Guardians of the Galaxy misses the mark on fun

<i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i> misses the mark on fun

Beware the movie that’s Fun! with a capital F, the one populated with seemingly unpretentious characters that say adorable, clever things, the one that presents each off-kilter joke as if it were a porcelain curio, the one that boasts a comfort-food soundtrack of songs you’ve always liked but perhaps haven’t heard in a while. On the plus side, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, adapted from the Marvel comic book series of the same name, has a sense of humor about itself: Even when characters strut around dropping hefty expository bundles like “Ronan is destroying Xanderian outposts throughout the galaxy!” they do so with a wink. But by the end, you’ll have been winked at so much you may think you’ve been staring at a strobe light for nearly two hours. Guardians of the Galaxy is proof that a picture can have a sense of humor yet have no real wit. It hits every beat, but it hasn’t got the beat.

You might be fooled into thinking otherwise at the beginning. Guardians opens with a flashback preamble detailing a key episode in the childhood of our hero, Peter Quill (played, as a youngster, by Wyatt Oleff): His mother, dying in a hospital, begs him to take her hand; he recoils, only to be filled with remorse seconds later, when she draws her last breath. The totem he clings to is a mixtape of “Awesome Music” she’s made for him, filled with rad-pop treasures from her own youth and maybe from yours, too, like the Raspberries’ “Go All the Way” and 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love.” Cut to Quill as a brawny, space-roaming grown-up, now played by Chris Pratt: He’s still listening to that tape, and we see him, headphones clamped to his ears, swaggering through a dazzling, surreal, blue-green alien landscape — rife with obnoxious, scampering lizards, which he impatiently kicks out of the way — to the strains of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love.”

Fun! Right? Actually, that early sequence almost is fun, though it’s just a little too self-aware, too pleased with itself, to work. Later, our rogue space scavenger Quill is joined in his exploits by green-skinned butt-kicker Gamora (Zoe Saldana), beefcake-y, tattooed chrome-dome Drax (pro wrestler Dave Bautista), and an unlikely duo of soldiers of fortune: cranky, talking-raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his bark-covered sidekick, Groot (Vin Diesel), a thinking, feeling, ambulatory plant form with exceedingly sad, slightly watery eyes. Naturally, none of these characters likes one another much at first. But they quickly realize that five heads and 12 legs are the bare minimum needed to prevent the villainous, stripey-face Ronan (Lee Pace) from destroying the galaxy. Also, at one point they’ll have to take a meeting with Glenn Close in a winter-white pretzel hairdo, and that’s seriously scary.

Gunn has to juggle so many plot elements in Guardians of the Galaxy — so many booming galactic battles, so many whisker-close brushes with death, so many almost-poignant moments of epiphany — that it’s little wonder he loses his grip on the thing. Then again, he and Nicole Perlman wrote the script (adapting it from the comic books by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning), so they bear some responsibility for its top-heaviness. Gunn inserts occasional moments of wonder — in the most effective one, a character makes a sacrificial act to save the others, as twinkling lights, ostensibly representing compassion and generosity, dot the frame. But he doesn’t bother to smooth over the seams. Time and again, he cues us what to feel, which is different from creating the perfect weather conditions for it and then stepping back.

What really kills the fun — as opposed to the Fun! — of Guardians of the Galaxy is its desperation to be casual and quirky and irreverent nearly every minute. Groot and Rocket are, admittedly, well designed: Rocket, with his expressively raggedy fur, comes off as a crotchety refugee from Fantastic Mr. Fox. And the perpetually sorrowful Groot, his arms and legs a tangle of art nouveau roots, strikes the right balance between somber elegance and whimsy. (Diesel makes the most of the single growly line Groot repeats throughout the movie — “I’m Groot!” — turning it into a lament or a declaration, as needed.)

Oddly enough, these CGI-created characters are the most naturalistic element of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Otherwise, the movie works so hard to advertise its disreputability that it comes off as anything but. At one point, Quill not-so-subtly flips the bird to an intergalactic cop, putting an old schoolboy’s trick to use. Pratt — an actor with a degree of rakish charm — feigns innocence at his own naughtiness, and the moment is almost funny. But though Quill is, ostensibly, a lady-killer who swears like a sailor on shore leave, he’s repeatedly forced to use the distractingly demure term “a-hole.” The saltier, full-strength version would surely give offense to the dark lords of the MPAA, who would, in their wrath, snatch away his movie’s PG-13 rating. It’s all just too precious for words. Especially those four-letter ones.

 
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39 comments
anon
anon

The author of this review is a pretentious douche apparently.

Hilary Foxhill
Hilary Foxhill

Groot says, "I AM Groot." Not, "I'm Groot." This article couldn't even get THAT right...

Will T. Michels
Will T. Michels

COMPLETE GARBAGE REVIEW. This movie was so f'n awesome.

Cassie Vaughan
Cassie Vaughan

This review is pish! Amazing film. I loved every second of it :)

Aaron Nelson
Aaron Nelson

City pages: even things we like, we don't like.

Joseph Emerson
Joseph Emerson

Misses the mark? Highly disagree, I had a great time watching it.

Isaac Hill
Isaac Hill

Good movie. A little childish but that was expected. Very imaginative and the graphics were great.

Perri Pryor
Perri Pryor

To each their own, but the review itself was not very good. By that I mean it's what people hate about papers like City Pages - punching above its own literary weight, crapping on something popular because it's popular, and well, "It insists on itself, you know?"

Patrick Quinn
Patrick Quinn

What hermits write for this garbage free paper? I think we should all grab all the copies every week and throw them straight into the recycling bin. Soon enough all the porn advertising and escorts will find a new place to advertise.

ThatGuy
ThatGuy

I like the part where the paragraph is suddenly in italics the best.

Damian Amberg
Damian Amberg

I forgot that it's cool to hate things now..

Alexandra Wilder
Alexandra Wilder

I've never seen worse reviews in my life than on city pages. What the heck...

Juan Carlos Pineda
Juan Carlos Pineda

The one yet to see the movie seems to be the person who wrote the article.

Reier Erickson
Reier Erickson

Stephanie Zacharek should lose her job, this review is so off base that I imagine she must have a vendetta against someone in this movie. Seriously City Pages, fire her, post haste.

Wayne Robbins
Wayne Robbins

city pages review team is LAME and boring I'm sure ...this movie is awesome and generating so many POSITIVE REVIEWS ..everywhere ...my 12yrol son and his pack of friends wanted to see it so much again they were asking to do chores around the house to make money to go see it again and didn't care about popcorn or soda ..jus the ticket price ...city pages misses the mark on seeing and giving a good review .

Libby Williams Jackson
Libby Williams Jackson

I took the kids (ages 8, 10 and 12) and we all loved it. It was fun and had gorgeous special effects. See the 3D version and you won't be disappointed.

David Bjorklund
David Bjorklund

If this movie wasn't fun then I don't know what fun is.

Andrew Lucas
Andrew Lucas

Wow. Shocking. The city pages hates a movie? Stop the presses.

Michael Roach
Michael Roach

You know it's a movie based on a comic book not Shakespeare lighten up. I suppose the reviewer loved Timothy dalton as James Bond too

Kate Jones
Kate Jones

This movie is amazing, funny and touchingly sweet at all the right moments. For the first time in a long time I wasn't disappointed that I paid to see a movie in theaters, and honestly I'd pay to see it again.

Damian Amberg
Damian Amberg

This article misses the mark as well.. a great movie handed to the author on a platter and chooses to make a pretentious ass out of themselves instead. Looks like they tried way to hard. Thesaurus much?

Lindsey Clarke
Lindsey Clarke

This movie was absolutely perfect and city pages is the biggest hunk of shit

Reier Erickson
Reier Erickson

Haha... It was amazing, you shouldn't review movies if you didn't like this one.

Damian Amberg
Damian Amberg

Sadly I read this whole article and realized I wasted a lot of time. City Pages should stick to Juggalo Posts and leave the rest of the world be. This movie was nothing short of fantastic. It was FUN, quirky, cute, cool and the animations, colors, effects were absolutely amazing. Go see it.. bring your kids.. go by yourself.. doesn't matter. This is an awesome movie.

Reier Erickson
Reier Erickson

Also, the line is, "I am Groot". It shows up a bunch in the movie, so I'm not sure how you screwed that up.

Reier Erickson
Reier Erickson

They tried really, really hard?! How dare they, I prefer my entertainment lazy, which is why I watch Bravo.

Chad Juettner
Chad Juettner

If there's one thing I can't stand it's when a movie tries really, really hard. I prefer to have my movies not try at all and bore the hell out of me.

Devon Majerus
Devon Majerus

This author liked "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" so I won't take her critique too seriously.

Chris Strabley
Chris Strabley

Meh, coming from the page that posted 10+ juggalo articles. I'll make my own judgement, since this seems like a usual attempt to hate something because it's currently trending.

 

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