Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Okay, this is a blog post for my fellow Christianerds who have seen the new GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film. If you've not seen the film yet, please don't read past this point.

First, a general review of the film: I loved it. I'm planning on going and seeing it again while it is still in theaters, which is something I rarely ever do. The film tracked the comic book very closely, especially in tone and aesthetic. The comic book is very much a comedy, which is yet fit into Marvel's wider Universe, often a deadly serious place. This is something that is often accomplished to (often unacknowledged) brilliant effect in comic books, but would be very difficult in a film.

Yet, they pulled it off beautifully. I really would put this movie as the funniest of the year. I was cracking up almost the whole movie. Also like the comic book, this was a dialogue-driven film. The jokes were not just one-liners (though there was some of that too), but rather emerged out of a background of constantly back-and-forth. The rapid fire dialogue had to be an enormous challenge for all the actors involved, as well as director James Gunn, who pieces it all together seamlessly.

There can be no doubt that Groot and Rocket stole the show, most of the time. I've perhaps never seen a character more faithfully brought to the big screen than these two. Rocket is one of the most maturely comedic characters ever brought to life in fiction, and to see him brought from comic books to the big screen so effectively was striking. Bradley Cooper must be given real props, as his voice acting is a big part of why the character works. But the expertly-delivered CGI is also a big factor. The tag line in Christopher Reeves' SUPERMAN was "you will believe a man could fly." For this film, they should've gone with "you will believe a raccoon can talk."

Speaking of effects, there has simply never been anything superior to what was done in this film. This was CGI done right. Marvel is becoming so expert at all of this, and you can see the refinements as the films go on. THOR 2 and CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 showed marked improvements over everything that came before. This was a leap ahead of both those movies. Even when the entire scene was CGI, it all looked so substantial, so real.

The Thanos cameo worked perfectly and I was so excited to see more of this villain on screen. He is, in my opinion, the greatest comic book supervillain of all time. It looks like Disney/Marvel Universe will be doing him justice.

But the real miracle here, the thing that really struck me, was Chris Pratt's performance as STAR LORD. I am going to make a bold statement here: Chris Pratt should be nominated, if not win, and Academy Award for his portrayal of this character. There is zero chance of this happening as comedies and action films never make it anywhere in the Oscars, but I would put the substance, the difficulty level of what Pratt had to do, on par with any drama, any performance of any kind you're likely to see this year.

Pratt had to play a character that was just on the edge of stupid. He had to be a leader even as he allowed himself to be played off as second banana to a talking raccoon. He had to play the fool while believably becoming a hero. There are so many scenes where if he played it just a little off, you would've lost suspension of disbelief and the whole thing would've fallen apart. The supreme example of this is when he distracts Ronan the Accuser by dancing. In that moment, for about a minute and a half, it is all Chris. The camera is almost exclusively on him. Lee Pace, who played Ronan, also played a role in the scene, but he wasn't the one stuck dancing. If Chris hadn't effectively developed his portrayal of this character throughout the entire film, AND played this one scene with absolute perfection, the whole thing would've come off as absolutely dumb. But it didn't. It was funny and endearing. And all because of Chris Pratt.

I'd argue that this kind of performance is as challenging as any actor is likely to face. Yet Chris, now for all of us, IS Star Lord and is a Star Lord we root for and identify with, despite the obstacles in making that happen. He deserves at least an Oscar nod if not the award itself.

The one down side in the film is Gamora. I didn't think Zoe Saldana gave her best performance, and that bothers me as Gamora is one of the characters in the film I've followed most, since I was about 12 years old. Plus they messed with Gamora's origin story. Rather than having Thanos genuinely save Gamora from a dying planet, and having her decide to turn against him when she realized his willingness to commit planetary genocide, they instead had Thanos become the one who murdered Gamora's family, and thus had her holding a grudge against him since childhood. The characters motivations then are all messed up in the film, and a lot of what happens with her feels rushed and without proper internal conflict. Gamora was indeed eventually betrayed by Thanos but only after she attacked him out of disgust concerning his ultimate plans.

It would've been easy enough to maintain Gamora's original origin story, and had her turn against Thanos here due to his indifference to Ronan's genocidal plan. The character should've been more conflicted about her betrayal, which would've added more depth to the story and helped place the film within the ethos and pathos of the wider Marvel Universe. Nebula's character (which I thought was brilliantly portrayed by Karen Gillan) would've then had more sensible motivations and this could've led to so many future storylines.

In the grand scheme of things, this is really a pet peeve, and a small quibble given the overall brilliance of the film. I'd give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

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