Fantasia Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy


Confirming two axioms of popular cinema simultaneously, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (hereafter Guardians) demonstrates that there is nothing new under the sun, but also that execution can easily trump story to make a pretty swanky piece of pop bubblegum. Director James Gunn and his capable writers are only a few fourth wall breaks away from Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs in that Guardians is a loving parody of the space adventure genre while also delivering memorable characters and banter and sight gags. Every place name is ludicrously silly, all the stakes are kept thankfully low due to the attitude of the characters and the movie. It puts the fun back into the multiplex popcorn film that this summer has been lacking outside of Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Guardians feels like the entire film is set in the key of that dense, fun, and most importantly, cocky scene.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gunn’s voice is not silenced by the Marvel machine, I am curious to see if this movie changes the way people look at Jackson Pollack, or for that matter, parents have to explain that one-off joke to their kids (it will likely sail right over their tiny little heads like the blow job gag in Ghostbusters). Much like Sam Raimi’s initial foray into studio filmmaking, Army of Darkness, Gunn gets to bring in all of his favourite peeps to the party: Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry (the filthy mayor from Slither), Lloyd Kaufman (Troma), even his brother Sean get cameos to pop in on the periphery to the main action. Even Kevin Bacon, who worked with Gunn as fried-eggs-loviing villain in Super, is here in spirit, mildly begging the question of whether or not he gets paid for his presence. Michael Rooker, in blue face paint right over top of his beard, enjoys a pretty significant opportunity to that thing he does. That is to look distinctly uncomfortable for our amusement, like he is having an unexpected orgasm in his pants while trying to make polite conversation at a party. This is the spirit of Guardians, in a way. Rooker is indeed excellent and off kilter as Starlord’s passive-agressive father-figure, and lover of troll dolls and kitchy knick-knacks.

Christ Pratt, as Peter Quill, aka Starlord, sports the tone, all-america surfer body of Caspar Van Dien in Starship Troopers, but is anything but vacant. He is self-away, sharp, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker all-in-one. Pratt nails timing of the screenplay and the sight gags. The tone of his salvage-man loner, happily adrift in the junkyard of space oddities feels not one bit realistic in someone surviving as the last man in space, but nevertheless very right. When he gathers all of these oddballs in the opening act of the film, 100% at odds with one another (one character even phones the villains their location to come and fight) he charmingly negotiates their foibles with wit and grace, but mainly invites everyone (audience included) to dance this little dance with him and enjoy the beauty and the fury of this wide universe.

The movie effortlessly cribs from Star Wars, The Heavy Metal Movie (particularly the John Candy driven Loknar segment), Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond The Stars and even the pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Forgive my need to catalogue this kind of minutiae. All of this Mega-franchise connectedness of the Marvel-verse seems to invite this sort of thing, even when it isn’t important or necessary.

More than all of this, Guardians feels like an Edgar Wright movie (note the Peter Ser. All the best jokes in Guardians involve either character driven humour or visual gags involving framing and film grammar; the way stuff happens in the background, or looking away from a dense action set-piece to a nonchalant bit of calm negotiation happening just off to the side of all furious noise. The wicked soundtrack of precisely calibrated and implanted pop songs is perfection, even if many of the cassette tape moments were omnipresent in the marketing. Seeing how well Guardians works outside of the usual tone of the studio makes Wrights firing from Marvel’s Ant Man utterly baffling.

Like many a Marvel movie, the villains, look great in leather costumes and fantastic body tattoos. Apparently, everyone in this film goes to the same tattoo and accessory shop. Ronan, Korath and Nebula (more consonant-vowel-consonant, generic-ridiculous naming, in a movie with oh so plenty to spare) are completely uninteresting and self-serious-silly. Shades of Colm Feore, Karl Urban and Thandie Newton in similar, if not as good The Chronicles of Riddick, which, now that I think about it, also echoes a Heavy Metal Comic-vibe. The reavers, er whatever they are, baddies exist to merely to endanger the universe for no real compelling reasons other than to give the heroes fodder to mock in the middle of familiar CGI space battles and fist fights.

I was very happy to see, in the current ADHD blockbuster landscape, for Guardians to often slow down and spend time hanging out with Quill, Rocket, Gamora, Drax and Chewbacca…er…Groot for long stretches such that one could easily be convinced that this is a re-imaginging of Firefly/Serenity under the watch of Joss Whedon. I was surprised by how effective they get the CGI right. Rocket’s racoon bed heat, Groot’s charming presence and facial tics, the beautifully bright planet (where we encounter Glenn Close as the cheery governor and John C. Reilly as the guard-slash family man) has open vistas and bright clouds highly reminiscent of Farpoint (The Star Trek Next Generation pilot, as does a certain safety-barrier). The planet offers something to save, but also suitably serves up a complex introduce the characters chase with winning choreography, worthy of Buster Keaton. Furthermore, there are moments when the film stops to smell the CGI-roses in slow motion, engaging camera work that does what Brad Bird suggest these types of movies should always do: offer audience a little joy and wonder.

If I never bothered with story details in this review, please forgive me, but you’ve seen Star Wars and its plethora of derivates over the past 35 years, so don’t sweat the generic ‘subway-stop’ plotting (a Marvel-Disney speciality, but in all fairness, Spielberg and all those beloved ’80s fantasy films do it as well) and logistics and enjoy how much Guardians get to take the piss out of it all, with just more than a pinch of sweetness, and an Awesome Mix Tape #1 to make care just enough to not nitpick.

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Markus Krenn
Guest

If Kurt likes a Marvel Movie, then there is still hope for mankind.

Andrew James
Admin

Kurt would really like Iron Man 3 I’m sure.

Markus Krenn
Guest

That’s a bet i’m not willing to take. I’ve lost one too many times.
He’s so unpredictable when it comes to his taste of movies.

Marina Antunes
Admin

Plus Iron Man 3 is pretty terrible…

Andrew James
Admin

Are you serious? Marina and I disagree about a movie!? It was easily one of my favorites of 2012. I’ll see anything Shane Black writes from now on.

Marina
Guest

It’s true Andrew. I didn’t care for it. But to be honest, I generally dislike Iron Man. The first movie had a few moments I liked but otherwise, I’m not a fan.

Marina Antunes
Admin

I can’t believe Kurt liked a Marvel movie but it’s really a hard one to dislike. Gunn nails the wackyness of the comic and it totally works.

And great thing you name check Firefly Kurt – the opening sequence reminds me completely of the kind of situation Mal would get himself into.

Antho42
Guest

A fun film. The main criticism I have with the film is that the action is so boring; Patrick Ripoll is going go berserk all over this film. There are no memorable action sequences. It is still an enjoyable film, but, when you spent so much time with action sequences, they do need to deliver.

Antho42
Guest

Also, as it turns out, this film makes the argument that you could, indeed, make a movie revolving Han Solo (and similar characters).

Andrew James
Admin

To 3D or not 3D. That is the question. And IMAX and/or ATMOS.

Sean Kelly
Guest

I decided to go see the film in 2D AVX, which is only $3 more than a regular screening (as opposed to $6 more for a 3D AVX Atmos screening at the same cinema).

Andrew James
Admin

Saw it in 2D. I think it was fine, but there are about 3 or 4 moments that I’m sure really popped in three dimensions (slow-mo stuff, the tree lights floating in the air, some of the space ship stuff, the holograms, etc.).

Matthew Price
Guest

Just came back from a 2nd viewing. 1st was IMAX 3D (NOT liemax) and then a 2D screening. I don’t know how it will look at home, but the IMAX show was visibly brighter and more vibrant even with the 3D glasses on.

Goon
Guest

I really wanted this to be a breath of fresh air from Marvel, but it’s just a slightly better version of their same old shit. Oh well.

Sean Kelly
Guest

Would have liked the film better if it didn’t say Marvel?

Just asking.

Goon
Guest

Well considering I saw the new Ninja Turtles movie today and liked and disliked it for similar reasons (charming characters, bland generic action, underdeveloped villains)… No?

Matthew Fabb
Guest

Wow… with all the praise, I didn’t think it would live up to my expectations, but it did so easily. It’s just such an incredibly fun film.

Also Kurt wondering about the generic sounding names, almost all of them come from the late 1960’s to 1970’s era of Marvel comics.

Speaking of which, while it’s a shame that Jim Starlin isn’t mentioned in the credits, that he apparently has some kind of “understanding” with Marvel. As Jim Starlin is responsible for creating the vast majority of Marvel’s cosmic characters that are in Guardians of the Galaxy and looks like will come into play in later Phase 3 movies. So it sounds like Marvel gave him some money, despite the fact that they are under no obligation as Jim Starlin wrote those characters under work-for-hire. On top of that, Jim Starlin has come back to Marvel after a long leave from the company to release a 100 page original graphic novel about Thanos.

Jonathan
Guest

It was fun and definitely had its moments, but afterwards, I was surprised that this had received the amount of adoration as it has. Did the movie ever go more than 5 minutes without a boring, cookie cutter action scene?

I thought the characters were all really interesting and done well, but we never got to really get spend much time with them, at least no intimately. Furthermore, the movie is mostly forgettable… fun, but forgettable. There are no, say, Tattoine catina moments, ya dig?