Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Remember how in the mid-credits sequence at the end of Thor 2, Benicio Del Toro explains that the Ether was just one of six planet-destroying magic stones? Well it turns out he wasn't kidding. Here in "Guardians of the Galaxy" they really do just find another sparkly magic rock with very little to distinguish it from the one we found in 'Avengers' and the one we found in 'Thor 2'. And speaking of indistinguishable, we also get a villain who is basically a stand-in for Loki, only with none of the charisma.
All that being said, "Guardians of the Galaxy" looks gorgeous. The design of the world in which the characters live is fantastic. I feel like I'm damning with faint praise here (just like when I said that "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" was better than "Battle for the Planet of the Apes"), but it has to be said that "Guardians of the Galaxy" comes across rather like a Star Wars movie and, to my mind, it wipes the floor with the Star Wars prequels. We see a variety of awesomely designed environments building a full world in which the characters can exist with flying vehicles and technology for them to use.
Sadly the characters themselves seem incomplete. It seems to me that the more important the characters were, the less interesting they were. The big surprise actually was Groot the humanoid tree-person. Actually one reason why he wasn't as goofy as I'd been expecting is because he's basically Swamp Thing. Sure, he's more like Swamp Thing before John Constantine comes along to tell him he's essentially a nature god, but there's still time for Groot to develop that way. Marvel actually have their own more clear-cut Swamp Thing clone, but that's Man Thing (a name I cannot imagine catching on) and he's already had one of their least impressive movie outings. Anyway, the variety of plant-based powers exhibited by Groot is by far the most creative element of the film. And he's not really the most central of the characters.
Another two characters who were pretty entertaining were 'Drax the Destroyer' and 'Rocket' (the talking gun-toting Raccoon). If you put these two personalities together you basically get the character of Jayne from Firefly. By themselves, Rocket gets the mostly amoral, in it for the money, character. While Drax gets the dim-witted muscle side of things. Okay, so actually there's a little bit more to Drax, but I still reckon Rocket is less interesting version of Jayne. One again, these two are amongst the more interesting characters and they aren't really the central protagonists.
The central character is Star Lord. Yet another case where an obnoxious egoist becomes the hero - and I'm afraid Chris Pratt is no Robert Downey Jr. Or at least, he's not working with such great material. I thought he was funnier in "The Lego Movie".
Gamora, the green alien played by Zoe Saldana, gives every indication that she's going to be a badass in early scenes, but quickly becomes the unlikely love interest for Mr. Ego. I guess if you have a Tony Stark-type figure, you need a Pepper Potts-type figure too. While she's supposed to have ultra-super-ninja skills, those are pretty inconsistent - and she gets damsel-in-distressified at one point.
And, as has been said in the past of the X-Men movies, only it's even more true here, there are simply too many characters here to give them all a decent amount of development time. There's an awkward balance between developing this big variety of characters and pushing forward the generic world-destroying-macguffin-wielded-by-go
With all this being said, I have to admit that Guardians was pretty fun. It's nowhere near the best Marvel film, but it's not the worst either. It's enjoyable and it has its moments. But the best fun comes from the more minor characters, with Groot and Drax actually providing the most fun of the bunch.
One last thing though. The opening scene with the cancer is a cheap attempt at a tearjerker. Yeah, I'm sure a few people feel like that was a really powerful moment. Cancer is always going to be an easy way to tug at the heart strings. But help me out with something here.... If that present is so damn important to him, why didn't he open it sooner and why was the end of the film suddenly considered the right time to finally unwrap it? I'll tell you why. Because the opening has NO relevance to the rest of the film. It's a cheap tearjerking framing device so the filmmakers can pretend the film has some smigin of depth. Personally, I wasn't buying it. This is a pretty shallow Marvel film. It's quite fun, but Marvel can do better. And as per usual I find myself mainly having to judge things on how much they made me laugh. Despite how the trailer might have looked, previous Marvel films have been a lot funnier.