When I first heard that Marvel Studios was working on a new movie titled “Guardians Of The Galaxy”, I didn’t know what to expect, having never read the comic book. Initially, my mind conjured up a team of fierce warriors who hail from a long lineage of stoic, proud heroes, who take up the mantle of protecting the galaxy….surely a title like that automatically warranted a fitting backstory such as the one just described. Then, I saw the teaser trailer, which was absolutely nothing like what I expected it to be and I must admit that I did not like what I saw at all: some random human that looks like a cheap Han Solo rip off, a tree character, which looks like an “Ent” reject from the “Lord Of The Rings” movies, some uninspired alien chick with green skin, the obligatory buff dude, who is topless complete with red tats (ooooh how “original”) and a raccoon that was the most visually appealing out of the group, but ultimately clashed with the other characters, seeming to be randomly thrown in “just because”. I began to feel nervous on Marvel’s behalf – this seemed to be a major departure from the successful formula and more popular characters from Marvel’s vault. Could it be that they became over-confident with their repeated box office success? Did they choose a story that was too far on the “nerd scale”, alienating the masses in the process? How could a project like this get the green light? Soon enough, critic reviews began to trickle out and I was shocked by the high praise and ratings GOTG received. Were these people nuts? Surely, they are describing a different film and somehow got the titles mixed up. Opening weekend finally arrived and based on the high praise, I decided to give it a chance and check it out with a fellow comic book buddy of mine who had already seen it on preview night. I emerged from the theater blissfully astonished at how wrong my initial judgement was and have zero hesitation saying that this is one of the best films of the year.
“The combination of new futuristic alien visuals mixed with old classic rock is used throughout the film and serves as a tool for the audience by injecting a dose of familiarity. You have to experience it for yourself to understand and appreciate how vital this component is to the overall presentation.”
From the get-go, the creators of GOTG waste no time plunging us into the story. Without going into too much detail, the opening 5 minutes of the movie was unexpected, conveying an emotional quality of protagonist Peter Quill as a child that I hadn’t experienced since watching the first 5 minutes of the Pixar movie “Up”. Fast forward past the Marvel opening credits and we are introduced to present day Peter Quill, aka “Star Lord”, who despite being on an alien planet, wearing high tech gear, and about as removed from anything familiar as you can get, whips out something oh-so familiar to those of us who were lucky enough to be born and raised in the 80s – the cassette tape walkman. What ensues is just another average day for Peter, as he haphazardly traverses dangerous terrain, dodges alien monsters trying to make him their next meal, and spontaneously uses a hapless critter as an imaginary microphone to lip sync the currently playing 80s rock song. The combination of new futuristic alien visuals mixed with old classic rock is used throughout the film and serves as a tool for the audience by injecting a dose of familiarity. You have to experience it for yourself to understand and appreciate how vital this component is to the overall presentation. Time periods in general can be considered “alien”, especially to the newer generations who weren’t alive yet and that’s what makes this approach brilliant; no matter which time period you were born in (or in this case “where” you were born), music transports the listener and personifies that particular era, making it tangible for any generation to enjoy. The film exemplifies this with the alien characters, who are not familiar with music, much less a Walkman, but forms an appreciation for it nonetheless. Overall, the pacing of the story is snappy; it doesn’t lull at all, immediately transporting you and assumes that you just accept what they throw at you. With any given story, a heavy reliance for success is squarely placed on the shoulders of the script, requiring flawless execution of the dialogue.
“This is the secret formula used by GOTG; it does a masterful job balancing the drama with the self-depreciating humor. One scene can be laugh-out-loud funny, but the very next scene turns serious and sometimes unexpectedly touching.”
Dialogue can make or break a story and thankfully in this case, it delivers in spades. Self-aware undertones in the dialogue are prevalent throughout various scenes, which adds to the charm of the film. There are certain times where it almost seems as though the writers injected direct quotes from the studio heads or maybe even themselves, who watched an early pitch video for GOTG and had doubts about whether or not giving it the green light was a good idea (regardless of what they ACTUALLY thought, they are doing the “happy dance” now, I’m sure). I enjoyed several instances when the characters made quips about their dire situations or plot points that are typically expected to be met with some sort of heavy moment, good or bad. Mind you, the quips are not tired, contrived moments that seem to be the “in” thing to do these days, especially on TV shows – the delivery is perfect and reinforces the notion that they are a scrappy, unlikely, motley crue band of heroes. This is the secret formula used by GOTG; it does a masterful job balancing the drama with the self-depreciating humor. One scene can be laugh-out-loud funny, but the very next scene turns serious and sometimes unexpectedly touching. Sympathy and comedy are very powerful agents; when leveraged successfully, audiences are won over – no matter the character.