Sunday, August 17, 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy is of course both the latest in the interlocking "Marvel Universe" series of films and the first to go outside the pantheon of heroes featured in The Avengers. The film, directed by James Gunn, is also a marked departure in tone from previous Marvel efforts. I don't think I've ever seen superhero films with as much psychological depth as the Captain America saga, and the other Avengers films have reached for a similar depth with mixed results. Yet Gunn has made a comedy with action, a film meant to feel like a cult movie from the 1980's that one stumbles on by accident and then loves in the same way that Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) treasures a cassette tape of 1970's pop music from his mother. For those who have been following the Marvel films the effect is as if Beverly Hills Cop had been inserted into the Star Wars franchise. The change in tone is jarring and one is left wondering just what the point of it all was supposed to be.
After a prologue in which young Peter Quill is kidnapped from Earth on the day his mother dies, we jump forward and find the adult Peter a sort of low-rent Han Solo type. Peter's pursuit of an orb that contains (unknown to him) an "Infinty Stone" puts him in the way of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a genetically modified raccoon called Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a walking tree known as Groot (Vin Diesel), and a tough named Drax (Dave Bautista in the film's funniest performance). This crew is charged with securing the stone from Ronan (Lee Pace), a madman with megalomaniacal ambitions, and ultimately from future Avengers foe Thanos. the outcome is all too predictable, Quill will crack wise while coming into his own as a man while Gamora will kick ass and do little else. (Saldana doesn't offer much new here. Are roles like this all her career is going to be?) The rest of the cast will fill in around the edges as it all leads up to a climactic battle with Ronan. There is energy and wit here. but they're in service of a story that feels very disconnected from the one Marvel has been telling. I appreciate that only Marvel could make this film. but Guardians should have been allowed to find its own way rather than be shoved into the studio's bigger plans.