Monday, 11 August 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy
Sold as all-things to all-people, Guardians of the Galaxy is a thoroughly pleasant reorganising of Star Wars that makes Leia damaged and vengeful, doubles down on Han Solo and Chewbacca and drops Luke altogether. Stuck delivering flavour for another Avengers ejaculation, James Gunn and pals punch up your basic Marvel adventure with Awesome Mix Tapes, Boogie Nights actors, and a few sideways glances at genuine pain.
As expected it's Rocket Raccoon that stands out. Bradley Cooper's voice work is complimentary but the real work is done by Sean Gunn's on-set acting and an army of digital animators. Volumes are spoken in how the raccoon holds his head. Naturally subordinated due to his diminutive size, Rocket refuses to be dominated. He doesn't scurry around, craning his neck to meet eyes. He points his nose down and peers upwards, sneering. He isn't short. You're just too tall.
Rocket is a head-on collision between Lee Van Cleef and the Jim Henson Creature Shop's Splinter from the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie - a beguiling rodent with the body language of a gunslinger. I presume Gunn loves him too. The co-writer (with Nicole Perlman) / director gives the other Guardians beats that tell you who they are and what their objective is. Rocket gets a comedy bounty motivation then a vague, upsetting past splutters out in visual asides and drunken mumbling. In a film full of heroic archetypes, Rocket is contradictory and exciting.
Guardians' only real problem is that by now Marvel movie action beats are becoming routine. As with The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians ends with a skyborne threat to a picturesque city. Thanks to this film's space opera bent, we get a tiered assault that accounts for multiple, co-habiting planes of action. The CG overload is kept personal with some Chris Foss designed fighter jets that swarm over their prey like Japanese Honey Bees, attempting to cook the evil Ronan in his mausoleum ship. Still, the basic heft of the final attack plays like a Star Wars prequel.
James Gunn's film even has an embedded solution - embrace the cosmic realm. We see one of Jack Kirby's Eternals obliterating a planet and an entire civilisation is built around mining the disembodied head of a galactic space titan. The film teeters on the edge of intergalactic histrionics, but never really commits. Ronan the Accuser is a shonen villain, a space pirate swinging his dick about whilst in possession of reality bending jewellery. There's never a sense our heroes can beat him - he's on a different level entirely.
Marvel need to start looking to more melodramatic solutions. Bone up on Akira Toriyama or marathon some Attitude era WWF. Holding hands while purple electricity vaporises the baddie isn't particularly satisfying. Why aren't the Guardians throwing themselves at this monolith man as a unit, sneaking in the odd blow, but ultimately proving themselves ineffectual? Maybe then have a death or two, followed by a rage fuelled counter attack that gets Ronan wobbly and staggering back?
Ronan instantly recovers like his name is M Bison and lands a devastating blow on Gamora, forcing an intervention from the unfathomable Thanos. Why else was the Mad Titan telling us who his favourite daughter was? It's about time Marvel put their big bad over, particularly if all he's doing is glowering until 2018. Ronan's world ending club? Thanos shrugs the blow off with a laugh then dismantles its owner with slow, measured body blows. If you're going to invoke Darkseid - even through Jim Starlin's avatar - he should figure as part of the destination. Otherwise he's just advertising. Marvel's films drip feed like television, they need to embrace something wild and cinematic.