“What a bunch of a-holes.” That’s right. And who knew that’s exactly who we wanted to follow in a giant spectacular space opera. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is like STAR WARS – if all the heroes were HAN SOLO. This is the zaniest, wackiest, goofiest MARVEL movie yet. Oh, yeah. AND it’s full of crazy action sequences.
I never read the comic book source material. I only have experience with some of the crew through crossovers and cameo appearances. So I really had no idea what to expect from this story and these characters. I think the same can probably be said for most of the audience who went and saw GUARDIANS in the theatre. Was it blind faith in Marvel Studios? Or was it that totally rad movie trailer?
The movie trailer was perfectly crafted. That must have been a challenge in itself. How do you sell this ludicrous idea to the general movie-going public? How do you pitch it without being totally confusing and obtuse? Well, if you’re MARVEL STUDIOS, you give us a scene, like a memorable moment from the movie.
The trailer slowly led us by the wrist, guiding us along the unclear path through this strange new universe, it calmly held our hand directing us where to look… then it jabbed us in the chest with its proverbial finger, we looked down, and it schmucked us right in the face. We fell for the age-old playground trick. And we laughed anyway.
I’m thinking of how Starlord is introduced. Much like us, even the characters in this fictional universe are unaware of Starlord. Then we get the cliché criminal line-up of the –unusual- suspects. Each character clearly demonstrates their personality. And then the trailer goes nuts showing us this insane spectacle of grandiose action set-pieces. We get a dodgy bunch of criminals & dogfights in the stars. Sold.
Fast forward to the theatre… I’m sitting there. Eager. Fanboy grin plastered across my face, totally matching the nerdy aesthetic of my giant 3D glasses. I’m ready. I can’t wait. A new universe I know nothing about. Let’s go. The curtain opens. What am I talking about? That’s how all my nostalgia driven movie fantasies begin. So, really – the commercials start. I wait like 20 minutes then the movie begins.
I did not expect the tone of the opening. It was dramatic. Sad. And then bat-shit goofy, as we leap ahead a couple decades. That sad little boy is now a grown man singing into lizards as a microphone substitute. So yeah – quite the tonal shift. The Michael Jackson dance movies juxtaposed with a dying mother. Hmm? But that bipolar range actually works. In my theatre, the audience reaction was muted during the opening sequences. However…
…about 30 minutes into the movie it seemed like the audience was finally acclimatized to the bizarre humour & the bizarre universe. By the time we get to the prison breakout the entire audience is absorbed. Some jokes I didn’t even catch until the 2nd viewing because there was just so much laughter. Slowly but surely GUARDIANS won over the audience.
I have to mention the creatures that join Starlord. Sure, we have Gamora (Zoe Saldana in green skin rather than blue) kicking ass. We have a bald Keran Gillan (from DOCTOR WHO) as a baddie. Lee Pace drips menace. Michael Rooker (a.k.a. Merle from the WALKING DEAD) chews up the scenery with his serrated teeth. Even Benicio del Toro makes a quirky oddball appearance.
But the real stand-outs were the fantastic (re: fantasy) creatures. I thought a talking racoon would annoy me. No. The opposite. I loved this little guy and his companion Groot. Their bond made me emotional by the end. I’m trying to stay spoiler free here. But hopefully you know what I mean. What am I talking about? If you’re reading this sort of blog you probably saw GUARDIANS more than once. I’m thinking when Groot protects the gang despite Rocket’s urgent plea. It got me a little misty-eyed.
It’s the character work that was really impressive in GUARDIANS. If the script didn’t focus on their relationships I don’t feel like the action would work. I’m not sure –the movie- would work. Since we care about these guys, we want to see them succeed. Plain and simple, right. It’s a shame most blockbuster material is completely void of these elements. TRANSFORMERS, this is not.
For me, the biggest surprise was Drax the Destroyer (played by former wrestler Dave Bautista). Now I have to admit I was prejudice and dismissive here. I did not expect anything beyond “Drax, smash” from this role. Instead, this character had the best laughs in the entire cast. There are multiple laugh out loud moments from this muscle-bound comedian(?) who doesn’t understand metaphors.
I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed GUARDIANS. Instead, I ask, who is responsible for this remarkable feat of turning an unknown property into the number one box-office earner of the year? Is it Marvel and their Midas touch? Well, I’m saying it’s James Gunn. And that’s not taking a brave leap or being bold & daring. It’s obvious. The man is a writer and director with a vision. He stuck to his gun(n)s and delivered the most surprising event-movie since THE MATRIX.
I noticed something that maybe my fellow nerds already observed – James Gunn used to make splatter-movies. B-movies with splatstick humour. Crazy stuff like SLITHER and SUPER. This path from exploitation Midnight Grindhouse movies to Hollywood blockbuster reminds me of another director: Peter Jackson. He rose from B-movie obscurity to direct the LORD OF THE RINGS. He made extreme gore-drenched flicks like DEAD ALIVE and BAD TASTE. Quite a shift, right.
I wonder if these big budget blockbuster summer-event “nerd” movies should always be handled by fellow nerds. Occasionally, you do want a more cerebral approach like Christopher Nolan with BATMAN. But that doesn’t always work. Tim Burton works, Joel Schumacher doesn’t. I point to not only Gunn & Jackson as evidence, but I also submit the likes of Joss Whedon and the Wachowski’s to the proceedings.
I hope the large movie studios recognize this essential creative element and continue to hire authentic enthusiasts to helm their genre pictures. If they’re anything like the other nerd-helmed masterpieces the reward should far outweigh the risk.
What do you think? Was GUARDIANS the best of the Summer Movies? Or was the humour too weird for you? Please, leave a comment.
What further adventures would you like to see from the GUARDIANS for the upcoming sequel? Would you like a stand-alone universe here, or are you dying to see them meet THE AVENGERS?
Do you miss Howard? I do. And I didn’t know I did until that post-credit teaser. Priceless.