Thursday, August 7, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I’ve been excited about this movie ever since I saw the hilarious first trailer. Unlike Iron Man, Captain America and Co., (whom I knew of either vaguely or from newspapers or Marvel Zombies), I've never heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but because of said trailer and the usual Marvel-film hype, I went in with some level of expectation. First time ever.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Although, I can’t say expectations exceeded, either.

In brief, Guardians revolves around five escaped convicts who band together to claim a huge bounty on an item that one of them had stolen at the start of the film; an item, which the main villain of the film needed for trade with a larger big-bad in order for the latter to commit genocide. Through the course of the film, our convicts elude the main villain and other parties who also want the item, and become unlikely heroes as they try to prevent a planet from being massacred and defeat the bad guy.

Un-blanding the paragraph (which wasn't at all easy to write in the first place) would mean writing out almost the entire plot, and that’s my main quibble of the film: there’s not exactly a coherent storyline to speak of. It’s very all over the place (character gets item everyone wants amidst geo-political warfare and probable genocide and there’s a guy who collects things), but the movie is just so much fun that you don’t notice how messy it is.

[Unfortunately for me, I'm left with “something I can’t quite put my finger on”-itis.]

Rooting its emotional core with Peter Quill (“you may know me by… Star-Lord”), pivotal scenes come with classic songs from the 1970s and 80s (including the awesome “Hooked on a Feeling”, which is also in the trailer), heard through his Sony Walkman and “Awesome Mix Vol. 1”-tape with all his mother’s favourite songs. Peter left Earth as a young child at his mother’s death, and listening to the mix-tape is his way of remembering his mother and reminding him of his home planet.

After those poignant first scenes on Earth (its 8-10 minutes to me is almost at par with the opening of Up), the movie establishes its comedic tone by having Chris Pratt (who plays Star-Lord) strut and dance his way through alien ruins. Pratt fits the standard cocky, sarcastic hero mould that we’ve acquainted and re-acquainted ourselves with in each superhero movie, but he’s so freaking adorable (like a teddy bear! a giant ginger teddy bear!) that I didn’t even realise this (cocky sarcasm) until time of writing.

As fitting as Pratt is as the lead, he has his movie almost stolen from him by two characters who are completely CG’ed: Rocket (Raccoon) and Groot. The pair (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel respectively) showed more humanity, emotion and compassion (this especially from alien wood) than all other characters put together. I’m surprised that Diesel got billing ahead of Cooper, who got in far more dialogue than expected, compared with “I am Groot”.

After the wasted opportunity Green Lantern was, I was sceptical of another movie set in space, because how much time spent in space really depends on the production budget. I’m glad that in Guardians, we barely spend any time on Earth (only in the beginning), though we do spend almost a cumulative half-hour on the mostly-human-looking Xandar. Luckily, this doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the film.

[People behind Green Lantern sequel or reboot, please take note. Two hours of Oa would be comparably better than one hour of Earth.]

Guardians introduces an ensemble instead of just a solo act, so backstories for everyone but Peter are told via exposition. This I somehow noticed, which annoyed me for the rest of the film that I noticed. Thankfully, in all of that exposition is witty dialogue, and its very able actors and trip down nostalgia lane make the movie work.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies tend not to deviate into the unknown (even Thor doesn’t really talk about other Realms), so it's great to see this film delve deeper into more obscure material, and, to quote another sci-fi saga, “it boldly goes where no (MCU movie) has gone before.” Unfortunately, I didn't quite find this movie fresh or original (as I hoped it would be), but it is a solidly entertaining new entry. Considering how the past few were tried-and-tested box office material (Iron Man threequel, Thor and Captain America sequels), Marvel Studios still has that magic touch, and I'm looking forward to seeing whatAnt-Man and Doctor Strange movies bring.

This movie's end-credits doesn't tie in to The Avengers 2, but the find scene does tease a unexpected possible re-boot for a character long-dormant.

I was so, so psyched with that last scene.

8/10. Do, do watch this movie, and just laugh at everything.

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