Saturday, August 2, 2014

In Theatres: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Before we discuss Marvel's 4th feature film of the year, a little history lesson is in order.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were originally a group of 31st century wayfarers, long since ret-conned as an alternate reality, thanks to all the excessive tweaking Marvel has done with its rich history over the years. More than was really necessary, to be honest. The current group was put together six years ago, marking the 40th anniversary of the franchise with an eye toward creating a building block for Marvel's cinematic universe.

These "Guardians" are a band of outlaws, though long time fans know that wasn't always the case. To wit:

Peter Jason Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt, Parks & Recreation) was introduced in Marvel Preview, a black & white magazine that came out in the mid-70's. Created by Chris Claremont & John Byrne before they began their epic run on X-Men, Star Lord was a hero from the beginning, as reprints of his earlier adventures will attest.

Drax, the Destroyer (WWE star Dave Bautista, aka "The Animal" Batista) was originally a human named Arthur Douglas, transformed into a green skinned cosmic assassin during Jim Starlin's run on Captain Marvel and Warlock. Douglas' daughter became the telepath Moondragon, but that history doesn't apply to this film. It would appear that this Drax's origins lay elsewhere. Stress appear.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana, "Star Trek", "Avatar") also was a Starlin creation from the same period. In the film, she was introduced as the adopted daughter of Starlin & Marvel's answer to Darkseid, Thanos, but, oh, is she easy on the eyes, or what?

Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) also debuted in Marvel Preview, albeit in a back-up feature, and wandered about before landing his only starring gig in a miniseries in the 80's. Sure, he has his own book again for the first time in 30 years as part of the hype for the movie, but I'd always believed he was meant for comic purposes, as in a parody.

Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) actually predates them all. He was introduced as a villain in 1960, as an alien scientist who experimented on humans. He'd later battle the Incredible Hulk and otherwise lived a life of obscurity, with his initial appearance reprinted several times.

British writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning were tasked six years ago to reboot the Guardians for a new generation, to better integrate the characters into today's Marvel Universe, and, as mentioned before, to prepare them for their movie debut.

The film itself draws inspiration not just from the above mentioned source material, but from other sources as well. The idea of a rag-tag team thrown together against a common enemy's been done many times, both in comics and in movies and television. These "Guardians" have a vibe that is equal parts "A-Team" (thank you, Bradley Cooper) and, well, either the Keystone Kops or the animated Galaxy Goof-Ups. Yes, there are some legitimately funny moments in this film, like "The Avengers" two years ago.

The plot: Ronan the Accuser, described as a fanatic, wants to destroy a particular planet or species, and, despite the obvious differences of opinion, the Guardians are thrown together, just by the simple coincidence of being just in the right place at the right time, but not under the right circumstances. Quill, abducted as a child after losing his mother to cancer, was essentially raised by a group of scavengers known as the Ravagers, whose leader, Yondu, is the only historical link, as far as older fans go, to the original Guardians. Yondu feels Quill has betrayed him one time too many, and now wants his blood, as well as feeding the seeming cannibalistic tendencies of his crew. Gamora wants the same orb that Quill just heisted. With a bounty placed on Quill's head, that's where Rocket & Groot enter the picture. Drax? He wants to kill Ronan, since the Accuser supposedly killed his family. Drax later discovers, to Gamora's displeasure, that it was Thanos who did that deed.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of explosions and fights. Quill discovers late in the movie that he is not completely human himself, and I would guess that will lead to the next film. A sequel has already been announced.

A fine supporting cast, including Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, and Djimon Hounsou, helps keep this from going completely off the chain. What really helps is a swinging 70's soundtrack, thanks to Quill and an ever-present Walkman that he has to retrieve before escaping prison. Sure, it gets silly, and Ronan is ultimately treated like a chump, which is odd since he's best known for hassling the Fantastic Four, And as for that little teaser after the credits? Well, let's just say someone actually appreciated a certain turkey of a movie from the 80's, and leave it at that...........!


"Annie" (December): Same one we saw before, with Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.

"Night at the Museum 3" (can't recall the sub-title right now): Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, and friends head off to London. Who saw this coming?

"Hobbit 3". If you've been following Peter Jackson's adaptation of the Tolkien books, well, you know how this goes.

'The Giver" (August 15): Jeff Bridges stars in yet another movie based on a book I've never heard of. Also stars country singer Taylor Swift, who doesn't appear in the trailer.

"Alexander" (November): Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner star in this Disney comedy about a family that experiences Murphy's Law all in one day. Feels old school Disney, doesn't it?

"Big Hero 6" (November-December): Disney produces what is really Marvel's 5th and last film of the year, since it's based on one of their lesser known books of the 90's. CGI silliness for the kiddo's.

"Dumb & Dumber To": Jeff Daniels & Jim Carrey are back as Harry & Lloyd, 20 years after the original film. Does anyone here think that Mike Judge's Beavis & Butt-Head inspired these bozos?

And, now, the trailer for our feature presentation:

On WWE Raw 2 months ago, Triple H, who hasn't exactly been a box office champ ("Blade: Trinity", anyone?) told the then-departing Batista that he hoped "Guardians" bombed. Look for Batista to return to make him eat those words, after he's laughed all the way to the bank.

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

My knowledge of this team is very limited. Most of it from the recent Avengers TV series.

Most people I talk to (regardless of comic knowledge) say the film is worth seeing, so I might go.

Can't go wring with a talking raccoon now can ya? Especially since he is the only one who can translate for Groot.

As Peter Parker said upon meeting the team, "He is Groot!".

hobbyfan said...

This was a fun trip. It may interest you to know that there are plans for a Guardians cartoon, likely with the same actors used for their appearances on Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man, et al. Unfortunately, that means it'll be more watered down, dumbed down silliness from Quesadilla & Ear Loeb that people will avoid and ignore.