Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman; based upon Guardians of the Galaxy
by Dan Abnet and Andy Lanning
Cinematographer: Ben Davis
Producer: Kevin Feige
by Jon Cvack
Before Logan and with the exception of The Dark Knight Trilogy, I don’t like most superhero movies, as prior to Logan (2017), the last Marvel movie I started was Avengers: Age of Ultron, which I turned off after about forty minutes, if that, as I swear these movies all seem to abide by the same exact formula, often involving the end of the world. It draws to mind an article that I struggle to find, but have mentioned before, in that when a studio is about to pour in mountains of cash to finance one of these films, an inevitable note is that, given the massive investment, there’s a certain inevitability in having the entire country, world, or universe at risk of destruction should the superhero or team thereof fail to complete their mission; after all, what else would demand such extravagant effects if not a risk of wiping out the entire human race, if not all of life in the universe?
Similar to Deadpool (which I haven’t yet seen), Guardians of the Galaxy was often described to me as a comic book movie for people that aren’t into comic book movies. It didn’t take itself too seriously, had a great soundtrack, and characters that were far from the norm. I had been on the verge of finally renting the thing and it was upon buying a 4k UHD player and wanting to baptise it with a big time action movie, I figured it was as a good a time as any to check out the film.
For those handful of people who haven’t seen the film - it involves a self prescribed “space outlaw” (or “bandit”, I can’t remember), Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, who embodies the sarcasm and insouciance of Pratt, making him perfect for the role. On his latest mission he gets his hands on an Orb that - of course - is capable of wiping out the entire universe. Stealing it from evil mastermind Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), Ronan then unleashes his daughter and assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve the Orb. As she hunts it down, a pair of bounty hunters, raccoon cyborg Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick and talking tree Groot (voiced with maybe two lines by Vin Diesel) find Quill and so begins a triple fight, leading the foursome to be captured by the police and throw in prison, where they discover the fifth member of their group Drax the Destroyer ( Dave Bautista). Of course the five escape, Gomora joins the crew officially, leading Ronan to send out his own army to hunt down the orb, which gets all the more disrupted when another space outlaw Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) gets involved, equally desirous of the orb and its power, and so continues an intergalactic battle between good, evil, and all things inbetween, with periodic popular music breaks featuring some of the top hits from 70s, 80s, and 90s, all played on cassette tape.
It’s exhausting to even write that plot out, as between the names and seemingly loaded plot, is just another story of some good guys who get their hands on a doomsday device that some evil genius covets, while other dangerous characters get involved. It’s not a bad movie, and by far one of the greater and more unique Marvel movies (of the few I’ve seen from these past few years). Beyond any shortcomings in plot is the phenomenal computer graphics, featuring everything from beautiful nebulas with colors matching the greatest National Geographic photos, to hundreds of space fighters, battling above an ornate city, where it seems as though every single detail contained a tremendous amount craft and attention. Having just rewatched The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) where some of the CGI graphics need an ASAP remastering, it was seeing a film like this that makes a bit more hopeful for where the medium’s headed; not so much for cinema as much as imagining the integration of this into a starfighter VR video game and how fucking insane it would be that level of detail. Contrary to my usual rants about CGI, these graphics complemented the material and had the craft to make me appreciate what they pulled off.
Unfortunately, for all of the interesting characters, 80s throwbacks, and action sequences, the story was nonetheless generic, leaving me even more skeptical about continuing to explore the genre. With the exception of Logan - which is more a Western-Drama than Comic Book Movie - it felt as though I’d watch this plot unfold since the dawn of existence. It wasn’t just the same as every other superhero movie so much as the same as most action movies; except instead of a bomb that will kill a few people, it again reverts to destroying all of the universe. I truly don’t understand how viewers don’t grow tired of this plot being rehashed again and again and again, other than that seeing their favorite comic book movies come to life provides the most superficial form of pleasure.
Aside from the CGI, it feels as though the same voice is behind all of these films, in which I struggle to think of what could possibly separate one movie’s craft from the other. Pratt and Broot were interesting enough characters that I’ll probably check out “Volume 2”, but hearing that it falls far short of this film, leaves me wondering how long I’d last. These films are decade past due for a shake up, and it boggles my mind that no matter how great Logan or The Dark Knight Trilogy is, the same cookie cutter formula is repeated. I understand the economics, I just don’t understand the demand. To listen to Nerd Culture blogs and podcasts spend hours deconstructing these films, looking for the tiniest easter egg, reference, or hint at another movie leaves me sad, all while discussing their favorite moments as though they haven’t been done ad nauseum is frustrating, as this is going on far longer than I ever anticipated, with no sign of relenting.* Of all the incredible and beautiful popular films that could warrant such extensive discussion, I’m at a loss that there’s still anything worth talking about.
*Having written this over a year ago, sure enough the latest MCU movie Avengers: End Game has had the biggest theatrical opening of all time.
BELOW: In fairness, this looked amazing in 4k UHD
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