Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Marvel's Gamble is Their Funniest, Most Enjoyable Film Since The Avengers: Our Review of "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014)

Directed By: James Gunn (Slither

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language

Run Time: 2 hours, 1 minute

Synopsis: A treasure hunter (Pratt), an assassin (Saldana), a muscle-headed alien with a quick temper (Bautista), a walking/talking raccoon (Cooper) and his living tree sidekick (Diesel) band together first to escape prison to sell a priceless and dangerous artifact, then to ultimately save their galaxy from a crazed zealot named Ronan the Accuser (Pace).


Sarah: Hello readers! We have been a little quiet lately but we are back with one of our most anticipated reviews of the year, Marvel's Guardiansof the Galaxy! We were SO excited for this movie. There's nothing like a Marvel movie to round out the summer and this one did not disappoint. If you have no idea what this movie is about, we'll try to set it up as best we can. 

It stars Chris Pratt (Moneyball) as Peter Quill, an Earthling who was abducted as a child and has grown up with intergalactic thieves. After searching for an orb-like object for a buyer, he's hunted down by a pair of bounty hunters - an anthropomorphic raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a living tree-like alien named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) - as well as an alien assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana). 

Andrew: Gamora is the adoptive daughter of Thanos (Josh Brolin), the big purple bad guy we saw at the end of The Avengers, and she's helping retrieve the orb for a baddie called Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who said he'll obtain the orb for Thanos in return for his help in destroying the planet Xander.

S: When Quill, Rocket, Groot and Gamora are all arrested and detained at the same prison, they join together - along with another alien named Drax the Destroyer (WWE's Dave Bautista) who wants to come along so he can kill Ronan as revenge for killing his wife and daughter - to escape. Adventure ensues and produces one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time!

A: Guardians of the Galaxy was our #2 most anticipated movie of 2014. The first trailer absolutely killed it - from the music in it to the cast and the humor that we hoped would carry over to the actual film. And all of those things DID carry over and made this movie probably the most fun I've had at the theatre all year, and maybe in quite some time. (And that's saying something because I really had fun seeing Godzilla, Neighbors and 22 Jump Street earlier this year.)

There are just so many aspects of this film that make it sweet, charming, funny and touching. The script is full of fantastic dialogue even if the actual plot arc is reminiscent of how all these Marvel films have gone so far: film introduces characters and a MacGuffin for everyone to chase after, action ensues, bad guys get the upper hand after obtaining the MacGuffin, heroes eventually save the day usually in some sacrificial way. Oh, and the casting is just perfect. I honestly can't decide which Guardian is my favorite!

S: And I think that's great! Because all these characters work so well together and their comedic timing was perfectly intertwined. The comedy was perfect, too. But I have to say, the Rocket/Groot combination was the most perfect. For being completely animated characters, they were beautifully done!

A: That's a good place to start our true breakdown of this movie. I think that when this movie was first announced and non-comic book readers were first introduced to the sheer idea of a talking raccoon and a living tree that spoke only three words most people responded either with, "Huh?" or "That's awesome." Or a combination of the two, which was my reaction. Then it was announced that Bradley Cooper would be voicing Rocket and that Vin Diesel would be voicing Groot, and that just added a bit to the mystery around these characters. I know I for one also wondered how the animation would be and if they could pull these characters off.

And they TOTALLY pull them off. Honestly, you can understand it if you asked five different people who their favorite character was and you got five different answers. But the Rocket/Groot combo is nailed perfectly by director James Gunn (Super) and his crew. The animation is top-notch, the vocal performances are great, and the character development for each of them is pretty great, too. They were fully realized characters and they bring a ton of action and humor to the proceedings.

S: And they way that they interacted with the other characters was really well done, too. Especially between the CG characters and actors like Bautista because he hasn't had a lot of work like that. I think a lot of that can be credited to the director for really getting across to his actors the importance of these characters that aren't even on set with them. A poor direction with characters like that can be super uncomfortable to watch. There was none of that in Guardians. And even to have that perfect comedic timing! I know we are saying this a lot but the comedy in this movie was perfectly timed and written. 

Breaking away from the actual Guardians for a second to the big bad guy - Ronan the Accuser. While his cause is basically political outrage at the a space police corps called the Nova Corps and their people on the planet Xander, I thought he was a brilliant bad guy. Lee Pace completely embodies the character and brings such a gravitas to the role. And that voice! What an amazing voice. 

A: Lee Pace did about as good as he could've been expected as Ronan. Let's be honest, the weakest aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films are the relatively one-dimensional villains. From Mickey Rourke's Whiplash and Colm Feore's Laufey in the Phase One films to Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian and Christopher Eccleston's Malekith in Phase Two, the villains have been pretty thin.

So I do disagree with you a bit because I thought Ronan was a little one-note since his only objective was to get the orb so Thanos would destroy Xander for him/use the Orb himself in his attempt to do so, but I liked how Pace played him. I also liked the practical makeup they used on him and I liked a lot of his dialogue, such as when he tells Drax, "I don't recall killing your family. I doubt I'll recall killing you." That was pretty dope.

S: Fair enough. Let's go back and talk a little about the other Guardians. The one character that I really was concerned about was Drax the Destroyer, played by Dave Bautista. This guy is a WWE wrestler. Sure, that's acting but this was a big role for him! I was a little nervous that he would be flat and more just muscle than anything else. Boy was I wrong! I'm going to throw it out there but I think he was one of the funniest characters in the whole movie! His delivery was spot on and just dry enough to fit the character.

A: Bautista's Drax is hilarious. If push came to shove, I'd actually say he was my favorite character in this film because of his deadpan delivery on a multitude of lines. He was superb in this role. And I'm right there with you in that I was a little worried to see how Bautista would do because he's yet another wrestler making the move to motion pictures, but I think he hit it out of the park here. He even has my favorite line in the whole movie, which I won't say in its entirety here because the delivery is such a huge part of it, but it pertains to things going over his head. Gets me every time.

Before we get to the de facto star of the movie, Chris Pratt's Peter Quill/Star-Lord, I want to get your take on Zoe Saldana and her character, Gamora. I've read in a number of places that she was either the weakest character, or at the very least was disappointing. What did you think?

S: I'm going to have to agree with those descriptions. I mean, she was funny at times but I just felt that her character wasn't really realized. She's this woman who just wants revenge on her adoptive father, Thanos, but I have to say I kept waiting for her to turn out to be a bad guy. I think that's a flaw. When you don't necessarily trust your heroes, you can't quite root for them. And she wasn't the funniest of characters. She had some lines that got some chuckles but she was by far the weakest. 

A: I think more than anything, to me, it's that Gamora is supposed to be this incredible bad-ass, this great fighter, and in her very first action sequence where she's trying to steal the orb from Quill, she gets her ass handed to her and winds up getting arrested. No doubt she's awesome the rest of the way when it comes to action, and she has my second favorite line in the whole movie (when she puts the kibosh on Quill trying to make a move on her) but I think she got the shortest shrift out of all the Guardians. Hopefully the next movie will give her more time to shine.

Now let's get to what has to be a definitive star-making turn for Chris Pratt. Pratt, most famous for his role as the shlubby and dim-witted but funny Andy Dwyer on NBC's Parks and Recreation, absolutely has a coming out party with this film. Pratt usually looks like he's having a blast in whatever it is he's in, but moreso here than anywhere else we've seen him. Hell, his introductory scene involves him lip-syncing and dancing on an alien planet during the opening credits and right off the bat it just FEELS right to have Pratt in this role.

It's been said in a lot of places that Pratt's Peter Quill is very reminiscent of Han Solo, and while there's certainly some Han Solo and Indiana Jones DNA going on with Quill, I feel like it's not giving Pratt and James Gunn enough credit for bringing this relatively unknown comic book character to such vibrant life on the big screen.

S: I'll give the comparisons but man he is really his own character. He's got such a human aspect to him despite the fact that he was raised throughout space. He's also one of those characters where I feel I got to learn a lot about him and know him but that there is still so much more to learn! And I just can't wait! And funny? Holy cow his delivery is fantastic in this movie and he really fits in to the Marvel universe. Can you just imagine what the conversation between him and Tony Stark is going to be like?

A: Dude, this movie has made me so excited for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 AND for when the Guardians meet up with the Avengers in whenever they cross over. I wouldn't be surprised if James Gunn is tabbed to direct that movie, too.

One last thing on Quill - I think one of the biggest pluses for Guardians of the Galaxy is the amount of heart and the emotional payoff we get with a subplot about Quill and his mother. We see his mother die from cancer at the very beginning of the film in rare Marvel cold open just before he gets abducted, and his mother very clearly effects who he has become as an adult. I thought the payoff at the end worked very well, personally.

Alright, so let's wrap this up. It's been a love affair with us and this movie so far in this review, were there any negative aspects about it to you?

S: I really didn't like Thanos in this movie. Granted, he's not in it a lot but he's a full computer generated character that just looked like he didn't quite get the good treatment that Rocket and Groot received. It was a little dissapointing. When you have someone like Josh Brolin voicing him, utilize that! 

A: I can agree a little bit that I would prefer Thanos to be a prothestic makeup creation, but I did think he looked pretty cool as he was and I loved Josh Brolin's voice coming out of his mouth. I wish Thanos was in it more, but I can understand that they're keeping him from being overexposed before unleashing him as the big baddie in future movies.

So then let's give our final thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy and our final grades!

S: I loved this movie. It had me laughing the whole time and had us quoting for days after. Other Marvel movies have made us laugh, sure, but I think that this one took the cake on the humor factor. This movie left me wanting more in the best way possible. It was a little risky because this group of characters was really only widely known to true fanboys. It was risky but I think Marvel and Disney pulled it off beautifully. Overall, it was just a fun movie and I really don't think we could have asked for anything more from this movie. 

A: I don't think I could have said it any better. Guardians of the Galaxy definitely fits right in with the rest of the Marvel "brand" (which people have been using as both a positive and negative connotation when discussing this movie) and I think it does so in the best ways possible. And yet at the same time it's its own movie set apart from all the ones that came before it.

It made us laugh, it had tons of action, it had emotion, it looked great, it sounded great, and most importantly we had so much fun with it that we wanted to see it again immediately. That's about the highest compliment we can pay a film other than straight up buying it, which we're guaranteed to do. Honestly, this film is the Star Wars film we were all hoping the prequels would be. And if this is the kind of space opera film Disney is overseeing, I think the new Star Wars films are in good hands.

Alright, so what rating do we give Guardians of the Galaxy?

S: I think based on everything we just said that we have to give it a 5/5. It really hit all the marks. 

A: I'm down with that. 5/5 it is!

FINAL VERDICT: A must-see in theatres, and one we'll own one day!

(Individual Scores - S: 5/5  A: 5/5)

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