Sunday, August 3, 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" wins some points for attempting to be a little different than the typical onslaught of comic book movies that bombard us every summer. It's a bit funnier, a little quirkier (although that element is, perhaps, just a little calculated) and has more memorable characters. And I'd be willing to bet that it's the only comic book movie with a soundtrack including Redbone, 10cc, David Bowie, The Runaways, Rupert Holmes, Five Stairsteps and Elvin Bishop. More on that later.

The film provides yet another of those ragtag motley crews that populate comic book franchises - this group is less serious and has a little more personality than, say, the Avengers and, most likely, less grave than the upcoming "Justice League" picture. Then again, none of those films feature a wisecracking raccoon and a walking tree.

At the beginning of the film, a young boy who will grow up to be space outlaw Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is kidnapped by some extraterrestrials in 1988 after watching his mother, who provided him with mixtapes of her favorite 1970s songs, die from cancer. Years later, Quill gets mixed up in a battle between a green-skinned warrior named Gamora (Zoe Saldana, and what's with her playing colorfully skinned aliens?) who is attempting to keep some sort of orb from landing in the hands of a blue-faced supervillain named Ronan (Lee Pace).

After Quill and Gamora land in prison, they plan a jailbreak with the help of some fellow outlaws, including the aforementioned raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a talking tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, who mutters only "I am Groot" in varying tones) and a tough fella with grey skin known as Drax (Dave Bautista). You know the drill - villain wants to blow up the universe, blah, blah, blah and heroes must stop him, etc., etc., etc.

What makes "Guardians of the Galaxy" a little better than others of its ilk is its irreverent sense of humor (including Rocket's running joke of asking others to collect items purportedly for their mission, such as a man's fake leg, only to let them know he was joking), genuinely jovial tone as opposed to the occasionally insufferable seriousness of so many other comic book movies and the odd choice of music on the soundtrack. So, are the filmmakers trying a little too hard by playing 1970s nuggets amid the barrage of explosions and chase sequences? Yes, probably. But still, who can't appreciate a blockbuster making use of "Moonage Daydream?"

Those who are arguing that "Guardians" is some sort of groundbreaker for its genre aren't completely on the money. Despite its quirks, the film is still the type of origin story that you'd typically expect from the first of a Marvel series and it's still loaded to the brim with stuff blowing up, fight scenes, heroes making sacrifices and the setup for sequels. That being said, it does a better job of doing all these things than most of its type. It's a fun movie and a blockbuster with personality, which makes it stand out a little from most of the typically bland summer fare.

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