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Guardians of the Galaxy (IMAX 3D)
Disney // PG-13 // August 1, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
The Marvel universe may be massive, but many of the more popular heroes have now been brought to the big screen. With the huge success found in Joss Whedon's The Avengers back in 2012, Disney has no plans of stopping superhero productions any time soon. In fact, they're green lighting even more of them. They have taken what some may call a "risk" (but not really) by delving into hero stories that may not be known to general moviegoers. James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy is an example of this. With Disney's massive marketing campaign and the picture's high praise, it will most likely do very well at the box office. Some audiences might be attracted by the fact that the science fiction is met with a certain amount of humanity. The question is, does the film truly meet the high expectations, or does it fail to capture that Marvel magic?
In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), is in over his head. He finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing a powerful orb on a job. It proves to be desired by many different individuals around the galaxy, most notably a villain that goes by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Peter must team up with the most unlikely of heroes if he wishes to save the galaxy and get make some extra money on the side.
Guardians of the Galaxy starts on a more personal note, as it explains Peter Quill's past. His mother lays on her death bed, as he's forced to confront a difficult moment as a young child that he will never forget for the rest of his life. After he's taken from Earth, a time jump places us years in the future. This is when the true tone is displayed, as a grown-up Star-Lord listens to a classic track while dancing through the treacherous obstacles to the powerful orb. This instantly places him on a most wanted list, as he soon meets fellow unlikely allies Gamora (Zoe Soldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel). The first half of James Gunn and Nicole Perlman's screenplay balances action and humor incredibly well. There are plenty of chuckles to be had, as it doesn't take itself too seriously. Even though some of the jokes can become a bit repetitive, they still work relatively well. The film remains light in tone through the majority of its running time, allowing them to explore the diverse personalities of the lead characters.
The feature doesn't truly lend itself to its more action-focused elements until the second half of the running time. This is when we get the opportunity to see what each of these heroes are truly capable of. However, it still fits comfortably within the same old formula that has been incorporated in Marvel films since the beginning. The general plot beats are exactly the same, giving us the feeling that it actually isn't breaking new ground. Rather, it's exploring the same area, but with a different skin on top of it. Many of the same issues that plagued some Marvel films previously continue to hold true for Guardians of the Galaxy. One of these is that the climax feels a bit contrived. There isn't any sense of real danger for our protagonists, and Ronan hardly reveals what makes him the powerful force that he's known to be. You'll be waiting until the end credits to realize that his true powers are never truly displayed. Ronan has always been a strong and interesting villain, although Gunn and Perlman don't take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to run with an outrageously strong antagonist.
Underneath the incredibly formulaic plot, there is a hint of honesty. Star-Lord constantly faces his demons, as he must find closure with his past. While this is hinted at several times and obviously shown at one point, this is one of the film's highlights. It shows that even underneath Star-Lord's over-the-top exterior, he's just as human as the rest of us. He has his own personal obstacles that he must overcome, making him an intriguing character to follow. This is why he's clearly the most interesting out of the group. While there are attempts made to do something similar with the other characters, the connection simply doesn't come quite as naturally. However, that doesn't stop them from being a blast to watch on screen when they're all together. The supporting characters most certainly work best through the scheming sequences, as they attempt to put together a plan that will allow them to gain the upper hand. The chemistry between them feels real, as the friendships continue to get stronger throughout the running time.
Even with some character gripes, the casting is pretty spot on. Chris Pratt is perfect in the role of Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord. He delivers the overly-confident hero with style, especially when he decides to bust out some dance moves. Zoe Saldana is believable as Gamora, and this isn't only because her skin is entirely green. Her dialogue delivery simply feels smooth and on point. Dave Bautista is acceptable as Drax. He successfully delivers on the character's rage, although the despair hardly comes through. Vin Diesel's voice over is primarily taken up by the three words, "I am Groot," yet it works so incredibly well. Bradley Cooper's sarcasm is clear through his voice over as Rocket. While Pratt clearly steals the show, the casting works to the film's advantage. The characters wouldn't have worked as well without this group of actors.
Given that Guardians of the Galaxy is a summer blockbuster by Disney/Marvel, it shouldn't be too surprising that the film would look absolutely stunning. However, a lot of this can be credited to writer/director James Gunn. He successfully places his own touch on the Marvel universe. The CG work is absolutely outstanding. It all look so real, it seems as if we could reach out and touch it. Even the action sequences are fluid, as it's never difficult to see what's going on, even when things get a bit chaotic on screen. This is truly a picture worth seeing in IMAX 3D. Not only do the visuals truly shine on the giant screen, but the 3D is surprisingly effective. There's a clear amount of depth throughout the picture that most features aren't able to replicate. The visuals can only be matched by the marvelous soundtrack choices that will surely resonate with audiences. This is surely one of the best looking films of the summer.
Guardians of the Galaxy is perhaps one of the more lively films in Marvel's more recent catalogue. It's lighter in tone, allowing for its comedic roots to shine alongside the action. However, lively doesn't necessarily mean better. It still carries the formulaic plot structure that's becoming a bit tired. If you're anything like me, then you're a superhero fan who is just yearning for something new. Even so, the film still manages to satisfy in the entertainment department, especially amongst a summer filled with largely disappointing blockbusters. James Gunn and Nicole Perlman have created a mixture of comedy, action, and honesty that works. Guardians of the Galaxy isn't the best that Marvel has to offer, but it's a feast for the eyes. Recommended.