July 29, 2019

The MCU Project: Guardians Of The Galaxy [2014]

A camping weekend had to be cut short due to poor weather, which meant an extra Saturday night at home, which meant an unexpected opportunity to watch a film together! And it’s time for Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is a film that Karen and I have definitely seen before, and Bernard, I’m almost certain, has not.

The MCU films exist on a humour continuum. So far, we’ve had the near-humourlessness of the Captain America and Hulk films, and the slightly more jocular nature of the Iron Man and Thor submissions. At some point, someone clearly looked at this collection and said “no, no, no, no, no, we’re getting this all wrong!”

This film is a bit of a tease. It starts off all serious, like, with a dying mum scene and tears and shouting, and then a mean-looking guy in a vaguely Iron-Man-esque helmet appears out of the gloom. He presses the button to retract the helmet, and then boom, there’s Andy Dwyer, and before you know it he’s punting rodents across the cave, and grabbing one of them and singing into it as if it were a microphone, and it’s all exactly as ridiculous as it sounds. The character that Chris Pratt plays in this film shares a lot of comedic stylings with his character in Parks and Recreation, though he’s nowhere near as unintelligent, and far less podgy. There’s one brief, gratuitous shirtless scene, hilarious in its incongruity.

So while the other MCU films have been set either entirely on Earth, or partly on Earth and partly in spaaaaace, this is the first film to be set entirely in spaaaaaaace. There are people of all different skin colours, pinks and blues and greens and yellows, so they’re aliens, but they are all basically human-shaped, so… not aliens? Dunno.

Our bad guy for this film is Ronan, and like most bad guys his lair is very poorly illuminated. Remember that TV show, Through The Keyhole, where Loyd Grossman would poke around a celebrity’s house, and you had to try and guess who lived there? I’m imagining him rooting around in a damp, dark cave, with no furniture except for a huge fuck-off stone throne in the middle, and the viewers are screaming at the TV screen “it’s a supervillain, of course it’s a bloody supervillain!”

We are then introduced to the main protagonists of the film, who start off as adversaries. Peter “Star Lord” Quill has got a bounty on his head, which Rocket and his pal Groot want to cash in on. He also is carrying a curious orb, which Gamora wants, so the four of them end up in a bit of a three-way fight. But it ends in disappointment for all, as they get arrested, and agree to form a temporary alliance to escape, along with the help of Drax, who is just the coolest. His inability to detect nuance in the English language and take everything at face value results in predictable hilarity.

Some other longer-running plot threads are also established in this film. We are introduced to Thanos, who is Gamora’s adopted father, and he is shown on screen for a couple of short scenes. We also eventually discover that the orb contains one of the infinity stones, which turn out to be very important later on in the series.

The sequences covering the escape from the prison are absolutely brilliant. Imagine a cup – it’s a metaphorical cup. You have a jug labelled “excitement and peril” so you pour some of the powder from that into the cup. Then you have a jug labelled “hilarity and jokes” so you pour some of that powder into the cup too. Finally you have a jug labelled “shite and filler” but your cup is already full to the brim, so you have no room to add anything else. This is a very roundabout way of saying that these scenes are so packed with laughs and action that they represent spectacularly good value for money.

After leaving the prison, an entirely-predictable romance begins to develop between Quill and Gamora. It becomes vaguely relevant later on, but honestly the film could have worked just as well without it. There’s also a slightly amusing sequence where the gang, having just escaped from the prison, get into a big argument with each other in a gambling den. The five of them are yelling pretty much their complete life histories at each other, as well as detailing what they’re going to do next, while all the gambler low-life types are stood around, presumably writing all this down for future reference. At one point Quill shouts something like “calm down! If you can keep it together for another 24 hours then we’ll all be millionaires and none of this will matter” and I refuse to believe that the isn’t some skeevy dude stood round thinking “mmmm, I should keep an eye on these chumps.”

Ronan shows up soon after. It was established earlier that Drax seeks revenge on Ronan for the murder of his family, and at this point Drax throws himself at Ronan in fury, but his attacks cause about as much impact as throwing a small knob of butter at the back of a Ferrari F40. Ronan leaves Drax for dead, and Gamora’s also in a bad way, and the McGuffin is in the hands of the enemy, and this is clearly the bit in the middle of the film where the viewers are supposed to be at their lowest ebb. All hope is lost. But with a bit of luck and a bit of heroic sacrifice, the team are reunited, and they set themselves the goal of retrieving the orb, and you sense that a Title Drop is incoming but not yet, my chums, not yet.

There then follows a very Star Wars-esque aerial battle over Xandar, with lots of dogfighting and manual pew-pew-pewing, despite the fact that it’s ridiculous that in a technologically advanced, spacefaring society, you’d entrust such critical functions to a fallible living being, when computers are clearly far better suited to the tasks of target identification and the precision timing required for aiming and shooting. Peter Serafinowicz (29 points in Scrabble, in case you’re curious) gets an awesome heroic death, and in the end it comes down to a simple face off between our heroes and the despicable Ronan. Now, what happens next isn’t completely clear, but the heroes held hands with each other and this caused… something… to happen. Whatever it was, it went well, all things considered. But then you knew that it would. There’s a moment between Drax and Rocket which I consider to be an absolute triumph in cinema, in that it is simultaneously hilarious yet emotional – a combination which is quite, quite rare. The ending of the film is a little bit of a tease, in that it indicates sacrifices being made by our heroes, but then it immediately cancels them out so that you don’t feel too down. Which feels like a cop-out, but then I’m also aware that it’s a very funny film, and it would be a shame to kill that buzz.

The next film on our agenda will be the sequel to this film, the imaginatively-titled Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, and this time it will be the Bernadious one’s turn to write the review. I think, but I’m not 100% sure, that Karen and I have also seen this one before. Let’s see.

Pete

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