Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy - Movie Review

   The wisdom of the Disney powers-that-be is clearly evident in their purchase of creative companies like Marvel and Pixar - and then staying out of the way and letting them create their own movies.

   As a result, both companies have established a growing string of highly-successful films. So what is their secret, when so many other companies are faltering?

   There are lots of factors at work, but the two most important are: the focus on the script; and hiring the best possible on-screen (and behind the scenes) talent.

   The latest example of this is the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the one most critics expected to fail miserably. It featured a strange cast most people had never heard of - Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groo. Almost the entire movie takes places in a variety of alien settings. The characters are misfits, goof-ups, monsters.

   But the movie is masterful. It brings together great characters, mixes in lots of action, a wonderful level of humor (something most movies like this forget to include, to their detriment), a fun story and a break-neck pace.

   The characters are certainly a mismatched group, but the story manages the difficult trick of bringing them together and, via a series of small, touching moments, turns them into a family (of sorts).

   One of the biggest surprises in the film is the performance of Chris Pratt as Peter Quill (Star-Lord). For most of his career he's been a comic figure, but here he becomes a real-life he-man action hero, on a level with Harrison Ford. He keeps his humorous edge, and he's a bit of a rogue (or he wants to be), but you do get the sense that there's a hero hiding in there somewhere. He has touching moments, and very funny scenes (his final confrontation with the big bad guy could have been a disaster with anyone else - but he makes it work, and it's a riot).

   The entire cast is terrific - who would have thought Drax could be so funny? That animated characters could be so lifelike when standing next to human actors? That John C. Reilly could be a superhero (of sorts)?

   Long-time movie fans will catch many nods to past action films, and there are Easter Eggs aplenty - it will take multiple viewings to see all the goodies on display in the Collector's museum.

   Don't get me wrong, the movie's not perfect - I could have done without some of the four-letter words, which seem unneeded, and some of the violence was a bit much.

   I'm also not ready to say this is the new Star Wars (though it's certainly in the same mold), and I'm not even convinced it's a better movie that The Avengers - though it's a very close race.

   But it is a heck of a lot of fun, loaded with laughs, action and a lot of heart. And a great soundtrack!

   Marvel's streak of success at the box office continues, and as long as they keep making movies this good, they'll continue to ride the wave of success.

   I'm all for it!

Grade: A



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