Sunday, August 10, 2014

'Guardians of the Galaxy' film review

By my own admission, I wasn't looking forward to "Guardians of the Galaxy."

I just couldn't get geeked about it. While I respect Marvel Studios taking its cinematic universe into outer space, my interest was close to zilch.

But when the opportunity came to see "Guardians" with a friendly geek with similar interests … what can I say?

Given all that, "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a blast. The visual effects are stellar and while I'm certain I couldn't put my finger on quite all of the Marvel references, it's fun to see an interstellar space romp set in the far reaches of the Marvel Universe.

One of the things I enjoyed most was the music. "Guardians" has one of the most impressive soundtracks I've heard in a lot of years. (Best friend David Hudson was right in saying "it will make you shoot your wad.") But what else do you expect from a film in which the main character listens to "awesome mixes" of pop tunes from the 1970s?

Or better yet, you're probably able to figure out what type of movie experience you're in for when, in the opening sequence, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord picks up a rat-like creature to use as a microphone while he jams to his late mother's favorite tunes. Much later, David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust-era "Moonage Daydream" is a delightfully appropriate choice as the crew enters Knowhere.

There's no doubt "Guardians" is a science fiction film. But how else to describe it? Film fanatics will know what I mean when I say Marvel's first sci-fi flick has elements which owe quite a bit to the "Star Wars" franchise, "The Fifth Element," "Firefly"and even "Raiders of the Lost Ark" — which happen to be some of my all-time favorite movies. (David gets credit for recognizing the "Raiders" nod.)

Chris Pratt is a loveable goofball as Quill, whose Star-Lord mask is nothing less than bad-a**. Quill's too much of an idiot to be much of a Han Solo-type character and you have a hard time taking him seriously. But like the film, Quill has a big heart and it's hard not liking the big lug — not at all unlike Pratt's Emmet in "The LEGO Movie."

"Guardians" drags until the introduction of my two favorite characters, Rocket (sorry, dude — you're a raccoon) and Groot. Rocket, in fact, is more like Han Solo than Quill. This gutsy, smart-aleck guy pretends to not care, but his mouthiness is just a facade.

Bradley Cooper voices Rocket and aside from a handful of lines, it's difficult to hear the actor's voice. Well done, sir! Like Groot, Rocket is a top-notch computer-generated character.

This may border on a Captain Obvious statement, but I appreciate the somewhat subtle symbolism of a raccoon and a tree-like creature being best friends. Bad clich├ęs aside, look for a reference to the delightful children's book, THE GIVING TREE.

Actor Vin Diesel does a surprisingly good job of giving Groot a variety of ways to express himself — especially since the only thing his very limited vocabulary consists of is three words: "I am Groot." From the first time you see Groot using a public water fountain as a drinking fountain to the first hysterical after-credit scene, Groot — well, how else can I say this? — grows on you. The visual effects and CGI teams should be applauded for bringing life and subtlety to such a — dare I say it? — possibly wooden character.

As you might expect, "Guardians" is littered with Marvel references and Easter eggs, from the Kree Empire to the spaceships shaped like the symbol on the chest of space crusader Nova (who isn't in the film, but was the only Guardian I could name before this film). Fans in their late teens and 20s will help viewers like me identify many of the connections to the greater Marvel/Guardians comic-book universe.

In short, my girlfriend Liz Truxell and I could have used from my fellow nerd Andrew Gates.

Sure, I know who the Collector is from the must-read CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS, one of Marvel's first limited series — and still one of the best, even 32 years after the three-part adventure was published. And I eventually figured out I had an idea who Ronan is (from vintage FANTASTIC FOUR issues), once someone used his full title, Ronan the Accuser.

Honestly, there is a lot about "Guardians" that leaves me clueless or scratching my head. But it doesn't matter if you're not as well versed in Marvel's history, much less its sci-fi-based characters, as yours truly or your other favorite nerd. "Guardians of the Galaxy" doesn't take itself too seriously — one of its charms, in fact — so you shouldn't worry much about being such a serious-minded movie fan either. Just enjoy it. Grade: B




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