Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: Marvel's Black Sheep

What has always attracted me to certain heroes in the comic book world is that some of the best are broken. They can lose.  They can die.  They hide their pain behind quick wit, vengeful pride, or a host of other psychological shields.  Yes I know I am mixing my comics, but perhaps the most broken of them was Batman.  While I love movies like Thor and even an occasional Supeman movie, it is the ones like Batman, Ironman, Spider-Man and Captain America that attract me.  They are humans.  Okay two are genetically modified humans, but both are human and in the comics both have died and been replaced by another.  If you didn't know when Captain America, Steve Rogers, died in the comics his replacement was the Winter Soldier. There is also Wolverine, and even if he is nearly indestructible, he is also truly broken.

For me it was always a struggle to buy into the Superman universe because the comics had to come up with such elaborate ways to even make it seem like he was in danger. Thor is...well he is a Norse god and in the earlier comics more than a little egotistical.  

It is the broken, the damaged and often something of an antihero that makes for me a really good comic book or comic book movie. In the movies, the writers and directors occasionally forget this. It is not how cool the effects are or how many villains the hero must face.  It is how he or she overcomes this damage.  And so it is with Marvel Studio's newest band of broken misfits, Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those comics I had never really heard of until the multitude of geek sites I follow started to buzz about the movie a couple of years ago.  So you know up front, I have no history with this series.  I have no idea how the movie relates to the comic book storyline.  I do know that Guardians is not one of Marvel's more mainstream lines and that the movie has been called the black sheep of the Marvel franchises.  Its placement in tail end of the summer movie season should give us an idea that hopes were not as high for this franchise as it was for Winter Soldier or X-Men Days of Future Past.  With it actually having the third largest opening this summer, it is a definite hit and the sequel has already been confirmed.

The characters of the movie are not only broken, but also, unlike the Marvel mainstream movies, Guardians has more of a kindred spirit with, as one friend put it, the original Star Wars.  While I don't think it has the same impact the first Star Wars had, its has that same feel.  The characters are living in a world that they don't want to be in, but they don't fit into the world they would like to live in.  They are sly and witty and fun.  While the characters are two dimensional at most, they are classic forms of science fiction heroes.  For Marvel Studios, Guardians is really their first venture into a true scifi space movie.

There are more Guardians to be perhaps added in the future, but the central five of this movie are Star-Lord or Peter Quill played by Chris Pratt, Gamora played by Zoe Saldana, Drax the Destroyer played by Dave Batista, Rocket who is a genetically engineered racoon voiced by Bradly Cooper, and Groot who is a tree being voiced by Vin Diesel.  Each is broken in his own way.  Peter Quill hides behind wit and a Walkman while Gamora was tortured by the future villain of the Avenger series, Thanos, into becoming a living weapon.  Rocket knows deep down that he is not what he is supposed to be, and Drax is driven by vengeance and honor while missing the more subtle nature of life.  Last is the simple and loyal Groot.  He has, with only one notable change, the ability to only say, "I am Groot," which often communicates more emotion than other parts of the movie.

Together these five unlikely heroes must fight the evil Ronan played Lee Pace.  He seeks to control one of the infinity stones, and it is in this movie that we actually get the first real explanation of the six infinity stones that are actually a standard part of the Marvel universe.  For those of you who have not read the comics, you have been introduced to two other stones in the movies.  The first was contained in the Tesseract (the space stone) in Captain America.  The next was in the Aether (the reality stone) from Thor: The Dark World.  The third (the power stone), contained in the Orb, makes its appearance in Guardians.  There are three more stones in the Marvel universe to be introduced.  They are all sought after by Thanos (Josh Brolin), a Titan, who has allied himself with Ronan in Guardians and Loki in Avengers.  Through the entire movie we watch as our heroes try to become a cohesive unit. They have always been wanted felons, and now they must become the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The movie works.  It is fun, and I cared about the characters and understood why they are who they are. As the black sheep of the more mainstream family of Marvel Studios, the humor that only makes occasional appearance in the other movies is on full display in Guardians.  Just as I became involved in the adventure of the story, I laughed out loud as well.  It is a clever and entertaining with plenty of Easter eggs for comic book fans. As I loved the darker side of Winter Soldier, I love the feel and look of this movie.  It is worth the watch and so is the cost to see it in 3D.  I will buy the Blu-ray.