Guardians of the Galaxy

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Having been disappointed by 2014’s most critically acclaimed film, Boyhood, I decided to give 2014’s highest grossing movie a chance. Surely I can’t go wrong here. Everyone loves Guardians of the Galaxy. This is going to be loads of fun, isn’t it?

Sadly, I was wrong. This is a painfully ordinary movie. Pedestrian action scenes, plodding screenplay and mediocre direction. Starved as we are for fresh, inventive summer blockbusters, I can understand the willingness to pounce on anything that rises above the mediocre standards set by this rather moribund industry, but Guardians of the Galaxy is not a film to get excited about. It offers nothing that we haven’t seen before and nothing that hasn’t been done better countless times.

Want a sci-fi soap opera western? Watch Star Wars. Want a wisecracking hero? Watch Indiana Jones. Want a gang of colourful heroes? Watch The Great Escape or The Magnificent Seven.

What makes this extra disappointing is that the film starts so strongly. The film begins with Peter Quill as a child. His mother is on her deathbed and he’s listening to some 10cc on his Walkman. It’s incredibly sad and moving, and they manage to film it in such a way that it resembles a Spielberg film from the 70s. But then Peter gets kidnapped by aliens and we’re thrust into mediocrity.

The film is just incredibly disjointed and random. Like so many action and adventure films these days, they’re impatient. Everything has to move at a hundred miles an hour. They never take the time to set up situations and characters correctly. I watched Guardians and it was just like *random shit, random shit, wisecrack, random shit, random shit, action scene*. How about, you know, a story?

And really, the MacGuffin in this film is some round thing? And the bad guys are armour-plated aliens with blue faces? In The Avengers the MacGuffin was a square thing and the bad guys were amour-plated aliens with skeleton-like faces. Nice to see that Marvel is awash with fresh ideas. What’s next? Are we going to have a triangle MacGuffin and are the bad guys going to be amour-plated aliens with red skeleton faces? Yeah, that’s stupid, Captain America already has the red skeleton thing covered.

Maybe I’m just a joyless, miserable bastard. Everyone else also loved The Avengers, while I thought it was terrible. But no, I refuse to believe that I’m the problem here. Just because other people have lowered their standards beyond all recognition, doesn’t mean that I have to. How can you aspire to create a compelling adventure film when you have some of the dullest villains ever seen in a movie? A film like this lives and breathes with its villains. A hero is only as good as his/her adversary.

The villain here is a roided, blue alien dude. He doesn’t say anything interesting. He doesn’t say anything cool or scary. He doesn’t kill people in frightening/amusing ways. He doesn’t have any witty banter or one liners. He’s just like a guy from The Blue Man Group who’s gone seriously rogue and has taken far too much whey supplement. He probably has teeny, weeny testicles and is doomed to overcompensate on a cosmic scale.

The best character, by a country mile, is Groot. Who would have thought that Vin Diesel as an intergalactic Hodor would be the best thing about this blockbuster? But weirdly enough, Groot, the alien Hodor tree, is the most rounded, most human, most selfless character in the movie. He even gives his life for his friends. In one of the best scenes in the film, he wraps his friends in a cocoon to protect them, taking his own life in the process. It’s a great scene.

There’s also another great moment when Groot saves his friends by taking out a bunch of guys with his branches/arms. Groot drives his limbs through his adversaries and then batters them against the wall like rag dolls. Once they’re defeated, he turns around and gives his friends a big, goofy grin. It’s another excellent moment.

However, even with Groot the film has a touch of randomness about it. His powers are never truly explained and it’s only when he’s saving his friends with his cocoon that you’re told that this will kill him. Again it leaves you with the impression that things are being made up as they go along.

But there’s actually some pretty genuine pathos when Groot is killed and Rocket is sobbing into a handful of branches. For that, for having a character you genuinely care about, the film deserves some credit.

It gets nothing from me, though, for the fearsomely dull action sequences towards the end. We’re not quite in Avengers territory where you have a forty minute action scene with flying space turtles and millions of people dying bloodless deaths offscreen in a citywide rampage, but it’s almost as dreary. Really, these big space battles and citywide assaults haven’t excited me for a long, long time. Pixels get destroyed, stuff goes kaboom and everyone gets on with their lives. None of these big Marvel action sequences have any flavor. They all feel incredibly bland. I’d rather watch the crazy father versus son fight in Hulk than this. And that film is still a lot better than anything Marvel has produced since.

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