I Am Groot (And So Can You)
It’s easy for me to review this movie without talking about any of the plot, which is good because I wasn’t really thinking about writing a review until it was broadcast via the Facebook. I was actually just going to write something fawning all over Marvel and this crazy idea for a movie, and how much I love a talking raccoon. But after I saw the movie it was hard to finish writing something without actually talking about what I loved about it. And there is a lot to love.
I had only ever heard of The Guardians of the Galaxy in passing. Being a fan of nerdery I have some history with the comic books, but not as extensive as to actually know the characters of Star Lord and pals, their back story, and their adventures. But as soon as I heard about this being an entry of the Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe, the concept, and the director- I was hooked.
I’ve always loved quirky stuff. I’ve always loved really good space adventures. And I’ve always loved things in the vein of a friggin talking raccoon shooting automatic weapons like some meth-addicted Yosemite Sam. Throw in writer-director James Gunn, whose movie Slither was awesome, and my sarcastic, nerdy sensibilities have been fully primed.
After the initial announcement, I remember seeing the first concept art of the whole gang I’ve come to know in a prison line-up. There was the aforementioned Star Lord (who?), Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, my new pet Rocket, and his pet Groot, a walking, kind-of-talking tree. The production image graced my desktop screen for several months. These characters had, well, character. Then there are the people who were to play them, as seen in the next release of basically the same image, except with the actors on a set. The production art had come to life. And that imagery pretty much sums up the people we’re following in the movie.
First, Chris Pratt as Star Lord, making women swoon and men jealous of his genuine Nathan Fillion/Harrison Ford-type swagger. Everything is awesome (hehe) where Pratt is concerned. Then we have every geek’s not-so-secret crush Zoe Saldana as Gamora.
Former “pro” wrestler Dave Bautista plays Drax the Destroyer, and I’m genuinely impressed with him in the role. Many reviews have even gone so far as to point to Bautista as being a stand out in the movie, even moreso than Rocket and Groot. Speaking of this movie’s Artoo and Threepio, the voice actors in the form of Bradley Cooper (Rocket) and Vin Diesel (Groot) seem to have been good ones. Many folks don’t give Diesel much credit, but for all his lines consisting of three words, he imbues them with a lot of feeling and context.
If the few still images weren’t enough, the trailer released, and I. Went. Bananas. I keep saying the single bad thing about this movie being released is that the trailer won’t be playing before every movie I see. The visuals that I was introduced to in the preview were fantastic, making sweet sci-fi love to my eye sockets. The look of the movie was the stuff of every nerd’s imagination. It brought back memories of beloved space operas, and earthbound adventures. All that was in the trailer only scratches the surface of the places this movie takes us.
The movie was first sold on the humor and queer attitude it was going for, and it landed perfectly. I laughed at every single joke, and so did just about everyone in the theater. And the music. THE MUSIC. I’ve been singing Hooked on a Feeling for months, ask my co-workers. Hell, it’s my ringtone. And I’m pretty sure ten hard-earned dollars will go to purchasing the soundtrack. I guess you could be a sour puss and cry about the lack of a whole lot of original score, but then you’d be missing the point.
Despite all this wonderful stuff being thrown at us, I can’t believe there are nerds who even consider not seeing this movie. How does it look unappealing to any lover of genre material, or who has ever picked up a comic book? I keep reading on chat boards and Facebook messages about how people were on the fence about it and somehow promotional materials have one way or another turned them off to seeing GotG. Shut the hell up. We’ve come too far in the cinema to start taking shit like this for granted. Ten years ago, this movie wouldn’t have even been possible. Hell, it’s still a hard sell (or so we thought). I’ve heard many non-nerds proclaiming it to look too cheesy (people who are lucky a certain nerd sitting in front of them in the theater did not punch them). Point is, we can’t afford to be snobby about stuff like this, especially when it’s so high quality and well done material.
I loved it. I bet you’ll love it. And people who didn’t think they’d love it are probably going to be kicking themselves. This thing had 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for the longest time, until some ass-wipe from the associated press came along and knocked it down into the 90’s (continued not-so-surprisingly by the a-holes at salon.com- do they ever like a movie?). GotG has so far been one of Marvel Studios’ best reviewed movies. Here’s hoping that the money is there opening weekend and beyond to fulfill the promise, and to assuage doubt. This seems to so far be the case. I know the sequel has already been announced, but the success for this movie means a lot to the MCU as we know it. Think about Nova having a movie. Think about the Kree and other aliens showing up more and more. GotG opens up the MCU in a cosmic way that Thor just couldn’t (though, I still give those movies credit for opening the door).
The day will come, too, when our friends the Guardians will hopefully meet our friends the Avengers. That day will not only be momentous for the coming together of the two groups, but for the kind of story that would make it possible. If we thought all our favorite Marvel heroes coming together was a big deal, I have a feeling by the time they meet the cosmos, it will look like small potatoes. For a universe as big as the MCU to have happened in six short years they way it has, that’s pretty amazing. In the immortal words of my favorite cycloptic African-American covert operative- “You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe.”
Taking my rundown of how I place these movies from just a few months ago, here again is how I’d rank the movies of the MCU. Now with Guardians and electrolytes!
Had this movie not worked we wouldn’t be talking any of the other Marvel Studios films. The (mis)adventures of Tony Stark started not just a franchise, but with a little added sequence at the end of the credits began one of the biggest and most important sagas in cinematic history.
2. The Avengers
Marvel did what nerds have clamored for for decades- one movie merging multiple characters and franchises to bring together Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and the supporting characters fans have loved and come to love over the course of half a decade on the silver screen, and much longer in the comics.
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Each Phase Two flick has been darker than the predecessors, and I’m going to guess it only gets darker. I not only want to see what comes in the next Avengers because of this, but the promise of Steve going after Bucky is almost (almost) more enticing right now.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a movie like this or any of them on the list, and abandon all manner of objectivity. I have seen many proclaim this to be Marvel’s best movie ever (!), but I try to hold the choke collar just a bit on such an outlandish statement. Coming out the same summer as Cap 2 has made 2014 a very good year for Marvel, but upon further review, I have to say I prefer that film. Not that it’s better, or that Guardians isn’t good, I just think it will stand the test of further viewing more. That being said, anyone doesn’t like this movie, they’re gosh darn dumb. There is nothing to not like except for MAYBE a climax with yet another all-out aerial battle. The characters are great, the actors portraying them are excellent, and what this movie does for the MCU is fantastic. The only reason Guardians isn’t higher on the list is because the other films are monumental achievements in the history of comic cinema. Though, this does deserve a benchmark all its own.
5. Captain America: The First Avenger
This flick brought to mind old favorites like The Rocketeer (by the same director), and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not bad company for a movie like this. Where Iron Man and Thor and Hulk focused on the metal of a hero, this summed up perfectly the mettle of a man.
6. Iron Man 3
IM3 started the “darker” trend of Phase Two, and tested the waters for a political message in these movies. If it ends up being the last solo Iron Man movie (at least with RDJ), they ended it in a good place for it to be over there, and to pick up the pieces in Avengers movies.
7. Thor: The Dark World
The darker Phase Two movie that even says so in the title. Watching this and then going back to the first one, you’ll notice how vastly improved everything is, including a more epic and visceral feel.
8. The Incredible Hulk
The Mark Ruffalo Bruce Banner of the Avengers might feel more interesting, and his Hulk more fun, but this early entry into the MCU was far superior in tone, and much closer to what fans are looking for from the Jolly Green Goliath, than Ang Lee’s cerebral mess earlier in the decade. And as the second Marvel Studios movie, it helped to cement the shared universe idea at its conclusion.
This movie might have had the second most difficult job of all these movies after bringing together the Avengers- believably introducing a mythological GOD into the canon that was largely grounded in reality. It was pulled off by taking the “what you call magic is just another kind of science” route.
10. Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 might have been rushed, might seem a little too much like the first one in the final battle, and seem more of a SHIELD commercial/Avengers precursor, but it’s still fun as heck.