August 05, 2014

Podcast Episode 25: The GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Are Here To Save The Summer

To quote a certain blaster-toting raccoon, "Oh...YEAH."

This summer has been pretty fucking grim.  With the exception of 22 Jump Street, it's been a a steady stream of mediocre box office filler like Hercules or outright trainwrecks like Transformers: Age Of Extinction.  That's not to say that the summer's been a complete waste, but even the few bright spots like Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Snowpiercer and X-Men: Days Of Future Past have been largely dark and serious affairs - all three movies center around global apocalypse!  Where's the humor?  Where's the rollicking adventure?  WHERE'S THE GODDAMN FUN?

Turns out the fun lies with a sentient tree on the far side of the galaxy.

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy, by far the company's biggest gamble to date, is an outright cinematic miracle.  On paper this, this movie simply should not exist.  Seriously, the very idea of a studio giving the Troma-raised James Gunn $170 million to make an outer space movie starring That Guy From Parks & Rec, a professional wrestler, a green-skinned assassin, a walking tree who only speaks three words and a smart-ass cyborg raccoon is absolutely preposterous.  The fact that it not only exists but has the same pound for pound entertainment value as The Avengers, a movie that needed five other films to set the stage before it could even happen, is mind boggling.

And yet, all these things are true.

Guardians Of The Galaxy finally sends the Marvel universe rocketing out into space and it's a fascinating place packed with oddball characters with whom you can't help but fall in love.  Sure, each character has their own particular set of quirks (Drax doesn't understand metaphors, Star-Lord is a font of 80's pop-culture references) that are essentially appealing on their own but it's the performances that truly elevate the material.  Chris Pratt cements himself as legit movie star (surely a relief to the Jurassic World producers) and Dave Bautista is an absolute joy on-screen, while Bradley Cooper brings a both acerbic wit and a wounded vulnerability to Rocket.  And for all the jokes about Vin Diesel playing a tree who only has one line, you'd be surprised just how much context and emotion can be conveyed solely in the phrase "I am Groot."  Special recognition should also be paid to Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan as Gamora and Nebula, the daughters of Thanos.  Both characters are a tad clunky on the page, constantly tasked with delivering necessary exposition and explanation.  Yet each of these actresses just ooze so much charm and personality on screen that they're almost able to trick the audience into walking away thinking their characters are more substantial.  Still, they're each total badasses, and while their characters feel a bit thin I expect both will be much better served in their second outing.

This wonderfully endearing collection of misfits is what sets Guardians apart not just from the rest of 2014's summer movies, but all other Marvel movies as well.  The Avengers is probably the closest analog here, but even they are just a bunch of folks who fight together out of a sense of duty and honor.  They feel more like a group of friendly coworkers who do a job and then go home to their respective lives.  By the time the end credits roll, the Guardians are already so much more than that.  They're not just friends, they're family.  That's a dynamic that we haven't really seen in Marvel's previous films and it's so simple and affecting that I didn't even realize it was something I had been missing.

And that music!  THAT MUSIC!  Holy hell.  I really dig the score by Tyler Bates, particularly his main theme, but I defy you to walk out of this movie without humming any of the ridiculously catchy tunes that create the rich musical tapestry which seems happily omnipresent throughout the film's running time.  My only gripe is that Guardians didn't come out in June.  If it had, Peter Quill's Awesome Mix Volume 1 (available for download, naturally) would have absolutely been everyone's soundtrack of the summer.

Episode 25 of the podcast, featuring the return of my brother Tim, sees us breaking the film down character by character, along with lots of speculation as to how the Guardians might fit into Marvel's bigger picture heading into Phase 3.  Jamie reveals her own master plan for how Captain/Ms. Marvel should be woven into the MCU and, in light of Simon West's stated desire to see a space-based Con-Air 2, we all list off movies that deserve a crazy sequel set in outer space.  Also, I'm an idiot for not only saying there are five Infinity Stones (there are six) but also for referring to Yondu as Yondo through the entire podcast.  What can I say?  It was late and I still had to pack for an early flight.

Next Week: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with special guests!

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