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Monday, August 04, 2014

Movie Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Monday, August 04, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA - You guys. We had such a great time at this movie. And - judging from the weekend box office haul and the theater so jam-packed on a Saturday afternoon that we had to beg for a row of people to shift down so we could sit - so did a lot of people.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" is most of what I want from a comic book made into a movie. I want humor, I want rakish charm, I want women who kick ass, and I want great special effects. After this movie, I also want to be my 9-year-old for a little while, because she and her 10-year-old friend had more fun at this sci-fi superhero comedy than I had when watching the original "Star Wars" releases.

Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill (who wants to be called Star-Lord, but.. get real, mmkay?) who steals a powerful orb, wanted by lots of bad guys (Ronan, played by Lee Pace; Korath, played by Djimon Hounsou; and Thanos, voiced by Josh Brolin) and good guys (Nova Prime, played by Glenn Close; and Corpsman Dey, played by John C. Reilly), along with a neutral guy (The Collector, played by Benicio del Toro).

Quill wants to sell the orb for the biggest pile of cash he can get, but Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana), and Drax (voiced by Dave Bautista) want it, too. They're imprisoned together, form a bond, then escape. Then, oopsy, one of the bad guys nabs the orb, and the newly teamed Guardians have to stop him.

The plot edges on being formulaic, along the lines of "You have something I want so I can become the most powerful wizard/warrior/crime lord/Sith lord EVAH." So there's a familiarity with the inevitable sequence of events. This approach is actually crucial, because this movie does not waste a lot of time on exposition. It drops you into the middle of an existing interstellar culture with a bunch of fully-realized personalities, and trusts that the audience will be able to follow along.

And because of the familiar plot line, you can. The story is based on an existing canon from Marvel's comics, but at no point in the movie do you have to understand the back stories of the characters. What you need to know about them is handled through quick exchanges and visuals. Kudos to the scriptwriters for how they put together this puzzle. It's funny, visually engaging, and character-driven, because the filmmakers wanted us to connect with characters we'll follow. Any pieces that are missing can be exploited in the inevitable sequel. 'Cause Marvel's got their plans together for about the next 10 years.

This isn't everything I want in a superhero movie. It's not deep. Some of the visuals were too muddy. And while the jokes are clever, the movie is not. Physics, logic and time are all exploited in favor of fast-paced fun. The plot requires that we care if the galaxy is saved, but doesn't give us a reason to care. It's like when the Grand Moff Tarkin blew up Alderaan in "Star Wars." You never actually see or care about Alderaan. You just know that Princess Leia lost her whole family, and that planet looked an awful lot like Earth, so it elicited some vague memory of sadness.

In addition, I still want more women who kick ass. There are two ass-kicking ladies in this film - but, of course, they're pitted against one another. Because, yay, catfight. Listen, filmmakers, ass-kicking women is one of the reasons that X-Men does so well. Represent, ladies. Rogue, Storm, Jean Grey, Emma Frost, Blink, Kitty Pryde, Shadowcat, Scarlett Witch, Jubilee - there is a wide variety of women, each of whom is allowed their own personality and back story, beyond the usual cliches. There are a bajillion characters in "Guardians," and only two of them are women with meaningful roles (I think only four with actual lines of dialogue). At least those two women are Saldana ("Star Trek," "Avatar") and Karen Gillan ("Dr. Who"), who have both said at different times that they gravitate towards sci-fi precisely because women are more interesting in the genre. But I appreciate Marvel's effort so far, and look forward to seeing what they do next.


  1. I enjoyed this write-up. You can go see Expendables 3 for some women warriors next. The Tweet, I laughed big at it.

  2. Thanks, R.H.! Your opinion means a lot to me.