I hereby make this (highly dubious) announcement: We have hit peak superhero movie. It’s all downhill from here on out, and the death knell is Guardians of the Galaxy. Not because this isn’t a good movie, it is: One of the best superhero movies to-date, though overrated. And not even overrated necessarily on its own merits, but in the sense of the “Marvel can do whatever it wants!” message being promulgated. More on that in a moment.
But first, our movie: Guardians of the Galaxy is the story of a boy kidnapped from Earth by aliens who goes on to become a petty outlaw that goes by the name of Star Lord, a pretentious moniker nobody seems to know but himself.
One of his jobs results in him getting stuck with a particularly powerful artifact (along the lines of the Tesseract that was in a lot of the other movies and the Aether from the second Thor film), which in turn leads him to cross paths with a bunch of people who initially want to kill or capture him: The barbarian dude, the hot green daughter of the evil emperor, the wiseguy raccoon and his companion giant tree pal.
And, really, if reading any of the above slows you down, you haven’t been going to the movies lately.
Despite the fate of the universe being in the balance, the proceedings are light and lively, and mostly not bogged down in their own CGI, which is interesting because it’s pretty much all CGI. This is a space opera, essentially, like Star Wars or any of its many clones, but with more of that cool-nerd vibe that all the kids are into today.
And it’s funny.
The Flower liked it. The Boy also liked it, even though he finds the fights in these things dopey; he thought they kept them within the bounds of good taste.
I could go see it again. I’d take the Barbarienne, but there is some stuff that might scare her. (She couldn’t make it through Thor 2.)
Solid cast: Chris Pratt, whom the Flower recognized from “Parks and Recreation” and whom we know best as Emmett Brikowski from the Lego movie, plays Star Lord affably enough. Zoe Saldana seems to need a minimum amount of makeup to look like a hot alien chick. I assume her skin’s not really green, but she does look in serious need of a sandwich. Wrestler Dave Bautista makes a good barbarian. Bradley Cooper is stunt cast as the raccoon, though he’s doing a voice sorta. (I kept thinking it should be Bruce Willis.) Vin Diesel reprises his role as the Iron Giant, er, Giant Tree.
Other notable smaller roles include Glenn Close as some sort of leader/functionary, Benecio Del Toro as some sorta creepy guy, Michael Rooker (famous for playing a creepy guy on the “Walking Dead”) playing a creepy pirate guy, Karen Gillan (we just saw her in Oculus, and she has a series coming up this fall called “Selfie”), and John C. Reilly as Everyman.
It’s probably good idea to point out that if you set your movie in space, and people go to this super-advanced universe completely alien to Earth, and they find John C. Reilly, there? Well, you might as well have set it at the corner 7-11.
I’m kidding. Sort of. But sort of not: Nothing says “NOT REALLY SPACE” like John C. Reilly.
Oh, and Gregg Henry. Fine character actor. Been playing a dick since at least Body Double. Plays a dick here.
It’s all slick and fun and breezes by to a ‘70s/80s soundtrack, including even a few songs I’ve heard, like “Fooled Around and Fell In Love”. Writer/Director James Gunn, who did a fairly decent body-horror film back in 2006 called Slither, is to be commended.
All in all, though, I think it’s all downhill from here. I probably shouldn’t be trusted, since I was pretty sure this was going to be the next Howard The Duck (who has a cameo at the end of the movie), but this feels like a sea change. Even as the #1 film of the year, it’s just barely going to crack the all-time Top 200.
And the tonal balance it strikes is precarious, indeed. If all superhero movies (as the Ace of Spades suggests) ultimately become Batman movies, it’s because the danger of falling into camp is very high indeed. And nobody gets that better than The Batman, at once the grimmest of heroes (though not nearly as grim as he’s been made out in the movies) but also the one with the campiest history. (As has been noted, the problem with the ’60s TV series wasn’t that it wasn’t faithful to the comic book, just that it was faithful to elements and time periods of the comics fans wanted to forget.)
Gunn manages the comedy/drama/silliness well. Others will not be so successful. Widening gyre, center not holding, and what not.
None of which means you shouldn’t enjoy this. But I’m thinking you probably won’t remember it for long either, except, years from now, when “Daredevil vs. Batman” comes out, and Robin starts helping Batman on with his pink cowl. You’ll think “I remember when superhero movies didn’t suck” and then “Blake said this would happen.”
The cool thing, is that if it ever happens at all, I can take credit for being right. And if it doesn’t, I’ll just pretend I didn’t write this.