Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Quick theater story before I get into the review…  I went to a 10 pm screening last night (the new midnight show I guess), and it was pretty full, and this group of five 20-something dorks were sitting in the same row as us on the other side.  The worst of them was irritatingly loud.  The kind of loud that before the trailers started everyone in the theater was just listening to him talk.  One of those annoying people whose range of volume varies from yelling to shouting.  Nothing but cynical dribble about what’s wrong with this comic book movie, or what he noticed about that TV show.  He had to make sure everyone heard him because his obnoxious opinions and dumb jokes were so important.  Once the trailers started, he began shouting over them because he had to compete with the volume of the screen now, you see.  When the first trailer ended, and he was still yammering on about something, his friend started joking “You’re so loud, man.  So loud!”  And some irritated bro about four rows behind us goes, “Yeah, he really is.”

Then for two more trailers he kept dork-shouting things, with every bit of silence filled with brief blips of annoyance, “WELL TWO CHARACTERS WERE” or “IN THE CARTOON HE WAS MORE OF” or “I’M PLANNING ON GOING TO”.  I consider myself to be a nerd (at least of the pop-culture variety), but this guy had me wanting to book him in the hallway and give him an atomic wedgie.  Finally, after the “put on your 3D glasses” message came up and the next trailer started, and he shouted *the* lamest joke possible: “THE LETTERS ARE COMING RIGHT AT ME!” That same irritated bro four rows back then shouted “If your friend doesn’t shut the f*** up, we’re gonna beat all of your asses in the parking lot!”  It was a gloriously deserved moment.  I, and many other people in the theater laughed out loud.  And the dork never said another word until the movie was over.  I don’t think I would have condoned them actually getting beat up over their friend being loud during the pre-movie and trailers, but if it *did* happen, I probably would have just shrugged and nodded approvingly.

I caught a glimpse of the magnificent beast as we were exiting the theater, when he went back to shouting references at his friends who were two feet away from him, “APOCALYPSE APPEARED AT THE END OF X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, THIS ENDING SCENE WAS”, and oh he was a sight to behold.  He must have been at least 6’7″, a curly, unkempt brown collection of near-afro-ish nerd curls, blank-yet-dopey face, and the creme de la creme; a My Little Pony t-shirt, which he chose to wear in public, unironically.  It was like a near perfect visualization of how I wanted him to look.  The only thing missing was the Cheeto fingers.

Well, now that I’ve wasted 500 words talking about some sad lummox, maybe I should move on to Guardians of the Galaxy, which actually made me feel incredibly happy?

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From probably the best lead-in shot to the Marvel Films logo they’ve ever done to the haphazard assembly of the guardians by pure coincidence to the hilarious/awesome showdown with the bad guy at the end, I had a smile on my face.  The movie created a sense of pure, unadulterated joy in me.  For all of the work Marvel has done at developing their cinematic universe, it’s funny how the one property that has (almost) no (current) connection to the rest of the franchises was the most fun.  Or at least captured perfectly what I would like to identify as a manic comic book vibe.  It kept the “boring” scenes to a minimum, and I put that in quotes because they weren’t even boring.  They had to move the plot along, and they did it mostly while avoiding having drawn out expository scenes, like almost every other Marvel film has had to resort to at least once or twice.

That’s one of the best features of Guardians, they waste almost no time explaining all of the random weird things they shove in front of your face, but you manage to figure them out anyway.  Benicio del Toro’s Collector scene probably had the most exposition, and it felt like it was only two minutes long anyway, AND featured a cool shot of a planet being destroyed (don’t worry, that wasn’t a spoiler).  It’s a fast-moving film, and there’s no shortage of goofy imagery.  But it’s goofy in the best kind of way, and the galaxy they created develops beautifully over the course of the film.  There’s not a single weapon, spaceship, or location in the film that I questioned or didn’t understand as it was playing out.  In fact, I probably have a better grasp on everything covered in this movie than I do about Asgard over the course of two Thor movies and The Avengers.  And this movie makes Asgard seem like the Washington, D.C. of the galaxy as well, some boring place where things are supposed to get done.  I’ll take the giant, floating, decapitated head of a dead monster that someone converted basically into Space Las Vegas over Thor’s uptight rainbow world any day of the week.  And I loved that all of the characters had and knew their place in this world as well.  The movie wasn’t about some human discovering this vast galactic world, slack-jawed staring at every pretty sight he sees.  It looks pretty to the audience, but he has already been living there for twenty years.  Through the eyes of our protagonists, these beautiful environments are just the places they come across on a regular basis.  Probably the most humorously relevant quote about who they are and why they’re here came up when one of them asked “Why should we save this stupid galaxy in the first place?”  To which the response is “Because I’m an idiot who lives in this galaxy!”  Good luck finding a quote that good in Man of Steel.

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Starlord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is basically Marvel’s Han Solo, with all of the snide remarks and lowlife logic that gets him tied up with the wrong people at every turn, BUT ALSO with the scrappy good-guy attitude to make him extremely enjoyable.  Hopefully between this and Jurassic World, Pratt becomes a bankable star, because he is (and has been) one of the more likable people in Hollywood, on and off the camera.  Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is the “straight (wo)man” for the most part, which is nice, because since the other four members of the team are knuckleheads, it’s good to have someone bring it back down to a different level for a moment.  But even she embraces the team’s lunacy eventually.  Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper, only he’s actually doing a *voice*, and not just sounding like Bradley Cooper going “hey guys, I’m a raccoon now, you guys” in Bradley Cooper’s voice.  It’s an atypical situation where a live-action A-list star uses his talent to become an animated character.  His tree-buddy Groot provided some of the funnier visual gags in the film, which I wasn’t fully expecting.  Actually, if this movie had to identify a character as its heart, it would probably go back to Groot.  A lovable tree, he was!  I’m sure he and Rocket will sell a buttload of action figures.  The last member of the team was Drax, played by surprisingly funny (ex?) pro-wrestler Dave Bautista, who is the hot-headed guy who takes everything literally.  Together, their back-and-forth banter is what escalated this movie from really good to awesome.

And all of the side characters and cameos!  John C. Reilly, Michael Rooker (Merle from Walking Dead), Djimon Hounsou, and Glenn Close!  Space Glenn Close looks an awful lot like regular Glenn Close.  Of course there is the usual Stan Lee cameo, and of course there was the guy sitting behind me who said, out loud, “Haha, Stan Lee!” as if we all didn’t already know.  Listen, buddy, we *ALL* know who Stan Lee is, and we all know he makes a cameo in all of these movies.  Can we stop acknowledging this out loud during the movie?  It’s not impressive.  Did you even notice Troma creator Lloyd Kaufman’s cameo in the prison scene?  *THAT’S* an impressive cameo to shout out.  But you still didn’t see me doing that, because I’m not obnoxious.  (clears throat)  Also, the after the credits scene had a quality cameo by a familiar face from a childhood VHS tape I used to watch.  It made everyone chuckle.

In fact, this action movie probably made me laugh as much as 22 Jump Street did, and I found that movie hilarious.  James Gunn was the right guy to hire for this project, because he took a simple story and ran with it in the best way possible.  Guardians of the Galaxy is a good example of how to correctly do action comedy, and not just make a bland action movie with some bad jokes in it (like last week’s Hercules).  Aside from maybe a scene or two focusing only on the bad guy, every scene was loaded with jokes.  There are probably 50x more laughable jokes in this movie than in Tammy.  Do we compare Guardians of the Galaxy to Tammy around here?  YUP.  There were even some heartfelt moments that I wasn’t expecting, and they didn’t feel like pure audience manipulation, which is always welcome.  And there was no real love interest either, which was nice.  Any attempt by Starlord to come on to Gamora was merely just the sleazy tactics of a womanizer trying to stick his dick into whichever brightly colored woman he can get ahold of in the galaxy.  It seemed like the only thing Quill had any motivating attachment to was his cassette player, given to him by his dying mother, which provides his only remaining attachment to his former Earth life/humanity, and an excuse for Gunn to play some awesome 70’s tunes over space battles.  I didn’t complain.

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I glanced around after I got home from the movie for negative reviews, just to see what people could possibly complain about.  It isn’t as fun as previous Marvel movies?  What?  It’s pure fun!  I don’t recall seeing a more fun action movie anytime in the recent past.  It lacks charm?  The jokes get drowned out by the special effects?  I don’t know.  I thought it was a charming, hilarious, fun movie.  If there’s anything I would critique against it, it’s that when I really thought about it, the story is pretty freakin’ basic.   But the thing is, I didn’t even notice that as I was watching it, because the excitement they packed around it elevated this basic story (that we’ve all probably seen before) into something wholeheartedly worth watching.  Other than maybe Watchmen, you’re not going to find a superhero movie that *isn’t* something of a mindless-yet-exciting thrill ride.  How many important themes are you really going to pick out of Iron Man, or The Dark Knight?  These are fun movies.  They give us excitement, and if you’re looking for some deep, thought-provoking meaning to a movie about guys who dress up in costumes and blow things up, you’re looking in the wrong genre.  The difference between the mindlessness of Guardians of the Galaxy and the mindlessness of Transformers 4 *should* be pretty apparent to you when you watch them both.  You see, one is exciting and funny, and the other boring and not funny.  I don’t know what my point is here?  I feel like I’ve rambled out this whole review like an excited man-baby.  Perhaps that’s just what Guardians of the Galaxy did to me; turned me into an over-enthused kid.  Maybe my point is just to say “lighten up, 14 people who wrote negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.”

Yet, as I give this movie the score I’m giving it, I hesitated.  I’m not 100% sure why?  As I watched the movie, I enjoyed every second of it, and I didn’t find anything wrong with it as it was playing out.  Does that not make it worthy of this score?  I’m not implying it’s perfect, and I’m not implying it’s my favorite movie ever made.  No movie is perfect; there’s probably *something* wrong with every movie, at least to someone.  And then I wondered if I hesitated because I assumed people would judge my credibility on giving out a score like this?  And then I thought: who cares?  This movie did everything I asked of it (and more), even when I didn’t deserve to ask it of anything, and that’s the most credit I can give it.  It was this score to ME.  Plus, what’s the fun in reviewing things if you can’t throw out a 10 every once in a while?

10 out of 10

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