Monday, September 22, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy!

The opportunity presented itself and I ended up in a theater watching Marvel's latest movie success story Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a hoot, and I have to say a very entertaining movie. But I've been reading many stories proclaiming this as the best Marvel movie yet, and that's not the case.

First let's establish that these are not my Guardians of the Galaxy, the heroic space heroes I fell in love with when I was but a boy. Very little remains of the story Arnold Drake and Gene Colan cobbled together decades ago. No Vance Astro, no Martinex, no Charlie-27 to be seen. Yondu is in it, but it's a different Yondu than I remember. 

This review is loaded with SPOILERS, so tread at your peril. 

This is the first of these movies not to deal primarily with characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and/or Steve Ditko. The only characters in this movie created by Stan and Jack are Groot (the first Atlas creation to get into movies I think) and Ronan the Accuser. I did gleefully spot one of Jack's Celestials too, Gammenon I think. But otherwise, we have characters created in the 60's by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan (the aforementioned Yondu) and Stan Lee and Don Heck (The Collector). There are mostly though characters created in the 70's by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan (Star-Lord), Marv Wolfman and Sal Buscema (Nova Corps), Jim Starlin (Gamora, Thanos, Drax), Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik  (Howard the Duck), and finally Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen (Rocket Racoon).

It's a rich brew and so remote from the consciousness of the whole planet save for the most devout comic fans that most of the audience has no frame of reference. More people who saw this movie recognized Stan in his cameo than any single one of the characters in the story proper. That freedom allowed the movie makers to have a field day with a host of concepts and they blended them well in a slam bang action piece.

Peter Quill, the Star-Lord is the heart of the movie. His relationship with his mother is the emotional core of the tale and the source of the AM pop soundtrack which has enamored so many reviewers. Quill is a successful smarmy hero, cocky and simultaneously charming. As played by Chris Pratt he's a proper rogue. The quiet beginning of the movie was a real hit with me and a surprise as these Marvel epics go.

Zamora was pretty close to what Jim Starlin created so long ago. She looks less like a lounge dancer as played by Zoe Saldana, but she is a nice action heroine. Saldana did a bang up job some years ago in the action flick Columbiana and she's just as convincing here in the fight scenes. The emotional stuff, not so much. Her romantic scenes with Pratt didn't get over for me, but they weren't what I was there for.

I bought my ticket to see Rocket Racoon. Rocket is a thoroughly convincing character, and I only later realized I never doubted his reality or questioned the special effects. It's a real breakthrough for this kind of creation. Loved Rocket!

I was somewhat less taken with Groot. As opposed to Rocket, Groot almost always looked like a special effect, though admittedly they made good use of a character who can really only say three words. His range of plant powers was pretty creative at times and I'm glad his cutting survived to see the sequel.

I must confess to being a bit disappointed in Dave Bautista's Drax the Destroyer. He was not green enough for my tastes, as I'm a big big fan of Starlin's original design. Of course that look wasn't going to get over, but I wish they'd made him greener. Given Zamora's greenness, I understand the decision, but I never really ever got Drax from him. The literalness was funny though.

Perhaps the most perplexing character for me was Yondu. This ain't the Yondu I remember from Marvel Super-Heroes #18, that's for sure. Michael Rooker gave his usual compelling job, but this Yondu shares only his Yaka arrow with the original aboriginal creation. It was great fun to see said Yaka arrow on display, it didn't disappoint.

The Collector has always been a fave villain, so it's nice to see him here. Bencio Del Toro on the other hand is not one of my favorite actors, but he does a decent job here and he's not on screen that long, so his usual grating manner doesn't last long. Actually his usual what-planet-am-I-on approach to his characters actually played into Tivan Taneleer, a creature of a different kind indeed. The final scene with Howard was a treat.

Nebula was a surprise for me and she was nicely performed by Karen Gillian. I didn't recognize her in the role necessarily, but she was always impressive in the many close-ups she got.


Now I have to admit that Ronan the Accuser is one of my favorite Marvel baddies. This Ronan ain't the Kirby creation, but he's close and the Kree fanaticism was a proper motivation for his villainy. With ISIS in the news, this Ronan felt downright torn-from-the-headlines as he spouted his murderous rationalizations.

All in all I was fully entertained by Guardians of the Galaxy, though at times in the middle it did feel a bit video gamey. The scenes at the end in the stark daylight of Xandar were especially effective. But I don't really see why this one is any particularly better than what Marvel has released before. It's on par with the Thor movies to my eye and lacks the punch of the Cap movies or the satirical snap of the Iron Man efforts. It measures up well with The Avengers movie, but had fewer "cool" moments for me at least.

This is one is plenty cool though.

I will always love the name "Guardians of the Galaxy", it's so thoroughly pulp and heroic. This movie did it no harm. Cheers to a very entertaining movie.

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  1. Rip, I agree with what you say about the Drax character. I much prefer the original Jim Starlin version as well – green skin, purple costume with the widow’s peak, the skull & crossbones belt…Too, his one-track obsession with killing Thanos made sense from an origin standpoint. Plus, he didn’t need no silly knives to get things done..It would be nice to see his “daughter” Moondragon – in the Guardians sequel…Complete with bald head, skimpy green costume and flowing cape…

    1. Moondragon has vast potential on the big screen, save for the fact now she puts me in the mind of Nebula. Knives -- Paugh!

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