The Stickman Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy
Hey guys, it's me...The Stickman. Yes. Sorry for the lack of blogs over the past few weeks, there have been several in the works, I've just been busy either with other projects (New Space Penguin, mayyyyybe?) and also personal life stuff. I have despite all of that, however been to the cinema this week and...oh...what did I see? Only the new MCU movie! Aww yeah, it's review time, bitches!
Part of Marvel's winning formula with their movies has always been the humour. Whilst a lot of other franchises/studios take themselves very seriously and try to outdo each other with melodrama and darkness (Often to great effect, admittedly), the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) series has always presented itself with a knowing nudge and wink. They know a lot of the things they're adapting are pretty damn silly, and instead of ignoring that, or worse yet, taking it away and tarnishing what people loved about that property in the process, they embrace the stupidity of it all, and always laugh along with the audience when things get a bit too silly. I think it could be argued that Guardians of the Galaxy is the silliest Marvel I.P. brought to the big screen yet...I mean, what? We've got a tale of 5 misfits, including a tree and raccoon who all fly around in a spaceship doing all the spacey things a space person would do, A film like this needs a great sense of humour, and thank fucking Christ that Marvel, as always got it spot on, as this is probably the funniest Marvel film since The Avengers, and also the one that tries the most to be funny to boot. Much of the humour comes from the main cast, the absurdity of certain members, paired with the concept of them all being put in a room together, with all that banter you'd expect from such a happenstance, but there's also a lot of fun to be had with the action sequences, the music, hell, even the villains get in on the fun. Needless to say, if you're a fan of the comedy in Marvel films to date, you're going to love this film.
Like I just said, a lot of the comedy in Guardians of the Galaxy comes from the Guardians themselves, but not only are they funny, but they're also really interesting, brilliantly realised characters in their own right, and welcome additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Very much at the heart of the story is Peter Quill, AKA Starlord, AKA Who? An 80's Kid swept up into the stars and raised to be a scavenger of relics/valuable objects. He's a funny guy (Played by Chris 'EMMET' Pratt no less) who has plenty of badass moments throughout the film, but the events directly preceding his childhood abduction very much form a large chunk of the film's emotional core. Gamora is a green orphan assassin lady and definitely the least comedically gifted member of the crew, but definitely chalks up big numbers in the ass kicking department. She's got some serious beef with the baddies of the picture, and very much sets the events of the film into motion. Drax the Destroyer makes up the last of the humanoid team members, and whilst the least developed manages to get a lot of laughs from his vocal naivety (As do several members of the team, actually). And then we get to Groot...who's just...the most adorable wooden man you'll ever see (Sorry Woodyman), but also one of the most invaluable members of the team in a scrap. Then there's Rocket...he's a Raccoon...voiced by Bradley Cooper...he swears a lot, carries a huge fucking gun, invents bigger guns and spends most of his time sassing everybody. Yes, I do love him, thanks for noticing. The Guardians are great, and I can't wait to join them again in the sequel, but big props also go to Michael Rooker's character who manages to just be Michael Rooker...except blue...and in space...and somehow 12a material. I LIKE IT.
If reading that subheading gave you a huge erection, then WELCOME, you're in the right place my friend. Star Wars is a franchise close to many a nerds heart, but me personally? I could never fully get into it...I mean, don't get me wrong, the first 3 films had their moments but it was all just a bit too...squeaky clean for my tastes. Guardians of the Galaxy is Star Wars for people like me...except also with a huge heaping of Indiana Jones thrown in (Hell, they even reference it at one stage), with all that sprinkled atop that oh so delicious Marvel base to make one of the tastiest movie pizzas I've ever...nnghhh...now I really want Pizza...SHIT. Anyhoo, yes, that is an awesome sounding combo, and yes it does work very nicely indeed. It's pretty amazing to think such a hugely promising, expansive sci-fi (potential) franchise exists within the realms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe...I mean, if this film had just come out and not been connected to Marvel it would have been a treat (And also a hard sell for the normals, I'd imagine), but to have all this bubbling spacey potential contained within the fabric of a universe that contains the likes of Iron Man? Ooohhh...maaaann....I could still really go for a Pizza right now. So, you've got the space adventuring, evil fighting fun of Star Wars, the relic hunting, rough around the edges nature of Indiana Jones, and the self aware comedy stylings of Marvel (Alongside the potential for crossing over with say...THE AVENGERS). To quote a guy who just so happens to be in this film (WHO KNEW, RIGHT?), "Nuff Said!"
With the exception of a couple of the Iron Man centric moments of the MCU franchise, the various Marvel films of the past decade have relied mainly on big, booming orchestral soundtracks and little else, and whilst it's fair to say that Guardians of the Galaxy has its fair share of booming orchestras, it also sports a fantastic assortment of licensed tracks that not only add a much appreciated dollop of atmosphere creation to proceedings, but also tie in directly to the heart of the film, and it's lead character, Peter Quill. Now, unless you've been living under a rock this past year or so, you'll be well aware that almost all of GotG's trailers have been set to some wonderfully bombastic tracks from throughout the 80's. Personally, I was wondering how many of those, if any would make it into the actual film, often trailers use songs to build atmosphere within the confines of said trailer and then fail to do so in the actual film, generally at a detriment to the film itself, as it turns out though, all of the songs from the trailers turned up in the film, and they even brought a few friends with them! Peter has an 'Awesome 80's Mixtape' with him, one of the few remnants of his home world (That's Earth, by the way) so obviously the music means more to him, and the film than just fun background tunes. It's really neat to have the soundtrack of the film actually not only be diegetic (Which means to be taking place with in the world of the film, meaning the characters are spectators to it) but also deeply relevant to the story, and whoever came up with that idea, and made sure it wasn't something shit like Gangnam Style needs a raise.
As has become the norm for the MCU franchise (With perhaps the exception of Thor: The Dark World), Guardians of the Galaxy is one hell of a treat for nerdy peepers, perhaps more so than any Marvel film before it, in fact. As anyone who's dared actually read a Marvel comic book set in space (And god rest those souls, I tell ya) knows, there's a treasure trove of visual potential lurking within those pages, and GotG, as with the self-aware humour, embraces the mad worlds/locations of the comics and creates a colourful, varied and expansive selection of sci-fi locations for us and the team to explore. And yes, I did just say colourful, and that's a crucial detail, because this is at times down and gritty film, especially so for a Marvel (And Disney...jeez...they've really grown some balls lately) production, and that often means drab, dark environments which fade from the mind like a relatives birthday. But Guardians in fact, goes all out, providing the viewer with a level of colour and creativity the likes of which the mostly earth set Marvel films have never seen. No two locations in the film look the same, you have the clean and futuristic home world for the Nova Corp and the seedy, neon/yellow drenched confines of Knowhere, for instance, and those are just two locations to be found, it's safe to say this is a world you'll enjoy exploring. Beyond that, the special effects are superb, with the tricky characters of Groot and Rocket brought to life with jaw dropping levels of emotion and detail the likes of which I would have said I hadn't seen in a long time had I not watched Dawn of the Planet of the Apes a couple weeks back. It's all very pretty indeed, is what I'm trying to say.
This was somewhat to be expected but nonetheless it's still a noticeable problem. When a film attempts to more or less build an entire universe for itself (Despite being connected to the MCU, we really haven't explored much of that beyond Earth/Thorland) and introduce five key characters along with a smattering of side characters and also an actual story, which needs to bring all these drastically different people together with another time to enjoy their company and...y'know, set the tone for future sequels....it's going to be a bit of a crazy first act, isn't it? The film rushes through characters, story and locations at a breakneck pace in the opening 15 or so minutes, which doesn't leave you with a lot of time to soak in all the zany things going on and being said, which is really needed for a film as zany as this. Once the film has settled down and introduced the key players/settings and put them in their rightful places? Things start getting very good, but the opening is crucial for something like this, and whilst it doesn't fail completely, it certainly stumbles out of the gate, crushed by the weight of all the things it needs to explain/introduce. A sequel would definitely not have this problem, but this is a review of GotG 1...so...marks down there, chaps.
OH DEAR, ANOTHER FORGETTABLE MARVEL VILLAIN. Y'know, the MCU gets a lot of things right and a lot of other things very right...but it never seems to nail its villains. I mean...what...you have Loki, who was then milked as much as humanly (FrostGianty?) possible in films after his introduction, and the Winter Soldier was pretty damn badass...although he wasn't strictly a villain...reaallly...and then...what do you have? Dark Elf Man? Glowy Guy Pierce? Hammy Red Skull? Whilst none have been bad as such, few have managed to be anything more than 'villain of the week' material at best, perfectly adequate for the story but nothing more than that, and despite Guardians of the Galaxy having...other...more promising evil forces at work in the background, the main villain of the piece, despite some potential is rushed, worryingly familiar and definitely forgettable. Like I said before, the film rushes through a lot of things in the opening act, and the villain is one of the worst offenders in that respect...I never really knew who he was, he was never introduced in any meaningful level, and his first sequence was jarring to say the least. He shares far too many similarities with Thor: The Dark World's main villain, who was already bland and forgettable to begin with, so that's not exactly a good template, is it? Honestly, the MCU films vary considerably in quality but one thing most of them share in common is a disappointing villain. I'm hoping Ultron and Thanos bring more to the table in future films, but for now...bad show indeed. OH, and if you think the main villain is forgettable, just wait until you meet his robot sidekick played by Mrs "I can't actually act, why am I here" from Doctor Who....that one...ergh...why was she even there?
This again plays into the sense of a rushed opening, but is going to be a huge problem for less knowledgeable fans of the film series...Guardians of the Galaxy for all its fun and games is often hugely baffling, again, mostly in the opening act but given how much there is to explain in this film...not a lot of it actually is. You can make the argument that fans of the comic won't have this problem, but Marvel films are about as mainstream as blockbusters get right now, and throwing crazy planet names, previously unheard of species' and oodles of crazy sci-fi universe lore at people is not the best way to establish such a risky, niche property to a wide audience. It's very much like that after-credits scene for The Avengers where Thanos showed up, and half the audience was ejaculating in their britches whilst the other was hastily googling 'Purple Alien Dude' to find out what the hell was going on. I think you'll just have to accept that there are aspects of this universe that aren't going to make a huge amount of sense, and aren't going to be explained at any point in the film, and you're either going to just deal with that and enjoy the ride (And gain some sense of what it all is in your own right), or you'll just feel completely confused and disconnected from the whole product. On a lesser, but still valid note, I found aspects of the film woefully predictable, including something that's introduced at the start as a mystery 'Ooooh what's it gonna be?!' thing but you'll know what it is the moment its introduced, so when they make a big deal out of its reveal at the end of the film it just feels all the more stupid to have kept it a mystery in the first place. It strikes me as odd that such an oddball (In a good way) film turned out to be so formulaic at times.
Funnily enough, like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Which is fantastic by the way), the last thing I saw at the cinema, Guardians of the Galaxy is the kind of film where you need to be on board with all the crazy shenanigans from the get go, or you're going to just...hate it. Can't accept a foul mouthed, gun toting raccoon hanging out with a tree, or the notion of a Sony Walkman/Cassette lasting over 20 years of space travel? This is not the film for you. If you're willing to take those things for what they are and just go with the flow? You're in for one hell of a summer movie treat. This is as batshit (They even say that in the film) and out there as big budget sci-fi blockbuster cinema gets, and it could have easily been a complete disaster, but almost everything is just spot on, it nails the sense of humour that is needed for something like this, and manages to pack heart and likability into things that would have once been impossible to render into a movie. It's definitely the most detached of the MCU films to date (By which I mean there are very few links to the other films and even fewer subtle nods), so if you're expecting Captain America to show up at some point, you're going to be disappointed. Take it for what it is, a grand, funny picture of its own style that just so happens to be set in a universe you know and love, then it's definitely worth watching.
Like all MCU films, it's not without its flaws...a weak villain and rushed introductions spoil the party a bit, but despite all of that, this is easily one of the best films to come out of the franchise to date, and shining proof that silly sounding things can turn out awesome. It establishes a hugely likeable, funny and varied cast of characters that you'll be itching to visit again from the moment the credits roll (Which in fact state they will return about two seconds in...so...), whilst also being packed with charm, action and, surprisingly, a lot of heart at its core. After the mixed bag that were Marvel's 2013 offerings (Iron Man 3 and Thor 2), 2014 has offered us two fantastic, memorable films in the form of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and this, Guardians of the Galaxy. Both couldn't be any more different despite being set in the same universe within the same timeframe, but both are brilliant in their own way. Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be beloved by many, myself included, but fare be warned, the opening sequences require persistence and well...you'll just have to look up what the hell Kree are when you get home, won't you? The tagline for this film was, somewhat arrogantly "You're Welcome"...well...the reply may have been a bit early, but thank you Marvel for making the Star Wars movie I always wanted....with a motherfucking badass Raccoon, no less! ROLL ON GUARDIANS 2...but...but don't skip Avengers 2...that sounds...awesome...hnnghh...okay...can I have Pizza now?
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That's my Review! What did you think of Guardians? What are your thoughts on Marvel Phase 2 on a whole? Looking forward to Age of Ultron? Let me know in the comments below! Later Gators!