Hi Readers! Bob and I couldn’t decide who should get to write the official Culture Babble Review of Guardians of the Galaxy so we decided to write it together similar to our Monthly Movie Radar. Below is my review with Bob’s commentary in blue italics like so and then sometimes I respond to him so it’s kind of a review conversation…a reviewersation –Amy
I wanted a few things to come out of Guardians of the Galaxy. The first is that I wanted it to solidify Chris Pratt as a leading man. Pratt plays one of my favorite character’s on television as Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation and I have always been excited to see what he would do next. I didn’t expect a few years ago that he would jump from TV funnyman to ripped up action hero and that was what was so exciting about it. Could Pratt take the leap to movies? And beyond that could he do it in a role that, while not entirely outside his past comedy genre, is certainly a very different interpretation of it. I was happy to see that he was up to the task as Peter Quill, Starlord. Having excellent material to work with goes a long way to making an actor look good but Pratt fell into the leading man role with ease. His comedic timing was spot on, as usual, but was now interspersed with action and fight scenes, as well as, one good ‘oh look at those abs’ moments. #prattabs Orchids to Chris Pratt and it will be because of him that I go see the Jurassic Park movie in theaters. I think he especially sold me on his character in the opening dance number. The commitment to being able to convey feelings in body motion while walking in front of a green screen. He can definitely give you earnest very well in his eyes. I thought a few of his punch lines were poorly timed – but for the most part when he is in the fast-speak witty dialogue he is pitch perfect. He’s an actor that has sold the ‘galaxy’ he is versatile enough to be a leading man.
Another thing I wanted to see out of this movie was Karen Gillan aka Amy Pond aka Nebula shake away her Amy Pond character and wow the world with her transformation. I would say that this wish was less fulfilled but not entirely a wash. Gillan looked the part as evil assassin Nebula, which is good since she shaved off her trademark red hair to play the part. Unfortunately, Gillan’s big hair reveal at comic con was more exciting than many of the scenes involving her character. #ditto Throughout the movie Nebula was largely silent while on screen and received one of the weaker fight sequences of the movie. Certainly it is tough to expect an actress for a few seasons of a BBC show to get a huge role in a big Hollywood movie, but when an actress has brought you to tears several times – you want big things for them in other projects. I think Gillan got a good part, but I think Nebula got screwed. I think that she was imposing and visually worked as a henchmen, but this role was not worth the head shave. After the movie one of my first thoughts was that they did a good job of balancing action with back story, but of the Guardians, Gamora is the least delved into character and post movie I know even less about Nebula. What did happen here is a set up for a second movie that shows Nebula stepping out of the shadows as someone’s number two and really embracing the supervillian role. As a sequel has already been announced there is a good chance we will get to see this happen. I am interested to know if Karen with shave her head for the second go around.
I’d like to talk about Gamora. Other than the two voices of our animated characters, Zoe Saldana is the most established movie actress on the cast. I would even say she has risen into stardom. Disappointingly, they give her character the least amount of development, the worst fight, and a bad characterization. She almost feels like she’s a dumb character. I get that she is supposed to be “staightman” to the rest of the crew, but that doesn’t mean she has to be given this part where she just seems aloof and too simple. I disagree with the assessment here. I think we learn enough about Gamora’s back story to connect with her, but I think it feels like we didn’t because her character is not inherently funny. Actually, she is the only Guardian who didn’t continual make me laugh throughout the movie. Her purpose in destroying Ronan was stronger than the Guardians and kept the team moving forward. You would think that the glue holding the team together was Peter Quill but I think it could be argued that it was really Gamora. The thing about her though is that at minute 15 she tells us she’s doing one thing, then on minute 17 – she tells us she is doing something totally different. It’s sloppy story-telling. I kept waiting for the movie to pay her off in a satisfying way – for her to be selfish, or a double crosser – but no, she’s just simple and straightforward – which to me, makes her uninteresting as a character. If this was a team of criminals and misfits – she is the one that doesn’t ever sell me she is either.
Really, I think this sort of plays to my thoughts in general – I wish this galaxy was a little better established. Like- I think Ronan is a good concept villain that was badly executed because we learn very little about the Kree culture. Why does he dress up like a Pharaoh? Why does he hate Xandar, other than that his people had a war with them? Why is Yondu blue, is Yondu a Kree? Why are there races of people that are humans, but just different colors? Are all the people that are one color the same race? Is Yondu a Kree? Why do so many people have cybernetic enhancements? (Korath, Yondu, Nebula) Why do the Guardians wear TWO separate sets of color matched/affiliated clothing? So not only is there a tiny outfit for a raccoon creature, but two different factors fabricated a colored version for Rocket? Why can Peter Quill survive in space? Sure he’s got a helmet, but his trench coat isn’t a space suit. While I didn’t want a Thor like prologue, I do think some additional explanations were needed for me to fully invest in the galaxy. One of the things that I liked best about guardians is that they didn’t waste screen time on this information. I don’t need to know in depth why Ronan hates Xandar I just need to be given a good reason he needs to be stopped. I think this is a difference between someone who likes to consume comic books and someone who doesn’t, but if you establish a rule within a universe I’ll go with it. It has to be established, you can’t just skip it but I would rather be told Ronan is evil than have to waste 10-20 minutes of movie time on a character that isn’t intriguing, funny, or likely to make it out of the movie alive. I think the curse of the origin story has scrambled our brains and made us forget that we don’t need to know a character from birth to understand their motivation.
I also wanted, very much, to not be distracted by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as the voices of Rocket and Groot, respectively. I am happy to say that I was not. When I heard about the casting I worried that because these voices were so familiar they would pull me out of the illusion created by the story and would leave me picturing Bradley Cooper’s head on top of a tiny raccoon body. Fortunately, this was not the case (also slightly unfortunately because that’s a funny mental picture…go on picture it). Both actors voiced their characters in ways that, if I hadn’t already known who it was, I likely would not be able to guess. I want to echo that sentiment. I think the vocal performances were great. I really think that Rocket was one of the most grounded and well fleshed out characters in the movie. Though I do feel like his characterization matched with Quill is a little redundant. I love GROOT! I’ve lived with Chewbacca for 27 years, and only with Groot for 3 days, but I think I like Groot better. Granted, next time I’ll get another chance to see Chewy in live action – but I loved Groot!
The most unexpected thing to come out of this movie for me, was that despite the ensemble cast, no one character stole the show. It’s common in movies like this to have a generally good story and good characters, but then one standout character who you can’t wait to see on screen again. Think Brick in Anchorman. Think Loki in Thor 2 Not the main character but every word he says elicits a reaction. In GOTG each character contributes in a way that feels equal amongst the other characters. In short, I would recommend it as a fun and funny action packed movie that keeps up a good pace and had me falling out of my chair laughing.
Ultimately, while it may seem like I was down on the movie – I am not. I do recommend this film. I think you should see it in the theater – the climactic aerial battle is astounding visually. The characters are a lot of fun, especially four of the five Guardians. Their energy will get you through this film that I think butchers its exposition. It doesn’t have enough, and the exposition we do get is clunkily integrated. I think Ronan was wasted as a villain and made to be kind of thin – despite what appeared to be a rich character. I think the movie is hilarious and it books along at a pace what makes it tough to recognize its problems.I think how the plot is resolves is also thematically resonant and works for the film. And I think the teases for the sequel in the dénouement are pretty fun.