Tag Archives: Marvel

A Guide to Guardians of the Galaxy

4 Aug

I’ve expressed before that I do have a bias against comic book movies. So when I heard about the Guardians of the Galaxy movie a few months back I immediately diagnosed it as another desperate attempt to milk a forgotten comic book franchise. On the surface it looks like an Avengers rip off just with more corny gags. As more trailers came out I decided it was probably one of those movies that’s bad, but still entertaining, if you turn off parts of your brain. When I received a coupon good for Guardians of the Galaxy in IMAX 3D for free I remembered a quote from Roger Ebert “It’s hard to explain the fun to be found in seeing the right kind of bad movie.” (especially if its free). Since two bad movies came out this week, both wildly popular I thought I’d compare them and show the differences between a movie that is so bad it’s good (Guardians of the Galaxy) and a movie that’s just plain awfully bad (Sharknado 2). But you know what? I actually really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy and not because it was entertainingly bad, it’s a legitimately fun movie. So fuck Sharknado and its race to the bottom. I’m not going to waste time and energy analyzing Syfy’s recent attempt to reach the stupidest place on TV. Let’s see why Guardians of the Galaxy is the perfect end to the summer blockbuster season.

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Guardians of the Galaxy is a comic book movie but to me its way more science fiction. Not that hard science fiction but more in the tone of an edgy cartoon with space ships and Star Trek type aliens. Its also an adventure movie and a comedy. Most movies who try to blend this many genres fail but this time it works great. Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t take itself too seriously so there’s no opening narration, drawn out origin stories, or long exposition scenes. It just kind of throws you in the deep end of this universe and takes off from there. This approach benefits the two types of audience members seeing this movie. If you’re someone who read the comic books you already know the setting and the cultures of the different characters and their backgrounds so you don’t need that information regurgitated again. If you are like me and have no idea what the deal is with Guardians of the Galaxy it forces you to pay attention to the characters and the action on the screen. This gets you more invested in the story than any information dump via voice over or flashbacks ever could.

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The ensemble cast creates a wacky comradery that’s very entertaining to watch. Chris Pratt whose known for being on Parks and Rec plays the main character Peter Quill codename Star Lord “It’s cool to have a codename, its not that weird”. I think that Peter Quill is so cocky and comfortable being inappropriate that you can’t play this character unless you’re naturally like that. Having never watched Parks and Rec I can still tell that Pratt is an authentic Quill, not counting the 60 pounds the filmmakers made him lose to get the role. Zoe Saldana is the go to girl if you’re making a sci-fi movie, this time playing the green skinned Gamora she’s right at home. The very strange walking, talking tree, Groot is voiced by Vin Diesel who I loathe, luckily all he ever says is “I am Groot”. Not since Matt Damon in Team America have I heard a better three syllable catch phrase. Rocket the Raccoon, the best one in the bunch is voiced by Bradley Cooper. The previews make the raccoon seem too over the top and silly but it works in the movie. It’s some of Bradley Cooper’s best work, I was really impressed, he should voice more animated characters. Then there’s Drax who doesn’t understand metaphors. These five round out the ragtag group of ne’re-do-wells that make up The Guardians of the Galaxy.

There’s two ways to approach the plot of this movie. The first is that there’s a big bad blue guy who I know is bad because he says so and we see him kill one person. He wants to destroy planet Nova for some reason and he’s working for an even bigger badder guy named Thanos. I know maybe four things about comics and one of them is that Thanos is bad. I don’t know why he’s bad or what he’s done or wants to do, this movie could’ve explained that but nope. Anyway it throws a bunch of comic book tropes at us about a collector, and a power crystal, and I wasn’t really paying attention. Because the second way to approach the plot is to appreciate how it is basically just setting up scenarios for our heroes to fight their way out of. This movie is about action, snappy dialog, and humor. Paying too much attention to the story reveals all the holes and you’ll miss the excitement.

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The real reason I loved this movie is because it’s chock full of delicious nutritious eye candy. Every shot is so richly detailed there’s; space ships, lasers, console displays, rocket thrusters, nebulae, tech, aliens, robots, shields, cybernetics and it keeps going. There’s also this retro style, like if science fiction of the 70’s and 80’s had better visual effects. Even the costumes, makeup, and hair is retro futuristic, you get to see Merle from Walking Dead as a gold toothed, aqua, space pirate and a quasi-futuristic Glenn Close (how’d they get her in this movie, oh right, gobs of money). The soundtrack of nostalgic pop songs you remember from the 80’s provides a wacky contrast to the spacey spectacle on the screen. It’s not perfect but this movie is so much fun and embraces the corny moments and Pratt falls (pun intended) knowing full well what it’s doing. See this movie for all the right reasons and be happy.

 

Carl Wells

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A Stupid Opinion about Spider-Man that Aimlessly Wonders Off Topic

8 May

Whoa, another month off, how nice was that? I didn’t have to bother the world with either my stupid opinions or my whining about nobody reading my stupid opinions for thirty days. It was truly an inspirational time for everyone involved with the hiatus; me, my carpel tunnel syndrome, the four people who follow this blog and everyone within earshot of my occasional whining. But I’m back again to wipe off the dust from the old keyboard and resume slangin’ stupid opinions written poorly. So, to get me back into the poorly written spirit I’m going to start with an especially stupid opinion about something I don’t quite get: Spider-Man.

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I know everyone loves Spider-Man the character, but live-action Spider-Man should’ve kept suing Facebook or have been content being a clone who drew and left the real spidey business to Nick Carraway. I’m not shocked when a character as beloved as Spider-Man keeps showing up in movies, but I do reserve the right to be shocked at why he is so beloved, especially when this movie does everything in its power to negate every reason for liking the web-slinger in the first place. Respectable folks like Patton Oswald claim Spider-Man as their favorite superhero. I see why; Spider-Man is just a teenager, he’s got to balance fighting crime and being a student. It’s fun to watch his day-to-day life as he kicks back, catches a few bad guys and drops some witty quips on ‘em before handing them over to the authorities. I get it. It all sounds great, but this “Amazing” re-boot zaps any joy from the wealth of built-in potential. But I don’t want this to be another review.

Comic book movies have such an established and built-in audience that it gives the studios the security to spend lavish amounts on them, but the financial freedom doesn’t translate to artistic freedom. The formula seems simple enough, cut and paste enough from the comics to make the diehards happy, put enough pretty, famous faces on-screen and hope more people like it than don’t. The character of Spider-Man is so popular that there’s no reason to take a chance or develop the character to reflect contemporary human nature. As far as I can tell, everyone loves Spider-Man for being an underdog, which is a timeless trope. But in Amazing Spider-Man 2 it’s an undeveloped cliché the audience has to accept just because we already know Spider-Man’s backstory. Now, Spider-Man is still an underdog, but it’s the franchise, not the character, that fills the role as it seems woefully mismatched when standing next to the Disney owned Marvel-verse. Even the potentially dreadful Thor 2 turned out to be a more complete and entertaining movie than this.

Was that film more artistically developed than a Spider-Man 2? Any of the Disney Marvel films? Not necessarily, but they don’t treat their characters with white gloves. And they can afford to, they have the rights to so many characters in the Marvel Universe, that they don’t need the super star Spider-Men and X-Men. The anonymity of their characters allows them to 1) get better deals on actors 2) portray the characters with more depth, because if they make a mis-step with a character they can just kill ‘em off and let another character take their place. But Sony isn’t as lucky. Spider-Man is only allowed to desire the girl and miss his parents. He has to have the most fundamental desires to keep this franchise rolling. The film touched on a slightly interesting themes of modern isolation and desire for attention, but in another “safe” move it was given to the villain of the film. Instead of investigating these themes the filmmakers damn them and discount them. It’s a sad state of affairs and as A.A. Dowd suggests in his review this film reeks of the less sophisticated 90s era super-hero films.

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There is more than enough in this film to write a positive or a negative review of the film, and that is what is going to happen. There are already a million and one of each, with another million right smack dab in the middle and I think what that really means is that this is a mediocre movie. It might be successful, but will be forgettable. The way of the modern blockbuster is such. It’s competently put together, but there is very little character-development to it. All movies are too safe for their own good and super-hero movie all the more so. There was a long time in my life when all I wanted was to see movies based on characters, but now in some kind of Twilight Zone irony the comic book characters are driving the show, but there is still no room for developed, unique characters.

-C. Charles

There’s Some Not Good Parts in This, But Just Keep Reading

15 Feb

Stevie So-dee-berg is retiring because he thinks the time for the medium of cinema has past. Quentin Unchained thinks that digital projection is the same as watching TV in public. An Entourage movie is in the works. There is so much negativity toward movies, and the main culprit is brilliant television. The megaplexes have been abandoned by thinking adults and the tweens have gotten the keys to the kingdom and converted it to an asylum. Every film made today will ultimately ask at some point in the process, “Will fans of Selena Gomez pay to see this movie?” The future of cinema does not look bright, but is this the death rattle or just the darkest moment right before dawn?

 Diptic

Here’s my stupid opinion about the whole thing; TV is great now, yes, but it’s a different medium. In the same way that a short story is a different medium than a novel or a poem. And I think those same distinctions may need to apply to the current age of visual entertainment. Television Series are like novels, movies are like short stories and short films then must be like poems (but nobody reads poetry and fewer people watch short films, so I have no obligation to talk about either of them). So, television shows are the perfect place to examine character(s) and deal with broader, far-reaching concepts. A place where there can be a ton of details and subplots and show creators can really do a lot of things. A movie is a better place to look at a specific event and how it affects a main character. And just like the difference between a novel and short story, the short story doesn’t allow for sub par bits, everything has to be perfect to be effective, but novels and TV shows can go full seasons where people will say, “Season X wasn’t that good, but get through that and it gets really good again.” Can you imagine someone saying the equivalent about a movie? No way, they’d just say it was a bad movie.

It’s harder to make a good movie than it is to make a good TV show. And that isn’t meant to take away anything from the all of the brilliant work people are doing with television, but the medium makes it easier to build characters over a ten-hour long episodes, than the first twenty minutes of hundred minute film. For the longest time becoming a filmmaker meant a lot of learning what was important and vital to telling a story. Everyone in film wants to, or should want to, tell personal honest stories, and those types of stories require a lot of information to build enough of a connection with the audience. Now with the full potential of television, and not television, HBO, allow the telling of the stories in more expanded form the artist doesn’t need to adapt to the medium, the medium has adapted to the artist. The craft of filmmaking is being replaced by the Marvel, and soon enough Star Wars, universes, which in all fairness are really just very expensive hundred-twenty minute serials with occasional cross overs.  Yes, TV is changing movies and the capitalist geniuses in the Disney head office trying to make movies just bigger versions of television, but there is still room for movies

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On the surface, TV looks closer to the artist’s vision that movie ever could be, and there was a whole generation of filmmakers whose goal was to write and make movies with the novel as inspiration. All they people that they inspired are now making amazing novel-esque television shows. Cinema still has life, but what it needs right now is the creator of a brilliant TV show to make a brilliant, stand-alone, non-franchise, original film and all the magic will be restored to cinema. Come on show creators, don’t concede cinema to calculated gloss of Christopher Nolan and David Fincher.

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-C. Charles