Monday, May 25, 2015

Good Idea, Bad Execution--Guardians of the Galaxy

I love movies. And in particular, I love escapist popcorn flicks like Sahara, 17 Again, and Con Air. There is no big angst or thinking style themes in these movies, it's just turn them on and turn off your brain for the hour and half it takes Dirk to save the free world or dig up a treasure, Zac Efron to look cool, or Nicholas Cage to rock a wife-beater and work on his pecs.

I thought I'd love Guardians of the Galaxy. The preview was good, the backstory was great, should have been good, damn it! I have this bug up in my head, which sort of acts like an internal editor (lol, it "is" an internal editor), but most of the time, I can shut it down and enjoy a story for what it is.

I was a "little" itchy when the first thing on the screen was the death of Peter's mother, neatly shown in a brief snippet that cut the emotional component way short. I mean, come on--the woman is DYING. You figure the camera would linger, we'd get to see Peter's lip wobble, people (well-meaning people) would try to push him in closer to say good-bye, he'd fight them, his mom would die, big focus on his grief-struck, guilty face (because he didn't take her hand like she wanted), he'd cling to his gift like grim death and burst out into the hall with the camera following behind in the rush of grief and confusion that needed to propel him out into an open field.


Instead he's kidnapped with a ray of light (seriously!! Why not show him carried off kicking and screaming, would it have cost that much more??) and there's a nice montage of comic book images before we get to see the grown up Peter dance his way (okay, that was cool and I'd love to watch that small bit of characterization again) through an "alien" landscape. Does it remind you of Riddick? It reminded me of Riddick and made me wonder if they were recycling.

He steals the orb, the bad guys try to steal it from him, he escapes, he tries to sell the orb, the other bad guys try to steal it from him, Rocket tries to kidnap him for the bounty--and a pause for exposition.

Yeah, why not a police line up? That's a quick, easy fix. Somebody else can do the info-dumping rather than the characters, no need to use precious minutes on inserting everything organically. It made me wonder why (after the only bit of backstory Peter talks about is his conquests) Peter would even bother rescuing the girl, whose name escapes me.

Lots of escape action, lots of police running around, a nice posed still of the group framed in a doorway.

And I was still waiting for something good that never appeared.

The death of Peter's mom was just an excuse to bring in the walkman cassette player so Peter could freak out about seeing someone else touch it, and later (like it mattered) run back to get it during the escape. You figure something that important to him would be encased in some kind of impervious case or have some kind of Thor's hammer like homing beacon, because yeah--if that ravager guy could have a whistle-activated javelin, why not give Peter's walkman a homing beacon?

The whole show was full of unsupported weaponry, cool but unexplained doodads (if they'd just added thirty seconds for Peter to tell someone his nifty face mask was stolen during a previous heist, and ten seconds for Peter to protest the foster dad guy was always threatening him with the javelin Peter found and gave to him (taken during the same heist, which doesn't just add cred to Peter's background as a ravager, but explains the Deadly Space ToothPick, and Why Peter Can Breathe in Space, and also implies statuses and relationships going back for years)), backstory that was never used or constantly cut short to add in more explosions.

And don't get me started on the word "Asshole." It says a lot about a movie where every single time someone says asshole people stop to stare or there's a dead silence. It's not that it's a horrible, bad, evil word, it's just that it's thrown on top of already bad dialogue like a cherry. "...Yeah, he was a real...asshole." I'm not sure if it's because the screenwriter thought it was a super-powered bad word, or the director thought it was a super-bad word, or if it was supposed to  be funny, but it was cringe-worthy.

So before I go off on a ten page rant about how I want my money back from Fry's, ta-dah! Jodi's Top Ten Instances Where Just a Little Effort Could Have Made This a Fabulous Popcorn Flick.

1. The death of Peter's mom (seriously!! Show emotion, let the kid cry and scream)
2. Peter's abduction (no scary blue men?? Why the hell not? Drag that kid kicking and screaming for his mommy into the light)
3. The cops taking away Peter's walkman (this should have been a no-brainer. If it's important enough to go back for during a jailbreak, why isn't his fury over it being taken from him shown? That half-baked scene where he gets shock-sticked is just an excuse to strip him down. Yes, he was hot, but he could have been hot somewhere else. Multiple times.)
4. The half-baked scene where he gets shock-sticked (he is so wussy, seriously. Have him win first! Have him win first! Can I repeat that?? It would have deepened his character, shown how capable he was, and made his take down even better, especially if he'd curled around the walkman while being shock-sticked! Argh!)
5. All the nothing where he should have been interacting with the girl before he rescues her (c'mon, give me a reason. Yes, she's hot, but that's not enough)
6. Rocket's drunken fit (he has good backstory, use it!! Give him rage, instead of drunken sot self pity. It was so neatly set up with the close up of his back in prison. Wasted, totally wasted)
7. Peter and the girl (was her name Zamora? I think it was) out on the balcony (what is it? No soppy stuff for the guy crowd?? Why not let them dance to a moldy oldie and share a brief deep look into each others eyes before the next round of explosions?)
8. The Liberace kind of guy and the villains (there are too many villains in this show and they all want center stage. I know it has to work within the Marvel Universe, but condense or put off (until the next show) the villains and show the Liberace guy right up front with Peter (maybe on a vid screen or something, they don't have to be together) to set up his involvement from the beginning. Otherwise he's just a golly-gee whiz look at more "aliens")
9. The entire Zamora Peter relationship arc (uh, where is it?? It's like the highlights were picked out, shortened to a couple of seconds and someone went in to cut more in order to add more explosions)
10. Use of backstory. Every. Single. Thing. In this show was set up so it'd have a nice arc, good structure, and support. Peter's backstory, Zamora's backstory, Rocket's backstory (and his relationship with Groot). And the walkman. Too bad none of it was used except by mistake. They must have missed cutting it from the final product.

Is it worth seeing? Sort of--I love that scene where Peter is dancing through the waterspouts and he's hot as hell during the delousing. Pity the rest of it isn't worth the media it's recorded on.

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