Well that was real mature...

Well that was real mature...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Living Up to the Hype: Guardians of the Galaxy (and the Cinema)

"Guardians of the Galaxy." I have spent the last week trying to find the words to adequately praise this movie.
As a warm up exercise I decided to send an e-mail to a friend who is resistant to the Marvel movies. He once told me the Raimi "Spider-Man" trilogy, "X-Men" trilogy and Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, were the definitive comic book movies and that he really had no need or desire to see anything else. We had a fun debate about that. My position is yes, they are great, but how can you make a statement like that without seeing the Marvel films; they were/are the only movies being made by the people who make the actual comics. That doesn't even get into the issues of picking and choosing from years and years of characterization and storylines, artistic license, varying interpretation, etc. (I, of course, sent him "Watchmen" pointing out that it is a rare straight up adaptation of a single story). 
Ultimately, it's a tricky proposition because I know he's been resistant to dive into the Marvel movie series. The closest he was to being tempted was with "Avengers" mainly because it was Joss Whedon. He and I both love "Firefly"/"Serenity." But then who with a brain doesn't (I, for the record, love all of Mr. Whedon's work, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," "Dr. Horrible," and even the under rated "Dollhouse")? Even though he was tempted by Joss-the-Master, he ultimately backed off because he didn't want to do the "homework" of watching the previous films. I explained that each film, while a link in a chain, comes together to form a larger story, that he could, in fact, see "Avengers" that it does stand alone as a single piece. Like episodes of J. Michael Straczynski's brilliant novel for television, "Babylon 5," where each episode combined to tell a whole story that is stronger and better with all the pieces in place simultaneously, each individual episode works equally as well as solitary tales. My argument was half hearted since I confess I am an obsessive compulsive completest. So if our situations were reversed, I also would have wanted to do my homework. I just don't consider watching well made, character driven, smartly plotted, imaginative movies, "work."

What can I say, it takes all kinds.

He's stubborn and getting set in his ways but then so am I. He's a good guy but with one to three films coming out a year (not counting the in continuity tv show, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."), the longer he waits, the less chance it will happen. I'm genuinely sad for him. He's missing out.
You see, being from the same generation, he and I suffered from the same affliction of skepticism. Big summer blockbusters tended to be full of empty SFX and big set pieces and if you wanted a smartly plotted, character driven film you had to look in the nooks and crannies of the video store (remember those?) to find some obscure low budget independent film. The big action flicks were mindless entertainment for Joe Sixpack.
But lately the television and film auteurs are the geeks who studied classic film ad who also grew up reading the pulps and comics. They wanted to combine the sensibilities of both and tv and film have improved greatly for it.
James Gunn is a great example of that and "Guardian of the Galaxy" lives up to all of the hype. It's that good. His pacing is pitch perfect, his characterization is flawless, the plotting is solid, the dialogue is Whedon-sharp and irreverent. The greatest irony of all is that there is both a freshness to the film as well as elements that seem familiar: Loving pastiche's on films sci-fi fans will love.
So I begged my friend, "if you only see one (Marvel movie) - this would be the one."
It lives up to the hype (which is considerable). Gunn does a better job with it than (and this might be a sin to say aloud or typeset for any to read) Joss did with Avengers. Unlike Joss, James does not have the benefit of A & B list characters each of whom already had stand alone films to give origins and character set up before "coming together" in Avengers. Nope, Gunn has D list characters all of whom show up for the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (In fact the only two characters who "appear" in previous films are Thanos, who had a non speaking cameo in the "Avengers" mid-credit bonus scene and The Collector who appears in the post credits bonus scene of "Thor 2: The Dark World").
In short, it stands well on it's own.  The characters are obscure even to a lot of comic book fans, and Gunn is now, in my opinion a mad-genius who out did Joss with a harder movie to make.
While the comparisons to the original "Star Wars" are inevitable, it is actually easier to compare to "Firefly." In fact, the short hand I would use to describe this film to movie fans who don't read comics would be: "It's Singer's X-Men meets Whedon's Serenity"
Both my son and my wife want to see it again. The former I get, this movie will be to him and kids his age and younger what "Star Wars" was to my generation. But my wife, while supportive in my choice of wanting to write comics, her eyes frequently almost hit escape velocity she rolls them so hard at my geek-like tendencies. So, Gunn did something really, really right to get the nerd, the kid AND the wife/mom. Oddly we all even agree on the best character. And it is EXACTLY the character you would think is the lamest and most over the top going in. But isn't that the way. Everyone who I convince to watch "Babylon 5" and "Farscape" all say the same thing. "Muppets in space, I can't take that seriously" or "What's up with that dude's hair, I can't take him seriously." Ultimately Rigel and Londo each become their favorites. This is the way it is with Rocket the Raccoon. I dare anyone to hate that character when all is said and done.
So as I said, it used to be summer popcorn flicks were empty sci-fi or fantasy movies that  were FX laden, with emphasis on set pieces instead of plot and characterization. I am so glad to see guys like Rami, Singer, Whedon, Nolan, et al change this the last few years with fantastic comic book movies. Now, Gunn has taken it to the next level with this super-hero sci-fi fusion film that is an amazing blend of subtle and over the top. Character and action, fx and dialogue. With J.J. Abrams moving on to "Star Wars," I want Gunn to take over the "Trek" franchise, heck maybe he can take over the "Star Wars" franchisee as well. Both would be better for it.
In short: If you haven't seen it yet, go see it.
Even if you are not a fan of the Marvel films. Go see it.
Even if you don't like Sci-Fi. Go see it.
Even if you don't like super-hero movies.
Go see it.
If, like my friend, you have not been watching the Marvel movies, you can do your "home work" of watching the previous films (all of which are good to great films, no real stinker in the bunch).  But if it is too much for you, "Guardians of the Galaxy" does stand on it's own, so if you only see one movie from Marvel...
As I wrote this my friend e-mailed me back. His response was an atypically short: "Will do!  I may wait until DVD, if that's OK." Look up "pyrrhic victory" in the dictionary. He may have been humoring me (or at the very least did not want to get into another debate on the Marvel films). But, boy never did a win hurt so bad. Some films are once in a generation films need to be experienced on the big screen, perhaps even more than once. This is one of those.
So for the love of God, please I beg you. Go. See. It. In. The. Theatre.
It is actually worth your valuable time and money. It's the kind of good that brings out the little kid in middle aged men. It's the most fun I have had since I was a kid seeing the original "Star Wars" Trilogy or "Raiders of the Lost Arc."
It's *that* kind of good.

Don't forget to give me a follow on twitter @BrettTHarris and read my webcomics at www.adventuresinpulp.com

No comments:

Post a Comment