain what the orb does over and over and over again (although thankfully it’s better than Thor’s convergence) and frankly it’s unnecessary. It also leads to a slight deus ex machina moment at the end that still works. The story works in the sense that Guardians is the first installment and it’s up[ to the sequel to make surer the story actually sticks.
The final battle above Xandar is visually stunning and the filmmakers find a way to make it feel fresh, which is always welcome. Yet after the battle is over, the film ends with a bow that’s wrapped up a little too neatly and the film doesn’t spend any time to look over the innocent civilians that died (yes, they ordered an evacuation but the likelihood of no one dying is a little too clean, frankly). Nevertheless, there’s a tantalizing tidbit about Starlord’s true father (which is deviating from the comics, so I have no idea who it is) and the final shot is a great one. With all of the fun and fireworks, Guardians has a great message of friendship at its core. Despite their vastly different personalities and species, this ragtag group coming together is genuinely sweet. It isn’t who you are that’s important, it’s who you become.
Title: Guardians of the Galaxy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: James Gunn
Producer: Kevin Feige
Screenplay by: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
Based On: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro
Music: Tyler Bates
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Editing: Craig Wood, Fred Raskin, Hughes Winborne
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Running Time: 122 minutes
Release Dates: July 21, 2014 (Dolby Theatre), August 1, 2014 (United States)
Image Courtesy: Film Pulse, Screen Rant, LA Weekly, Coming Soon, Forbes