Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
By: Devon B. on August 19, 2014 | Comments
Godzilla (2014)
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
Screenplay: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Country: USA
Chris Pratt and I have a connection. For his debut Chris was cast by Rae Dawn Chong (known as Ms Commando in my house) to play a character named Devon, so he pretended he had my name. Also, we went to school together, so we have that connection, too. I honestly don't remember Chris at all. When my cousin told me Chris had taken up acting my response was, "Cully Pratt has a younger brother?" I must've seen Chris around frequently, though, because the first time I saw him in a movie I spent the film's entire duration asking my wife, "Who is that guy? He looks so familiar." She spent the film's duration responding oh so lovingly with, "Shut the hell up, I don't recognise him at all!" When the credits rolled the mystery was solved, but a problem became apparent. Having grown up in the same smallish town, I found it really distracting seeing Chris on screen. I wished Chris all the best with his career as long as he didn't appear in anything I wanted to see, and Chris has pretty much upheld his end of that pact despite not knowing about it. Until now.

Guardians of the Galaxy is about a young boy who watches his mother die and then is immediately abducted by aliens, and all he has to remind him of his mum is a walkman and a mix tape. Many years later the boy has grown up and has somehow kept his headphones functional for over two decades while simultaneously preventing his walkman from eating or stretching his sole tape. He tries to steal an orb, immediately gets involved in some heavy shit and winds up with a bounty on his head. A woman from Avatar who now has green skin instead of blue goes after him to retrieve the orb, but he's also been spotted by two bounty hunters, one a talking racoon the other some sort of living tree man, and all four end up arrested. In gaol they are jeered at by Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma and creator of the Toxic Avenger, and meet up with a wrestler. The four join forces with the wrestler, callously leaving Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma and creator of the Toxic Avenger, behind, and the unlikely and dysfunctional team find themselves struggling to work together to save the universe. I mean galaxy. Protecting the universe is Gamera's job.

I think it's pretty clear from that synopsis that writer/director James Gunn really stretched the plausibility of the film with that ridiculous plot element of the indestructible walkman headphones and audio cassette. I can forgive this ludicrousness because I think it's hilarious that Gunn went from Super to joining the Marvel pantheon. Super is a brilliant movie, but it's the antithesis of the Marvel style, and the idea that someone somewhere saw that and went, "Let's give him a Marvel franchise" really makes me laugh. It turned out to be a great choice, because Gunn's movie has so far been very well received and garnered a lot of praise. Some of the deaths are a bit more explicitly shown than is usual for Marvel, but other than a particularly naughty joke (that will go over younger fans' heads) there's nothing alarming for parents here. Gunn said in the extras for Super that if someone makes a big spectacle movie that costs a lot of money then it should have something for everyone, and I think he followed his own moral code here and produced a family friendly sci-fi romp with mass appeal. For fans of Gunn's grittier work there are still some cool casting choices like Michael Rooker, James' brother Sean Gunn, Troma alum Stephen Blackehart, and Peter Serafinowicz. For the more mainstream crowd there's Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, David Bautista, Vin Diesel as a vocal actor, Bradley Cooper also as a vocal actor, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio Del Toro. For Marvel fans there are beloved Marvel characters. I assume.

I'm assuming because, as I think I've made it abundantly clear before, I am not a comic nerd. I think a friend of mine used to have and love the Rocket Racoon mini-series when he was about six, but I don't think he remembers anything about it except the cover from the first issue. I thought for awhile that The Beatles had a song about Rocket, so that's probably the only thing that reminded me about my friend's comics. Aside from Rocket and the big chin purple man who appeared at the end of one of the other Marvel movies, I was completely unfamiliar with the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy. I'm sure there are 50,000 other reviews out there by critics that debate which artist's version of Rocket was used as the template for the character's design in the film or which way Gamora is meant to part her hair or whether The Collector really is gonna flip ya for real, but I can't make it 50,001 because all I know is what I saw on the screen. And what I saw is the most impressive Marvel movie yet, with whole other worlds looking amazing on the big screen. I'm usually a CG detractor, but I'm hard pressed to think of a single effect that I can call out, which is quite a feat even before considering that two of the main characters are CG rendered. The film is nothing short of spectacular in terms of its visuals and it is sure to instil a sense of awe in a lot of viewers.

I'd heard the movie was really funny, and it does have some hilarious moments. Chris Pratt made me laugh a few times despite me finding him distracting so he's probably hysterical for the billions that didn't attend school with him, but even for them I would guess the movie's not a non-stop laugh riot. Humour is wisely used to undercut some of the sappiness inherent in a story of a group of misfits coming together, but even with some great jokes this is more a big ass sci-fi adventure than a series of wacky space hijinx.

The only real problem I had with Guardians of the Galaxy was that it didn't follow the model set by The Avengers. That movie took awhile getting its team together and then became fantastic. Guardians of the Galaxy gets its team together eventually, but doesn't go off like The Avengers did. I guess it's not entirely fair to criticise something for not being the same as something else, but I was definitely hoping for Guardians to floor me in the same way. Now that the team are assembled the path is clear for sheer awesomeness in the sequel, so hopefully this is an Expendables 2 type situation where the sequel improves on the original.

I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy and I'm not a big sci-fi fan, I've never ever read a comic in my life ever for real no foolin' and Chris Pratt may as well wear a sign around his neck that says, "Hey, Devon, you are watching a movie" for all the belief I'm able to suspend while watching him. Even with all that against it Guardians kept me engaged, so it must be really goddamn good for anyone that isn't me. Guardians of the Galaxy is Gunn's second best super hero movie, but given his best is a masterpiece I guess coming second is no small achievement.

Movie Score
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