GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, the voices of Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel
MPAA Rating: (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language)
Running Time: 2:01
Release Date: 8/1/14
Review by Mark Dujsik | July 31, 2014
After a down-to-earth prologue featuring a young boy witnessing the last breaths of his mother, we are brought to a strange world. It is a desolate planet that is home to the remnants of an ancient, alien civilization. Our hero is searching for something, using his high-tech visor to see into the past glory of this world. He finds the hub of this dead society, puts on a pair of headphones, and pushes a button on his portable cassette player. Suddenly, the soundtrack is filled with the rubbery guitar riff that signals the opening of Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love" (the first of many inspired musical selections). Our hero starts dancing through the ruins—kicking at little, rat-like creatures and soaring across a ravine with rocket-propelled boots.
The opening sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy (the one following the rather depressing prologue, obviously) is a delight. The playfulness of the scene tears right through the familiar setup and surroundings to create a sense of unpredictability. It promises a movie that will not take itself seriously but will have fun with the conventional stuff of space adventures and comic-book fare. The rest of the movie seems set on proving that old adage about the reason promises are made.
Just when we think co-writer/director James Gunn has provided a distinct identity to this story of a team of five oddities on intragalatic escapades, the screenplay by Gunn and Nicole Perlman (based on the comic series by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning) overwhelms that spirited tone with the usual stuff. We're offered the threat of massive destruction from a generic villain, who exists in the story solely to give the heroes something big and important to do in the third act. We get the mythos of some inanimate object that has rules but really does anything the screenplay requires of it. It doesn't matter if it's consistent in what it does from one scene to the next; it just has to move the story forward.
We're presented with a mess of characters, each of whom has little individual personality. Perhaps each of them has a unique character somewhere under the surface. We only know, though, what we see, and we see them waste a lot of words discussing that object—an item that one character has dismissed with multiple examples as an unimportant MacGuffin.
What we get is a whole lot of plot about interspecies diplomacy and planetary destruction and trips from one world to another. Occasionally, characters crack wise about each other or some story development. In other words, we get a typical space adventure but one that is overloaded with a wobbly sense of self-satisfaction.
The bright spot is the main cast of misfits. There's the human Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the boy from the prologue 26 years later. He's a thief and member of a group called the Ravagers, who abducted him from Earth. He is very disappointed that no one knows him by his nickname "Star-Lord." In the scene in the ruins, Quill has taken a mysterious orb that only a few people know of and even less want, due to the destructive power inside it.
There's Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a humanoid alien who is the adopted daughter of Thanos—another humanoid alien (Unless otherwise noted, just assume all of the aliens look mostly human) with ambitions to rule the galaxy. She is also one of the chief warriors of—and here's a name for you—Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), yet another villain who wants to rule the galaxy.
Drax (Dave Bautista) is a muscle-bound, tattoo-covered alien with a vast lexicon and an inability to comprehend metaphor. The last two are more than a bit different. Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) is a genetically-modified and cybernetically-enhanced raccoon bounty hunter with a gun fetish, and Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) is an anthropomorphic tree with a five-word vocabulary.
Aside from their physical appearances, there isn't much that distinguishes these characters. As a result of some standard-issue back story, each of them has a chip the size of a dwarf planet on his or her shoulder, and they all react to difficulty with sarcasm and a bad attitude. The exception is Groot, but obviously, he isn't much of a conversationalist. There's a pattern to their dialogue and jokes, such as the way Quill contextualizes information using pop-culture references from the 1980s (One would think he'd have wider pool of knowledge after over two decades of exploring the galaxy) or how Rocket wants to kill or maim almost everyone he encounters. These interactions don't necessarily grow tiresome, but they do feel almost as repetitive as the movie's near-constant devotion to delivering exposition.
The movie's worlds are eye-catching in a general way, from a utopian metropolis to a spaceship prison, but they are just plot markers, lacking specifics. The action sequences are also nondescript, and the climax is an arduous sequence of visual pollution consisting of bright colors and frantic, unintelligible motion. There's a strong, likeable start to Guardians of the Galaxy, but from there, the movie begins a persistent slide into anonymity.
Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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