Monday, August 4, 2014

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Guardians of the Galaxy

This week's top pick is the latest blockbuster that has everyone raving - "Guardians of the Galaxy". With the double whammy of critical approval and audience adoration, it seems like the Marvel machine will persist to infinity and beyond. Now, that isn't to say that these films aren't without merit. However, you can probably sense that I'm starting to feel a little fatigue.

In "Guardians of the Galaxy", we find ourselves in cosmic territory. A man from Earth (abducted as a child) named Peter Quill has found a precious artifact and attempts to sell it to the nice people on Xandar. Before he can do so however, he's intercepted by an assassin woman with green skin named Gamora. A fight ensues which attracts some other strange characters (including a talking raccoon and a tree creature) before they are all sent to prison for their misbehaviour. There they meet the super-strong Drax and eventually hatch a plan (albeit very reluctantly) to escape prison together and embark on a space adventure. Eventually, they adopt the moniker "the Guardians of the Galaxy".

This is obviously a somewhat reductive reading of the material, but it captures the essence of the plot. The Marvel movies have never relied on the intricacy of their plot details, so a long synopsis is pointless. Indeed, their strength is in the excitement of engaging with the visual spectacle and the cool characters.

Within those expectations, this film certainly succeeds. I completely agree with the general praise of its strong points. The visual effects are very impressive and the characters are thoroughly entertaining with a bold sense of humour. I also love the central idea of a group of misfits gradually progressing from outright hatred to genuine friendship, which it accomplishes in a pleasingly organic way.

Yet while I acknowledge these positive attributes, I find it hard to summon up the same level of emphatic enthusiasm for the film. I found the film to be objectively funny, but it's not as "fun" as I'd hoped. This isn't entirely the film's fault, as the feeling stems mostly from its late release date. I've now reviewed many of this summer's films as "Movie of the Week" entries and they've all thrilled me with their distinctive traits (evocative shots, shrewd writing, deeply felt emotions). In comparison, this one didn't surprise me enough to give me the same kind of rush, especially when these "hero saves the day" stories are now so ubiquitous. It's therefore unlikely that I'll remember this film much at the end of the year. I already get to see Chris Pratt being hilarious every week when "Parks and Recreation" is in season. Likewise, the awesome visuals are more a function of the film's $170 million budget rather than inspired creativity. There's nothing inherently new here.

I may sound like a snarky curmudgeon, but I do genuinely feel that "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a fundamentally good film. It's hard to deny that it's made with the audience's enjoyment in mind. I'm just hesitant to exalt it as some grand achievement when it doesn't even measure up to similar films from the past few weeks alone. I'm ready for the fall movie season to begin so we can finally shift our attention to a more diverse sampling of cinema.

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