Monday 11 August 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy

I finally caught up with Guardians Of The Galaxy, the fourth and penultimate film in what I alarmingly find myself referring to as Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as if I'm some kind of comic book movie geek hahaha. Remember when Guardians was announced and we were all like, "a Marvel film set in space with a talking raccoon and a sentient tree, how's THAT gonna work?" as if Phase One, with its Norse gods and interdimensional aliens, was somehow the height of social realism? Well now it feels to me like the real question we should have been asking is "what if it's just not very good?", because then I could have prepared myself better for the fact that, well, it's just not very good.

To be fair, it's nowhere near as catastrophic as Iron Man 2 or The Incredible Hulk. It motors along with impressive momentum, kicked off by a Raiders Of The Lost Ark-y opening and fuelled by the spirit of Star Wars, with its likeable heroes thrown together and pitted against the forces of darkness through no desire of their own. That's about all it takes from the original Star Wars trilogy though; Guardians appears, ill-advisedly, to more thoroughly plunder the prequel trilogy for its roster of unconvincing CG environments and convoluted plotting.

An episodic jaunt through a series of interchangeable fights and confusing aerial battles, Guardians Of The Galaxy isn't afraid to bust out the old stop-the Macguffin-falling-into-the-hands-of-the-enemy plot, and it attempts to cover the fact that you've seen this story dozens of times by introducing an over-abundance of secondary characters. If you can keep up with all the players mentioned in the first act then you're doing well, especially when many of them are either suspiciously similar to each other, almost entirely without motivation or just plain extraneous.

Two minutes of screen time is still enough to warrant your own character poster.

Even some of the leads struggle to make their mark: Drax The Destroyer is just a strong man, whose habit of taking everything anyone says literally is a wasted opportunity for potential shenanigans, while Zoe Saldana's Gamora feels like she should be far more untrustworthy, duplicitous and therefore interesting than she ends up being. Only Bradley Cooper's permanently-enraged Rocket, the talking raccoon, comes close to any kind of existential introspection; it's not that the film requires Bergmanesque levels of navel gazing, it's just that we barely get under the skin, fur or bark of anyone. Chris Pratt's rogueish Peter Quill is merely Han Solo-lite, and Groot, the sentient tree, is literally a wooden Chewbacca.

Its tongue is planted squarely in its cheek, and it's comfortably aware of its own ridiculousness, but Guardians Of The Galaxy isn't nearly as funny or clever as it thinks it is. The one-liners are weak, the gags half-hearted, and the one joke aimed high above the heads of the younger audience - i.e. it's about semen - is in incongruously dubious taste. And when it reaches its inevitably overblown finale, Guardians commits the cardinal sin of making up its own rules to explain away the ending, and it's hard not to feel a little cheated. It's not even as if you can take any especially memorable scenes or moments away with you, because there aren't any.

Although the bit where this extra reveals her
true feelings towards Glenn Close is quite good.

How much any of this will impact on next summer's reassembling of the Avengers remains to be seen. Despite a run of below-par entries, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still coasting on enough goodwill from Phase One to ensure the success of Phase Two's grand finale. But while Joss Whedon made surprisingly impressive lemonade from some of the lemons he was handed last time round, one can only hope he's stocked up on sugar over the last few years because - Iron Man Three excepted - this batch of the MCU is beginning to turn a little too sour.


  1. Good review. Good points well made. I think I was willing to overlook some of these aspects (the 'oh that's the reason' ending, the very MacGuffiny plot) because it was so damned fun. And I laughed so much. Oh how I laughed.

  2. I thought it was rather brilliant good fun.

    The visual FX were really impressive, I'm not sure why you felt they were unconvincing, were you watching it on a laptop or in 3D at a cinema? For a 3D film they were really bright and colourful.

    I have a feeling if I had watched this as a 10-12 y/o it would have been one of my all-time favourite films. There hasn't been anything this amazing for kids since probably the first x-men/spiderman films.

    BTW, you were right that the "adult" joke flew over my kids' heads, I didn't think it was out of place or shocking, it just made me laugh a lot, you wouldn't get Han Solo saying that!

  3. Nailed it. Feels like it was trying to show some heart and soul but it can't the fact it was made in a factory.