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Guardians of the Galaxy: a bit of good; a bit of bad; a bit of both.
Perhaps I went in with too high expectations - I am a great fan of the current comics interpretation of the Guardians - but after the over the top critical reaction to Iron Man 3 (which I really, really disliked, primarily because of a dreadful script devoid (we are told) of any ad libs by RDJ that took superb material and debased it) I do not entirely trust critic consensus on superhero movies. I did, however, note that the 92% Fresh rating was accompanied by a 7.7 out of 10 rating, unusually low for a movie with such a high percentage Fresh.

Fans whose opinion I have respect for also dissented a tad ("extremely violent", "sexist and racist" - both of which are justifiable commentary.)

So. First of all, the good. The design. Oh, Ghod, the design. And the SFX (with a couple of noticeable exceptions I'll go into in a moment.) This movie went immediately onto my 'buy this on blu-ray' list. Superb world building. Groot was splendid (and kudos to Vin Diesel here) but Rocket was just not quite lifelike enough. On the other hand, there was some really bad make up on some of the background characters.

It was funny, but not as funny as I had been led to expect. Certainly not as witty as either The Avengers/Avengers Assemble, or Captain America: the Winter Soldier or the first two Iron Man movies. There were some lovely moments, some of them spoilt by the sound mixing. (Bradley Cooper's dialogue as Rocket was often close to inaudible.)

The acting was excellent and the major characters all shone at various points.

The action sequences were also good, and most of them did not go on too long. (It was generally the hand to hand sequences that got a little boring after a while.)

And I loved the music soundtrack.

But... I found myself sitting back and analysing, rather than engaging. Marvel references were thrown out like confetti and some of the plot must have been hard to follow without a solid grounding in Marvel comics history. Thank the Supreme Intelligence for them realising that they had one daddy issue too many and changing and backgrounding Peter's history.

A fun way to spend a couple of hours without using a single brain cell. In a world where most summer blockbusters take themselves (and their FX) far too seriously, this is extremely refreshing. And Groot and Rocket were splendid. They've been my favourites for some time.

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I don't know the comics at all so would have missed all the references, but I still enjoyed it.

I loved Rocket and Groot, and adored it when Rocket appeared carrying the plant pot with the twig in.

The attack on the mother ship was rather good, and I need liked the line about taking orders from a hamster!

It was a fun couple of hours.

It was great fun, just not as much fun as some would have you believe.

I thought for a bit that they were going to go with a Gamora/Quill romance, which would have been a step (far) too far for me. (Gamora - the only woman to reduce Tony Stark to impotence - well, that is the only interpretation I can think of for a certain series of scenes in a recent Iron Man run. Peter did warn him.) However, they moved away, much to my relief. I also thought showing Thanos didn't work, and Ronan was one of the characters who I thought was ill-served by the too-many-villains syndrome.

I love that they made those small references to J'Son, but didn't actually get into any details about him. I'm hoping we'll see/hear more about him in the sequel.

Oh, I think that's a certainty, don't you?

I enjoyed it enough to have gone to see it twice and I adored Groot and I will certainly buy it on Blu-Ray come the day, but it has not pushed CA-TWS out of its position as top movie I've seen this year (though Lego Movie is also a hot contender there).

I cannot parse quite why I didn't come out of the movie as thrilled as I was with TWS, but that's the way it goes. I think that somehow the climactic battle was what let it down for me. I loved the distraction scene but much of the rest of it didn't get me going. Also I'm not at all sure why the Nova Corp are considered to be such safe guardians of the macguffin.

Oddly, I preferred the ending battle in Guardians to the one in CS:tWS which I found incredibly stupid and far, far too long -- it was my main peeve with that movie, which I loved until we had that ridiculous business with the memory sticks or whatever they were supposed to be. No one designs something like that, except scriptwriters who can't think of anywhere sensible to go with a plot. At least in Guardians the plot was already so ridiculous that the final battle made a sort of sense on its terms.

Oh yes, the battle at the end of CA:TWS was definitely it's weekest point and it would have benefitted by being shorter, better edited and less stupid in premise. But it didn't weeken the movie overall for me and somehow the battle at the end of GotG does seem to have. Or maybe it was the last credits scene, which I felt was mildly amusing but not worth having stayed through the credits for, which is not how I've felt about these scenes in any of the other movies that I recall.

I'm afraid it did weaken the movie for me, though didn't ruin it. Ina, on the other hand, loathes nearly all the action sequences in CA:tWS. She started getting restless in Fury's car chase. I'm going to have to play that blu-ray when she's out because she tells me that if she hadn't been with me she would have walked out.

Also, and interestingly, like many other people who haven't read the comics, she didn't see why the movie was called 'The Winter Soldier' and laboured under the delusion (as did a number of critics) that 'The Winter Soldier' probably referred to Cap. I got the impression that, during the scriptwriting process, the WS storyline had been downgraded. As I dislike Barnes in all his incarnations, this did not bother me that much, likewise Stan's lack of subtle acting ability, particularly when contrasted with Evans, Mackie and Johansson.

I'm not sure that RDJ ad-libbing would be as funny as Shane Black's writing, so I'm surprised at the sceptical tone on that point.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers so I'll see what you wrote after I've seen the movie. We rarely seem to see eye-to-eye on these superhero movies.

I wouldn't say I'm going in with high expectations. Marvel movies have always been a bit of a mixed bag. I generally hope for some fun spectacle and some good gags. Worryingly I have read one review which claims that the gags are all derivative and obvious, which is a little worrying. And in the last trailer I watched, Rocket's voice didn't seem to match his body all that well (which I suppose isn't entirely surprising and presumably in the main movie it'll be easier to suspend my disbelief than it was in a small snippet from a trailer).

Heck, I've seen all the recent Marvel movies in the cinema. It's unlikely that I'll miss out this one.

To put it bluntly, I thought there was too damn much respect for Shane Black's script. I don't think he understands the characters and I loathe his cute kids and Christmas kink. He made a mess of some of the strongest themes in the first two movies, ignored most of the character development in 'The Avengers', made Pepper seem totally inadequate as SI's CEO, and presided over some of the most idiotic plotting in the MCU,

Did you see the Marvel One-Off "All Hail The King"? I'd be interested to know what you think of that.

It's a desperate attempt to correct a stupid idea.

I thought it was brilliant because I got to see more Trevor Slattery. I'd actually like him to show up in more Marvel films.

I'm presuming you'd see that as some kind of horrible nightmare...?

I have a theory that the whole of IM3 was made up by Tony to see if he could pass it off as truth to Bruce, and that is not ruled out by the ending.

Who is Trevor Slattery? Hasn't made enough of an impact for me to even recognise his name.

Oh, he's the so called 'British' actor playing the Mandarin. He was one of the biggest mistakes in the whole film - though what they did with Maya was far, far worse.

Edited at 2014-08-09 07:06 pm (UTC)

What do you mean so-called British actor? Ben Kingsley is English.

Who is Maya?
Ah. Kinda guessed you probably meant her, but I'm bad with names. Does she have an important role in Iron Man comic continuity then?

In Iron Man continuity she is the sole inventor of Extremis - Killan commits suicide in an early panel, before Tony comes on the scene. She was an old friend of Tony's, and they were students together. She deliberately released extremis and then called him in in an attempt to get government funding for a project that would provide a cure for cancer - the project that she wanted to be working on instead of extremis. She is a complex character who is neither hero nor villain, and recently died in an attempt to alert Tony that a group of villains had got their hands on extremis. She also saved Tony's life by helping him to reprogram Extremis when he was dying, and he ended up made whole and able to speak to electronic equipment with his mind.

The 'Extremis' arc is highly political and deeply critical of arms research and the arms trade. It is designed to make Tony examine his motives and contains an interview between him and a character plainly meant to be John Pilger which I wish could have been filmed intact.

And when a great, complex and iconic female character is replaced by a by-the-numbers male villain with bog standard motivation and no personality, I feel I have a right to yell 'sexism' and, even worse, 'bad writing'!

Edited at 2014-08-09 07:57 pm (UTC)

And if you are going to refuse to do the Mandarin properly because he is a problematically racist character, then DO NOT USE THE CHARACTER. More importantly, do not replace him with an equally problematically racist comic character who performs no useful purpose in your plot.

And, afterwards, do not have second thoughts.

And yes, this movie made me bloody furious for all sorts of reasons. Don't get me started on the plot holes and the sentimentality and the silliness of some of the set-pieces and the rushed and ridiculous ending...

I don't know the comics at all, so can't comment on that aspect, but I enjoyed the film. I found it utterly predictable, but quite well done. I liked the individual characters and will be interested to see how they develop in a sequel.

We stayed for the 'Easter egg' scene at the end, and I was completely mystified. What the hell did it have to do with anything? Who was the duck(?) thing? What was I supposed to get from it?

I didn't stay for the stinger - I'd already heard spoilers about what it was about on the Internet and couldn't be bothered.

The 'duck thing' is Howard the Duck. Goggle will immediately zone in on the dreadful movie version made by George Lucas many years ago, but the reference here is to the excellent if short-lived comic by Steve Gerber. Howard is a being from another universe who was, through no fault of his own, catapulted into the main Marvel comics universe, and Earth. Heavy on the satire and humour, the comic became a cult classic. (I still have my copies somewhere, or my brother has them.) I suspect that Howard was one of the influences on Bill Mantlo when he originally created Rocket (along with artist Keith Giffen.)

Edited at 2014-08-11 11:02 am (UTC)

Ah, right. So it was for People Who Know.

That's fine. I enjoy such things in films when it's stuff I know about. Remember the boy in "Shakespeare in Love", who in one scene is dangling a mouse in front of a cat in order to tease the cat and torment the cat? Shakespeare asks the boy what he wants to be when he grows up, and he replies, "A playwright." Shakespeare makes a moue of distaste and asks his name. "John Webster." I was the only person in the cinema who guffawed. So yeah - I don't mind of the extra bit is just for those in the know.

The whole damn movie is full of in-jokes and references to the Marvel comic universes (as, to be fair, Shakespeare in Love was full of references and in jokes about Elizabethan drama and the life of a modern playwright. Ina and I laughed at the Webster reference too.) For instance, one of the aliens who walks through is a ringer for one of the members of the original 'Guardians of the Galaxy', an entirely different crew. I expect the commentary on the blu-ray/DVD will point out all the references.

Marvel are, of course, heavily limited by other companies owning characters connected with either Spider-man, Fantastic Four or X-Men, though the Marvel comics universe is so interwoven and complex that it results in such things as the use of the Iron Patriot armour by War Machine in Iron Man 3 which confused everyone because in comics it had been worn by Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, a Spider-man villain but at that time head of SHIELD and government enforcer against super-heroes. However, Thanos, the Collector, the Kree in general and Ronan the Accuser, plus the Nova Corps are all closely associated with The Avengers.

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