Thursday, June 1, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy

Peter Quill AKA Star Lord steals an orb for a job like he always does as a ravager. This orb is earth-shatteringly powerful and attracts the attention a diverse group of people including genocidal Ronan the Accusor and his considerable army, cybernetically enhanced daughters of Thanos Gamora and Nebula, Yondu Udonta and his ravager gang, the Collector Tanaleer Tivan, and Iran Rael and the rest of the Nova Corps. He teams up with other misfits by chance to fight agains Ronan and (eventually) save the universe, including Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, an enhanced racoon Rocket, and his best friend Groot.

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite superhero movies. I had my doubts going into it because a sentient tree and a talking raccoon don't exactly scream superhero. At this point, I've seen the film countless times and it never gets old. The narrative does so many things in a concise way. All of the characters and worlds are brand new to Marvel Cinematic Universe and they are all introduced without lengthy flashbacks or exposition. The five main characters in particular are simply thrown together and we get to know them as they get to know each other. These heroes are more anit-hero or even villain in some cases. Peter, Rocket, and Groot are thieves who just want to make as much money as possible without a thought for others. Gamora has committed atrocities under the guidance of her evil adoptive father. Drax makes foolish decisions that hurt the whole group for his own selfish ends. They aren't morally as squeaky clean as superheroes usually are and prove to be much more inventive and erratic as a result.

When the Guardians meet, they all have conflicts of interest and get in each others way. At first, they begrudgingly help each other for their own benefit. They share pieces of themselves as they spend time together and eventually become friends despite their differences. For example, a drunken game starts a fistfight between Rocket and Drax that ends with a surprisingly emotional monologue from Rocket describing what his life as an experiment was like and how hurtful people treat him. Peter shares his music, his dancing, and odd bits of Earth pop culture with the others. Drax shares the traumatic story of Ronan's murder of his wife and daughter. Groot has a genuine personality even though he only ever says "I am Groot." Vin Diesel's performance gives the perfect tone and emotion for each scene. Gamora tries to make amends for her past wrongs, even putting herself at great risk. These heroes become friends when previously they were directionless and largely alone.

One thing the MCU does wonderfully is have fairly sanitized battle scenes while still having high stakes and tragic deaths. Marvel sits firmly in PG-13 territory which means no blood or closeup violence. Their high stakes are in the fate of the panicked people on the ground, the Ravagers, and the Nova Corps soldiers. Ronan's Putty-like army starts suicide bombing the citizens and Rocket and the Ravagers have to adjust their battle style to save people. Not all of them get out alive. Donarian Garthan Saal has the most horrific death as Rocket frantically tries to talk to him as he is crushed by Ronan's ship. He refused to break ranks and sacrificed his life to fight Ronan along with the rest of the Nova Corps soldiers that formed a force field around Ronan's ship. We even see some familiar characters in the panicked crowd such as the Broker and Rhomann Day's wife and child so they aren't just faceless people. This makes the audience care about all sides of the battle and all experience loss.

The film has a lot of unique qualities. It is visually beautiful with a variety of bright colors. The MCU tends to be more colorful than DC, but this one brings in neon colors that gives it a look that stands out. Much like the Guardians, all the colors should clash but they work together to make a striking look. The CGI looks gorgeous and fits in with the film incredibly well. The fact that two main characters are CGI never takes away from their characters at all. The soundtrack, both the symphonic background music and the pop songs used, is wonderful. This is my favorite Tyler Bates soundtrack and the Guardians theme never fails to make my heart beat a little faster. The 60's and 70's pop songs aren't the most popular of the era, but definitely familiar. They are never too on the nose and illustrate the mood and feeling of the scenes perfectly. My favorites are Hooked on a Feeling and Come and Get Your Love. Many of these songs are forever changed for me because of this film.

The Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun film but also an emotional one. For a film about mercenary type people, there were many heartwarming and wrenching moments plus tons of humor. Rocket's drunken speech and Groot's "We are Groot" always make my eyes fill with tears. In a way, the Guardians are a lot like the Elements of Harmony in My Little Pony. They discover friendship, step in pitfalls, and make sacrifices for each other and the greater good. This is a superhero movie with the most humor, the most heart, and the most irreverence. My only tiny problems with the film is that Nebula screams every line (but she doesn't get a lot of chance to do much else) and Thanos doesn't look too realistic. Other than that, this is one of the best superhero movies period.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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