Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The last few months I've been enjoying catching up with the Marvel universe! I spent July and August watching several Marvel films for the first time, along with Season 1 of the TV series AGENT CARTER. Since August I've been focused on Seasons 1 and 2 of AGENTS OF SHIELD, which I completed watching last night.

Today I caught up with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), which is quite a wild ride compared to the other Marvel films. It's a little harder to follow and a lot more "out there" in terms of crazy characters; tonally it's quite different from the other Marvels, especially in terms of copious bad language.

Though I found it the least enjoyable Marvel film seen to date, it was still definitely worth seeing; some of it is wildly creative, and there is some wickedly funny underplayed humor.

The movie starts off with a little boy named Peter being whisked from earth into outer space just after the death of his mother. Zoom forward in time and Peter (Chris Pratt) is now an adult sort of Indiana Jones of the galaxy, hunting down rare objects and selling them.

I had anticipated there would be some sort of explanation for Peter's abrupt exit from earth, but nope! That's left hanging until the end of the movie, when we get at least part of an explanation; more will apparently be disclosed in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 a couple years from now.

After obtaining a mysterious orb, Peter becomes the target of a manhunt led by evil Ronan (Lee Pace). The warrior Gamora (Zoe Saldana), sent by Ronan to retrieve the orb, eventually throws her lot in with Peter. By the way, Gamora is green, which is apparently normal in Peter's part of the universe.

An unusual pair of bounty hunters also join Peter's side: Rocket, a talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Groot, a lifelike tree (Vin Diesel) whose only words are "I am Groot." It isn't every day you watch a movie with a raccoon and a tree for heroes!

The group is rounded out by the fearsome Drax (Dave Bautista), a convict who wants to kill Ronan because Ronan wiped out his family. This unusual fivesome must keep the orb, and the power to destroy the universe, out of the hands of Ronan; thus they become the "Guardians of the Galaxy."

This is a goofy movie, but it has a lot of good lines, some of which are thrown away so offhandedly that the joke would catch up with me a good 10 seconds later. I appreciated the clever writing, though honestly I wish they had toned down the language. I assume the filmmakers made that choice as fitting the characters; being ruffians, they're a long way from the gallant Captain America!

The cast all do a fine job, and they're joined by the likes of Glenn Close and John C. Reilly on the side of the good guys and Benicio Del Toro as a "collector."

The set designs were simultaneously unique and familiar; at times I was reminded of the Millenium Falcon and the Death Star. In keeping with the film's tone many of the sets, such as a prison, were rather dark; these settings are the antithesis of Asgard, as seen in THOR (2011). The filmmakers succeed in creating a completely new part of the Marvel world; Peter definitely prowls the darker edges of the universe!

I especially enjoyed that in this high-tech world, Peter's most prized possession is a cassette tape of his favorite songs. Tape, cassette player, and headphones somehow survive decades of use in outer space!

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The movie was directed by James Gunn and filmed by Ben Davis. The director's brother, Sean Gunn, memorably played Kirk on GILMORE GIRLS and has a nice role in the film.

Parental advisory: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is rated PG-13 for violence and language. I found this one less family-friendly than the other Marvel films, though it's probably okay for older children.

In closing, a Marvel bonus for AGENT CARTER fans: There are two promos now available for Season 2 of AGENT CARTER. The adventures of Peggy and Mr. Jarvis in 1940s Hollywood start on January 5th!

Previous Marvel reviews: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014), IRON MAN (2008), IRON MAN 2 (2010), THOR (2011), THE AVENGERS (2012), AGENT CARTER (2015), and ANT-MAN (2015).


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