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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review: Knowhere Special.

Would you look at that! Chris Pratt is now box office gold, and you have no idea how happy that makes me. What's more, between this and the Lego Movie, he's been able to have his critical cake and eat it too. Nice, talented, guys can finish first and that just makes me smile. But enough about Pratt and how awesome he is, you're here to find out if that article title is snarky or not.

It isn't. I thought Guardians was fantastic, but the hype left a little to be desired. I thought the movie was good, but the exact amount of goodness it accomplished must be discussed. One; because this could be James Gunn coming into his own as a great pop directer, and two, because I haven't written anything in almost a week and I haven't written a review in god knows how long.

First things first, the very beginning was wonderful. The maudlin opening is a fickle and occasionally very powerful tool, and a scant few directors know how to pull it off. Spielberg can do it, JJ's done one pretty well, and I thought Gunn nailed it here. Plus, Greg Henry on the big screen! That put me in a great mood. And a random alien abduction notwithstanding, seeing a little boy deal with the death of his mother (an unrecognizable Laura Haddock) with coldness and anger was a great character choice.

Chris Pratt realizing he can write his own ticket.
The movie barely takes another breath before throwing you into ancient alien ruins, then into an antique shop on a futuristic "not-earth" run by Glenn Close, then into a dank space prison. All the while building character arcs and motivation for the five leads on the margins of some damn slick action scenes. The prison break has everything that the film does best all at once. It gives every character something to do and puts little personality beats within each task. It was a cracking screenplay juggling act you don't see every year. After that, the movie exhales and lets it's muffin top show a bit.

Before reaching the massive floating robot head/mining colony "Knowhere" I was down with a giant talking tree, manic bionic racoon, a hulking tattooed convict who literally takes everything literally, a green skinned assassin with crippling daddy issues, and a roguish dolt with crippling mommy issues (and a cassette with some sweet tunes). I was down with it. Everyone had creatively earned their keep. Except for Gamora, but despite being underwritten, Saldana positively oozes charisma and screen presence, so... B+. But now we had to let the supporting cast take over, sit through some exposition scenes, and feel generally let down after Thanos shows up and literally doesn't lift a finger.

The present's so bright...

Benicio Del Toro is sleeping walking through his 6 to 7 minutes and it's hard to blame him. There's a sadness in his eyes that speaks to a much meatier part in a different draft that existed before he signed the contract. But nonetheless, the collector's gallery is a visual orgy of Easter eggs and I had plenty to occupy myself while not noticing Del Torro chew the scenery. Oh, and speaking of scenery chewing!

Lee Pace has simply outdone himself with Ronan. He's feeling genocidal, has a giant hammer, is covered in chalky face paint tears, and... that's it. But Pace goes the opposite direction of Del Toro and gets as loud and as angry as he possibly can. I can see how some people didn't think much of it, but I appreciated how he turned a bad situation into a workout. Near the end he has a single comedic line and he kills it. Just... murders the hell out of it. It was the biggest laugh out of me in a movie that had already taken plenty.

Michael Rooker also manages to be a secondary power house as the guy who kidnapped Peter Quill in the beginning. There's a great father-son/Stockholm syndrome relationship between the two that winds up being much more interesting than the Quill/Gamora shipping scenes. But I actually liked those scenes too, even if they taste a little contrived.

In summation, this was a funny, affecting, and delightful space opera. The leads are all wonderfully cast, the writing only sputters in the middle( but I concede that drunk Rocket Raccoon was a legitimately moving middle scene... seriously), and it's generally as lovable as blockbusters get. This will be to 8 year olds what Men in Black was to me. A movie that will shock, amaze, and be watched over and over and over and over again.

You will believe a Raccoon. CAN. MURDER.

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