‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review

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Dir: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Gleen Close and Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis: In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will have minor spoilers but nothing that will spoil the movie itself.*

 

 

When Marvel announced they would be doing a movie based on relatively unknown characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, pretty much everyone voiced an opinion on the matter. Was it going to be good? Bad? Would it be too weird? However, what everyone agreed on was this would be one of the Marvel’s biggest risks. So was the start of Phase 2 and the so called “Cosmic Era” the hit Marvel expected it to be? Yes, yes it was.

 

The movie starts off with a strong emotional scene set in the 80s of a young Peter Quill in the hospital. After a strong goodbye to a family member he runs out and gets scooped by a ship. Fast forward 20-something years later and Peter Quill (Pratt) is all grown up and now goes by the moniker “Star-Lord” although it’s almost only to himself and goes around the galaxy gather things to sell.

 

The movie than opens with Quill retrieving a silver orb that everyone wants. The orb puts him in the crosshairs of the assassin Gamora (Saldana), who is working for a Kree religious fanatic Ronan (Pace).  Ronan wants to wipe out the Xandarians, which is the home planet of the Nova’s – an intergalactic police force – for commissioning a peace treaty with the Kree, and will get help from Gamora’s father Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) in exchange for the orb.

 

While all that is going on, Quill gets a bounty placed on his head and that is where we get introduced to the duo of Rocket (voiced by Cooper), an angry, talking raccoon, and Groot (voiced by Diesel), a walking tree who can only say, “I am Groot.”  The four eventually end up on Xandar and end up getting thrown in jail. It’s in the jail where we meet Drax, who wants to avenge his family’s death by killing Ronan and Thanos. They eventually decide to put some of their differences aside, and even with their own agendas, to escape the prison and find out why Thanos and Ronan want to the orb.

 

The movie is a bit plot-heavy, which isn’t a bad thing, but it really doesn’t feel that way. It’s a bit slow at the beginning – what movie isn’t – but it picks up as it progress. But even with everything going on, like the universe being threaten or the beautiful landscapes and designs, it’s all about the characters. Each character has their own moments, whether it’s individually or together, and probably one of the best scenes of the movie is when they finally decide to be an actual team. Kudos has to be given to director James Gunn for making this team up work in a little over two hours as oppose to The Avengers where we had the foundation of that team up being laid out by several movies over years.

 

What? A picture in my review?

What? A picture in my review?

 

But next to Gunn’s direction, the movie is bought together by it’s impressive cast, which is lead by Chris Pratt, who is almost perfectly cast as Star-Lord. He’s cocky, heroic and can also deliver a hero’s speech as he is also coming up with one-liners. Being a child of the 80s, his references are usually themed to that era but they don’t seemed dated or cheesy and they actually work.

 

Zoe Saldana is already use to playing strong kick ass female characters and Gamora no different. She’s determined, deadly and at times feels like she’s the compass of the group, which is weird considering she is one of the daughters of “The Mad Titan” Thanos. Equally as deadly is Drax, played by Dave Bautista. Although it would seem like he’s the muscle of the group, although he does have some great action moments, Drax will definitely be a favorite for some. He has some of the funniest lines and moments in the movie and does so with great timing and deadpan wit.

 

But of course we have to talk about Rocket and Groot. Both characters were done by motion-capture and CGI, but while it seems so simple to put in a walking, talking, machine gun touting, genetically modified raccoon and a walking tree that only says three words, the character provide the team with some, even more, comic relief and warmth. Bradley Cooper brings a great sarcastic tone to Rocket and without spoiling anything also brings some great emotional scenes. Diesel, who already has a limited talking character under his belt with The Iron Giant, does it yet again. Who knew that “I am Groot” can be said so many different ways and when said can mean something entirely different.

 

The villains are also pretty great here, Ronan the Accuser, played by Lee Pace has a great menacing look to him and is almost unstoppable, although some might see him as one-dimensional, which I can see but Pace does a great job every time he’s on screen. Karen Gillan’s Nebula, the other daughter of Thanos and least favorite, is also pretty cool although it would have been nice to see a little more of her. Even Korath (Hounsou) who has a great look to him isn’t really anything more than glorified henchmen. Of course, the ever so reliable Michael Rooker as Yondu has a standout moment.

 

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Finally, John C. Reilly and Glenn Close make the most of their supporting roles, as part of the Nova Cop. However, comic book fans already know, and as I stated earlier, Josh Brolin voices Thanos. Thanos does show up and I wouldn’t be a fan if I didn’t mention him. He only has one real scene and then shows up on screens and is talked about a lot. One shot in particular should be recognizable to comic book fans when we see Thanos as a whole character, it might be fan service but its welcomed fan service.

 

While the movie is a “Marvel” movie, it also feels like a James Gunn movie. It’s sarcastic, humorous, some dark humor (especially one that involves bodily fluids) and pushes its PG-13 rating but never really feels that way. More importantly, this is Gunn’s first big budgeted film and you can tell by the set-pieces and how much everything feels someone was let loose to create something from the ground up. The other nice thing is although this will eventually fall into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – there are elements from the already set MCU – Guardians feels like it could be set in it’s own universe, which seems odd to say since it’s set in the Galaxy.

 

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun, funny, has sly dialogue and is action-packed. The design and set-pieces are great to look at (even in 3D) and the music choices are great and fit very well into the movie as a whole. Marvel’s big risk, for me, wasn’t a big risk at all. Yes, it takes risks but it is those risks that make the movie what it is and what makes it so fun. The movie’s connective pieces to the MCU are great to see and to see Thanos have some screen time is really awesome to see (also the mention of the Kree!). Is it the best Marvel movie yet? I’d say it is up there.

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

5 out of 5

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Review

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Dir: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, Omar Sy, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore, Bingbing Fan, Adan Canto, Booboo Stewart, Evan Peters, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Synopsis: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note #2: Stay for the end credits.*

 

 

Loosely adapted from the classic Chris Claremont comic storyline of the same name, X-Men: Days of Future Past puts together the big screen’s original X-Men (Wolverine, Professor X, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Colossus, and one-time enemy Magneto) and their latest members (Bishop, Warpath, Sunspot, and Blink) living in a dystopian future where mutant-hunting Sentinels have practically exterminated mutants, imprisoned the surviving ones in concentration camps with the humans who helped them. The only way for the X-Men to survive is to send one of their own back in time in order to stop the assassination that paved the way for the mutant holocaust.

 

One of the biggest differences from the comic (don’t worry, I won’t be comparing the comic to the movie during the whole review) the comics had the older Kitty (Page) transfer her consciousness into her younger self in order to warn their past-selves. In the film, the initial argument is that only Professor X (Stewart) is a strong enough telepath to do the job, but since he can’t physically handle such a long trip back the mission falls to Wolverine (Jackman). Waking up in his younger body in 1973, Logan seeks out the younger Xavier (McAvoy) who has become a shambling version of the man we met in X-Men: First Class.

 

Charles has spent the time in-between First Class and Days of Future Past moping around his mansion brooding about what he’s lost. The only one who’s still with him is Hank aka Beast (Hoult), who has made a serum to not only control is “animal form” but also for Xavier’s paralysis. The big side effect of the drug is that it has affected Charles’ psychic powers. But Charles doesn’t seem to care as he no longer wants to hear all the voices and suffering and who has lost hope since losing his Mystique (Lawrence) to Magneto (Fassbender).

 

Although she still playing a supporting character in the great ensemble, Mystique plays a major key to changing the future as she’s out to assassinate Sentinels creator Dr. Bolivar Trask (Dinklage). In order to help them track down Mystique, Logan, Xavier, and Hank will need help from Magneto, who is imprisoned at the bottom of the Pentagon. They then recruit young speedster Peter Maximoff (Peters), aka Quicksilver. From there it becomes a race against time to stop Mystique, restore young Xavier’s hope, and prevent the X-Men of the future from being wiped out.

 

This is a plot heavy sci-fi/time travel film with lots of moving parts, so we should give credit to both director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg that they balance all those elements with relatively little confusion. There are some clunky moments, but overall Days of Future Past does a great job in keeping the storytelling concise and clear.

 

Days of Future Past gives each of its core crew of characters something important to do. It’s pretty clever how the story manages to make the movie’s biggest stars – particularly Lawrence integral to the plot. Xavier’s arc from self-pity to the hopeful leader embodied by Patrick Stewart is moving and one of the strongest aspects of the movie. As for young Magneto, despite agreeing to help find Raven/Mystique, he still remains firm in his beliefs even if that means turning against Xavier and Mystique.

 

Days of Future Past can be amusing and funny at times, but the movie has an overall feel of grim. You can feel it more with the future setting, as all of them are hiding and during the standoffs with the Sentinels, the filmmakers did not hold back any punches. But going back to the humor, I was somewhat surprised how much of it there was. There are also some nice callbacks to the other X-Men films (and even the comics) that will make fans happy.

 

The movie’s biggest surprise is the character that’s been the greatest object of scorn online: Quicksilver. Quicksilver does not have a ton of screen-time but he’s Pentagon prison break sequence is a highlight of the movie. I do not know if it’s a scene stealer – although some people are saying it is – but this is another example of not judging a character by his publicity shots.

 

I already hinted at it earlier in the review, but the cast is great. James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is more at the forefront this time around and has a great arc that McAvoy handles so well. Jackman does his usual best as Logan aka Wolverine. Nicholas Hoult has less to do than he did in First Class. Lawrence, who has become a major star since the first movie turns into a badass but is also conflicted once she finds out she’s the key to the future. Fassbender was one of the best things about First Class, so it kind of sucks that he doesn’t have a ton to do this time around. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart of course bring their A-game and it’s nice to see them together again as the characters.

 

The other mutants like Sunspot (Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Blink (Fan) have some cool moments teaming up with Bobby/Iceman (Ashmore) and Storm (Berry). Fan favorite Bishop (Sy) is nice to see on the big screen finally but some will feel like he was underused. One underused and slightly disappointing characters is Bolivar Trask played by the awesome Peter Dinklage. This is not a knock on Dinklage who plays Trask well but the character as a villain is not compelling enough.

 

The film’s action sequences are well-done and engaging, from its opening scene of the future X-Men fighting the Sentinels to the Paris standoff through to the climactic battle in Washington D.C. Even the Pentagon prison break sequence, which nicely balances humor, visual effects, character, and tension.

 

All in all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is funny, grim, bleak and filled with great action and some strong performances. For fans of the series and comic, you will appreciate the fact that Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg attempt such a beloved and complex story.

 

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past

5 out of 5