Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Takes Marvel to New Heights

by Charles Siboto

Well, well, well . . . it would seem that Marvel Studios can do no wrong with its 2014 releases. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a surprisingly and thoroughly entertaining spy movie that does what comic books have often done since their inception, using superhero figures that should be absurd but seem to be the perfect vehicle to address issues our real world is facing. The Winter Soldier went and turned the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that viewers are familiar with on its head with the events that occur in it, which leaves us wondering how things will play out in The Avengers: Age of Ultron next year. The events in The Winter Soldier also affected the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D TV show’s storyline, which is to say it gave some much-needed new life to a series which was rather lacklustre up to that point.

This is all good and well but it’s not why we are here. Guardians of the Galaxy is the newest Marvel release and boy is it a good romp to the side of the galaxy that has thus far only been hinted at in some of the other movies. Again, Marvel Studios seems to have found the right and somewhat unlikely people for the job of making a movie whose tones differ from the others in the MCU but is also right at home in it. With director James Gunn at its helm Guardians of the Galaxy is an adventure, sci-fi, space opera that is fun to watch without ever taking away from the depth of its characters. James Gunn directed the wonderful 2006 B-grade movie Slither and he wrote screenplays for 2002’s live-action Scooby-Doo movie and 2004’s Dawn of the Dead so you know he’s bringing some silliness to this venture. That silliness endears this venture to audiences worldwide.

The Avengers is a story of good guys who are all a little messed up and initially find it hard to work together but they all spring from the hero mould. The Guardians of the Galaxy are a group of criminals, outcasts and misfits that all land up in prison together. Each character in this group, bound together by circumstance, greed and a lot of madness, is highly flawed, and they all work their way into your heart from that perspective. They go from trying to steal from and kill each other to forming a pretty badass team to stand in the way of some crazy villains hellbent on destroying the galaxy.

Peter Quill, who also calls himself Star-Lord, is the leading man and possesses the charm that you usually find in supporting characters. His character is a little bit Han Solo, some Tony Stark and a measure of Captain Kirk from the recent Star Trek movies. He is abducted from Earth as a boy in 1988 by a group of space pirates known as the Ravagers just after his mother dies. He is raised by them and their leader Yondu (Michael Rooker) is a weird sort of father figure to him. Quill starts out as a bit of a douche and becomes more of a leader and a hero throughout the movie. His character is also formed by the death of his mother and how he has had to cope with that. Like all of the cast members, Chris Pratt (The Lego Movie) delivers a strong performance as Star-Lord.

The rest of the team consists of the assassin (and adopted daughter of Thanos) Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana (Avatar) who looks just as good as a green alien as she did a blue one. Gamora is dangerous but is also just seeking to do some good and escape from under the evil shadow of Marvel’s ultimate big bad, Thanos. Dave Bautistsa (The Man with the Iron Fists) plays Drax the Destroyer, the muscle in the group. Drax’s wife and child were killed by the main villain in the movie, Ronan the Accuser, and he wants revenge. Drax’s character is also funny and often provides as much comedy as he does destruction of everything around him. Dave Bautista has a somewhat limited acting range but Gunn seems to have set up his scenes in such a way that it fits in with how a menacing character like Drax would behave. The final members of the team and the ones that cinemagoers will probably love the most are bounty hunters Rocket the raccoon and Groot, the tree-like humanoid. Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) is a genetically engineered raccoon with a love for guns and some great, albeit quirky, battle tactics. Rocket is a fast-talking maniac and he is also alone in the universe as there is no one like him and he survives by his wits. Groot is adorable and is the one member in the team that’s not crazy in any way... well, other than the fact the he hangs with crazies. He is a tree-like creature who looks out for Rocket and later everyone else. Groot is a beast in battle though and not to be messed with. He only ever says one line in the movie, “I am Groot.” But with that line he portrays a wide spectrum of emotions and is just cute to watch. Groot is voiced by Vin Diesel (Fast and the Furious), which seems an odd choice, but it works.

The main villain is Ronan the Accuser, a member of the Kree alien race. He is a radical fanatic whose main goal is to destroy the planet Xandar, whose population he views as his mortal enemies. He is not a great villain but Lee Pace (The Hobbit) does a good job playing him and he does have some truly menacing moments. He is ultimately just there to set up Thanos as the big bad for later though. Characters like Nebula, Gomora’s adopted sister and The Collector (Benicio del Toro) also make an appearance and add to the adventure.

The Guardians of the Galaxy is the most fun you can have in a cinema at the moment. It’s an adventure driven by characters you can’t help but falling in love with and you want them to succeed. Everything in the movie oozes style. It’s a visual feast but the stand-out element is the music. The soundtrack makes what is already a great movie a masterpiece. Songs like "Hooked on a Feeling", "Cherry Bomb" and "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" will be stuck in your head as you leave the cinema.

Move over Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy are in town and they are shooting things up with style to spare.