Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) movie poster

director James Gunn
viewed: 08/23/2014 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA

You’ve got to hand it to the executives at Marvel Studios.  They have built a massive product strategy and marketing strategy around their assets, churned out a number of successful films interconnecting into what is now referred to as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” and sold everything to Disney with greater and greater plans to make more and more product and infiltrate more and more of American popular culture.  It’s insane.

I’ve said it before, as they built up to the release of The Avengers in 2012, that this is an unprecedented plan for connecting movies (but also television, video games, comic books, etc., etc., etc.) with an ever-building franchise-ization of everything.  And so far, they are really looking good.

Frankly, this summer started to tell a different tale.  The Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) movie and the X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) movies were not spectacular.  Nor was The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).  Of course, the latter two of those fall outside of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” and the Spider-Man movie is actually produced outside of their auspices.  Still, a glut is a glut.  And any franchise is only as good as its last film.  And the summer of 2014 was so dire in the movie department, nothing was looking too shiny.

Marvel’s latest product, Guardians of the Galaxy, won’t reinvent the genre or even necessarily please the entire populace of fandom, but it’s by far the most enjoyable of the superhero movies to come out this year and probably one of the more entertaining summer films for 2014 (against a pretty weak field).  But I don’t mean to cast jaded praise.  I took the kids and they also enjoyed it.  So fun was had by all.

Adapted from a more obscure and oddball group than Marvel’s front line The Avengers, it’s the story of a rag-tag band of misfit mercenaries who team up to fight a bunch of evil alien guys, the Kree.  The film is directed by James Gunn, who made a splash with his creepy-crawler horror film, Slither (2006) and later superhero comedy Super (2010), and Gunn hits his marks for the most part.

Actually, of anything, I thought that the character design and make-up effects were largely stunning.  You’ve got green-skinned Zoe Saladana as Gamora, blue and red (tattooed?) David Bautista as Drax, numerous other multi-colored peeps running all about plus totally digital characters like Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper).  Chris Pratt is the lone regular guy with little make-up or digital enhancement.  Really, the make-up and character designs are as eye-popping as anything I’ve seen.

I would argue that the film is just entertaining and good as it needs to be to make it one of the best of summer 2014.  Really, I’ve got no complaints.  It’s fun.  Enjoyable.

Great, on the other hand?  No.  Good.   Solid good.  That’s as high as this year’s bar rises so it seems.

It paves the way for the future, as Marvel Studios does so well.  A sequel is promised in 2017, while tie-ins, and other films from the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” continued to roll along with Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Ant-Man (2015).  My guess is that their formula for success will continue to bring results, in the billions.

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