Wednesday, January 28, 2015
A Few Thoughts On GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
I finally watched GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY last night. I know I was a bit late to the party, but...oh well. Seeing a smash-hit movie for the very first time, after it has already become a smash hit, is a peculiar experience. What makes it peculiar is that one looks at it from a perspective of "Why was this such a success?" instead of just sitting back and enjoying it.
Make no mistake, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is an enjoyable movie. Director-co-writer James Gunn keeps things moving at a rapid clip, and he throws in as many supposed-to-be-funny moments as possible. I didn't really understand the plot all that much, and I knew nothing about the characters...but I think most of the people that bought all the tickets for this movie felt the same way. I mean, how many "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic book experts exist? Before this movie was made, I had never heard of the Marvel comic it was based on.
I believe the lack of knowledge among the general public about the origins of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a prime reason for the film's popularity. The characters in GUARDIANS are nowhere near the level of, say, Batman or Superman or Spider Man. The movies based on those characters make tons of money, but most viewers of them wind up arguing about them instead of appreciating them. With GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, there's no rules or iconic history to worry about...which is why the makers of this film could do basically anything they wanted. They didn't have to worry about making a serious adaptation of a graphic novel--they could just go ahead and make a popcorn movie. I'm sure there's a few out there on the internet who might be ticked off that this project wasn't "faithful" enough--but no one at Marvel Studios is going to listen to them.
There is one thing I have to bring up. If GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was not a Marvel product....would it have been as popular? In other words....did all the people who took to this movie love it because it was a great time, or did they love because it was from Marvel? If you had watched GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and did not know it has anything to do with Marvel, would you have enjoyed it as much? Obviously the movie alone must have struck some chord--but let's face it, this story never would have got made if it was not a Marvel title. I have to wonder, because of the power of social media and the mainstream media, are audiences predisposed to love certain movies and TV shows because they feel like they are supposed to?
And this makes me think of another point--is GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY really a comic book movie? Yes, it is based on a comic book....but it has very few of the typical elements one would expect from the genre. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is more of a goofy space adventure than a straight comic book tale. Most comic book movies are stuck with following certain patterns, which is why most of them appear very much alike. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY doesn't have that problem.
The major reason for why this film works is leading man Chris Pratt. He takes the role of Peter Quill and runs with it, and he infuses the entire production with his personality. Right now Pratt has become the cool leading man of the moment...but will he wind up doing his Peter Quill act in his other films, kind of like how Robert Downey Jr. is now still doing Tony Stark in his non-Iron Man features? I'm not going to call Chris Pratt the next Cary Grant or anything like that, but he was perfect for this type of story.
Two of the other popular characters of this film (Rocket and Groot) are actually CGI constructs, yet no one seems too concerned about that--which shows how much computer graphics have burrowed their way into live-action film making. Rocket and Groot kind of reminded me of those anthropomorphic non-human comic relief characters in all those Disney/Pixar animated tales--and I'm sure that was Marvel Studios' intention.
One supposed highlight of this film is a fanboy's wet dream catfight between Zoe Saldana (the new Uhura) and Karen Gillan (a beloved Doctor Who companion). The catfight is somewhat disappointing, as catfights go....and why would you cast a Geek Goddess like Karen Gillan and make her totally unrecognizable?
All things considered, I liked GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY...but not as much as some people. I can understand why this movie blew up like it did. It has a "Millennial" sensibility. What I mean by that is it has a number of traits that would appeal to the Millennial generation, such as a group of smart-aleck heroes who constantly put each other down, a retro music soundtrack, numerous pop culture references, and many over-the-top action scenes. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY does what it was designed for.....but it's not a game changer, like the original STAR WARS or JURASSIC PARK.