Monday, June 1, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy

My indifference to superhero sagas grows by the minute, it seems.  Particularly the plethora of Marvel Comics epics.  I can blame my age, shifting tastes. I agree with much of Alejandro González Iñárritu's recent comments about such films, nearly as much as I disagree with Robert (late of the IRON MAN movies) Downey Jr.'s retorts to them.  I am merely repeating myself when I explain that Christopher Nolan's Batman entry THE DARK KNIGHT all but ruined my ability to enjoy the spectacle of your garden variety comic book adaptation. Marvel's projects are fun to watch but seem so paper thin and fluffy when compared to Nolan's take, which was the one film of its type that I could equate to a bona fide serious drama.  Everyone else tries to make their costume spectacles worthy of such praise but at the end of the day they're just silly video games.  Sorry, fans.

Even Simon Pegg, writer and star of the current STAR TREK films and numerous other fantasy films, states:
"We've been infantilized by our own taste. It’s ridiculous to see adults taking pleasure in childish movies, like superhero flicks - and even taking them seriously, discussing them online and getting into heated debates over their meaning.....It is a kind of dumbing down in a way, because it’s taking our focus away from real-world issues,.....Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about… whatever. Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot.”

These comments unsurprisingly met with plenty of fan boy outrage, prompting Pegg to issue a clarification, to explain that he was misquoted, etc.  His targets were the studios, who put more focus on eye filling action scenes and battles than meaty story lines and characterizations.  It's hard to argue with any of his quotes.

And so...a film like 2014's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY does not attempt the self-serious pretension of the AVENGERS flicks. Does not pretend to be better than it is.   It's a throwback (in more ways than one) bubble gum dazzler that manages to amuse a wide range of age groups simultaneously.  It is not a chore for adults (many, anyway) to sit through this movie, and not only because there are several 1970s pop songs within by the likes of David Bowie and 10cc.

The plot is complicated, as such stories tend to be.  Fans are very invested, dating back to the comic books as long ago as 1969.  I'll let you discover the developments of this story on your own, and the themes will be very familiar.  The titular characters:

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a rogish but good natured Earthling who has roamed the galaxy for nearly thirty years after his abduction from Earth the night his mother died.  He longs to be called "Star-Lord".

Gamora (Zoe Saldana, again covered in body paint.  This time, green, unlike in AVATAR, where she was blue) is an assassin, warrior, overall bad ass. An orphan who was adopted by the mighty Thanos, a supervillain who also appears in the AVENGERS films.

Drax (Dave Bautista), a hulking mass of a man who is bent on avenging his slain family. His target: Ronan (Lee Pace), the film's main villain.

Groot (Vin Diesel), a walking tree that speaks but three words: "I am Groot", though his vocal inflections are understood to mean different things by....

Rocket (Voice of Bradley Cooper, which I would've never guessed), wisecracking bounty hunter who happens to be a genetically engineered raccoon.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY finds the right tone once these characters meet, fight, then reluctantly band together.  Director James (SLITHER, SUPER) Gunn and Nicole Perlman's screenplay also has a very welcome irreverence  that nicely deflates any sense of self-importance, and that would've been deadly for this movie. There are some entertaining cameos.   I had a good ol' teenage boy time with this movie, which is being touted as STAR WARS for this generation.  Eh, maybe.
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