Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The penultimate film in Marvel's Phase 2 (with 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' being the final one) and arguably the most risky one for them to make. It's based on a relatively obscure comic series (obviously - this is Marvel) and could easily end up being a 'John Carter' or 'Green Lantern'-type disaster. Plus a talking raccoon and an anthropomorphic tree were seen as hard sells.

Though mostly set in space, 'Guardians' begins with protagonist Peter Quill as a kid on Earth, where his mother dies and he gets abducted. Cut forward a couple of decades, and Quill (Chris Pratt) has become an outlaw and likes to go by the name 'Starlord'. He acquires an orb which many parties are hunting for and from there he ends up teaming with a bunch of individuals, each with their own issues. Together they must try to stop the threat of a villain who seeks power and wants to destroy things. Who needs character complexity, eh?

As I didn't get round to seeing the film until the Tuesday after its release (I was asked not to watch it until then), I have seen that the film has performed well both critically and commercially which meant that my expectations were inevitably tampered with. Fortunately, and unlike 'Avengers Assemble', I could understand why it would be received the way it was (critically, that is. I can see the commercial appeal of 'Avengers').

The two most noticeable positives about the film are that it can be quite funny (I would give an example but I'd find that would a) give something away and b) make it seem less amusing) and it looks quite good. As it is set in space, there will be the need for many special effects and new worlds to design, and the film does the job well. It might not be 'Star Wars', but it'll do.

The humour (generally a key part to these Marvel Studio films), meanwhile, gives a lighter edge to the whole film and that helps you accept various elements of the film. Unlike 'Avengers', it doesn't undermine the other parts of the film nor does it go out of its way for a smug one-liner or a punch line and then congratulate itself.

Yet, for all the film's efforts to try and set-up something different and be what it is, everything ends up feeling like more of the same. The story is highly primitive and not paced too well (it goes here and there but not much feels necessary). I'd overlook story flaws if I could get into the characters, but I didn't find the protagonists to be the most interesting bunch. Meanwhile, the antagonists get minimal screen time, with Djimon Hounsou's Korath getting a couple of irrelevant lines and Karen Gillan's Nebula feeling largely pointless and more there just as a future presence in a sequel. The main villain, as I said, just gets given the 'destroy things because I can' motive and nothing else. He has little threat and nothing to give him any personality.

The action that appears throughout the film was also fairly dull. It ends with the big CG spectacle you'd expect, but no weight behind any of it. And even if there was some investment in the scene, I can't say it does anything new or memorable with the scenario. All the action before that also feels distant and uninvolving. It may have been watchable, but there was no impact behind it.

It may sound like I didn't like the film. But that is not the case. It was hard not to be a little disappointed after coming across the positive reception the film has received (meaning it is a film I think I should watch again just to give it another, more reasonable chance), but I though it was okay overall. There are things to like and enjoy, and it went by quite quickly (it didn't feel as long as the two hours it is) but there are the things I didn't take to.

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