Guardians of the Galaxy

GOTG_Payoff_1-Sht_v4b_LgGuardians of the Galaxy

Directed by: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, David Batuista
Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: August 1, 2014

PLOT: A group of dysfunctional ruffians fight over the same orb, and then end up trying to save a planet.

WHO’S IT FOR? People who go see comic book movies, which is all of us now, I guess.

OVERALL

These title accidental heroes may be “a-holes” or “losers,” but their story’s sense of their outsider quality is delusional; the same way that to be a geek before the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s character crusade seven years ago has a completely different definition now, not to mention a lack of stigma. The story of these galaxy guardians is not packaged to be one that is different from those of which they are meant to be underdogs from; the most “outsider” element of this story compared to those on the Avengers’ world is that this one takes place outside of planet Earth.

While the film owes its producing to The Avengers (and its villain Thanos Kevin Feige), Guardians of the Galaxy is constructed much more like Star Wars. Heavy on Han Solo-machismo, this film tells of a motley crew that is assembled when they clamor for the same orb, the mysterious contents of this space ball less important the amount of money someone will pay for it. The orb is originally found by a human named Jason Quill, who since being abducted in 1988 with a time capsule backpack and a Walkman, has associated himself with the space name of Star Lord, while working as an interplanetary junker. The interest in the orb causes the gravitational pull of greed from three other nerfherders: a trigger-happy raccoon named Rocket (voiced with even more Richie DiMaso by American Hustle star Bradley Cooper) a tall “humanoid plant” with an even bigger smile named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) that demonstrates Descartes by only saying, “I am Groot,” and a weaponized green alien named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), motivated by rage against her forcefully adopted father Thanos, who wants the orb for what’s inside.

When the four scuffle in public for the ball, they’re all arrested and put into a prison. In order to help them break out, they hire the muscle and blind rage of a fifth member Drax (Dave Batuista), promising Drax that when they escape, he’ll be able to get vengeance about the man who killed his wife and daughter, the venomous Anglo Saxon death wizard Ronan (Lee Pace, with extra attitude). In a short amount of time, the state of the entire galaxy is in jeopardy, a bounty on Quill reaches a head, and Groot fights with the comic appeal of Mark Ruffalo’s take on the Incredible Hulk.

Co-writer/director James Gunn has a warm embrace for those who do not fit in; more specifically, those who do not just lose, but crash into the mountainside of despair and can only crawl away from the wreckage with completely crippled vulnerabilities. Such was the case with his previous film Super, a completely unhinged take on hero folklore that featured Rainn Wilson as a depressed & depressing loner who fights crime by hitting it in the face with a wrench; a movie that confronted the dark psychosis of these comic characters that was previously taken lightly. It is as disturbing a film as it is magically endearing to such a character, and shows the potential to create complicated emotional beings out of the weirdos that make for uncomfortable narrative experiences for audiences.

With Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn does have his beloved losers, “people who have lost stuff” as Pratt’s Jason Quill AKA Star Lord innocently reasons when talking about what the five members of this wild bunch have in common. The movie begins with a dark scene of Quill as a young boy talking to his dying mother, and later it features two scenes of a talking raccoon crying about his abusive past. Each of these lead characters has an emotional weight that does not feel like a lightly taken catalyst. The movie explores various degrees of angst against everyone else, ranging from red-covered warrior Drax yearning to slaughter those who killed his wife and daughter, to main villain Ronan, who provides an uncharacteristically memorable Marvel villain due to his surging level of sociopathy, which feels to be at a studio high. This inner darkness within the characters is the film’s most distinct quality, and by no mistake, one of the aspects that rings like authorship, instead of studio assembly.

When discussed as 3D spectacle, Guardians of the Galaxy provides space-set dogfights, intricately animated large locations, violations of peace treaties, and some snazzy hand-to-hand scuffles that add the summer’s total of double-fisting gun shootouts to four. Said with a shrugging acceptance, this tentpole is indeed B-movie Star Wars, which is refreshing for now as there hasn’t been a space adventure movie like this in a while, maybe since Serenity, of whose connection to this film will be left alone. The movie can be funny too, mostly when its characters are being sassy (Rocket’s snide attitude and Quill’s boyish rebelliousness are its peaks).

However, in terms of embracing “the other,” there aren’t many subversions to take away from Guardians of the Galaxy, which could have been an adjustment on the Marvel construction/way of filmgoing life that is beginning to mold. At best, there are two instances where pontificating villains are shut up by abrupt action, a trend within this movie that leans towards a sly wink at the serious usage of such a trope.

Certain elements that unite former comic book movies in shallow perspective show up even in this film. Nebula, a villainous blue alien sister to Gamora played by Karen Gillam, always walks an invisible runway as if the fiasco with Scarlett Johansson and the sexist Avengers poster pose never happened. Or, there’s the bigger element of this movie’s sense of visual depth, which just provides scenes so huge that its size is more impressive than anything going on within the story. Does one remember what really happened in the climax of Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 3, or just that they were huge?

Guardians of the Galaxy softens its weird corners and wants its irreparably screwed up psychoses to fit in; it’s a movie afraid of standing out. Even in terms of the movie climate on its release date, Guardians of the Galaxy comes at a time where a previous idea of alternative is now a mainstream, if not communal affair. After all, this movie arrives at the same time as a second Sharknado movie rides an even bigger kitsch wave than its original, albeit with a title that was picked from a Twitter contest.

Despite the many chances to do something different, and to be boldly different at that, Guardians of the Galaxy dresses up these “other” characters like an Avengers. This movie still features the endangering of an entire planet as lead by a tall Shakespearean fellow who wants to rule more than just a world. It runs with the soft franchising, and “geek minstrel show” of a false-alt construct like “The Big Bang Theory.” Even when featuring an explicit masturbation joke made by a talking raccoon with a pornographic relationship with machine guns, Guardians of the Galaxy is too mathematical to be special outside of the species of losers that it introduces.

FINAL SCORE: 5/10

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