Review Roundup - Cherry Bomb

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

It's easy to become cynical when things constantly promise to be a good time, after all the hype machine is always a hollow money grabber in some way or another. For all the easy targets to be hit in the name of popcorn adventure stories, too often there's a John Carter, a Green Lantern or a Star Trek Into Darkness. Yikes. Tedium and horrible writing take the place of real fun and spoiling things for everyone. The simple pieces that make up entertainment are apparently too easy to fumble and break. Luckily the top brass at Marvel Studios more often than not have their heads screwed on, so far at least. With The Winter Soldier nailing the slick action vibe earlier in the year, James Gunn's oddball space fantasy gets the lighter and more colourful angles covered.


Yeah that James Gunn... the Slither guy, who knew? There are a lot of weak notes here including a one dimensional villain with vague motivations, and a pre-packaged plot device in the guise of yet another coveted object promising to grant it's wielder ultimate power. But it's nice to be surprised once in a while, which is often the result here thanks to the execution and the overall style. Most of the time a story like this would consist of a string of convoluted plot points, too much silly exposition, and a collection of stock characters that have no personality beyond the expected clich├ęs. But by flipping this over and using those tropes differently things seem to have worked out nicely. The gang's all here, it really shouldn't work.

There's a dumb brute, a misunderstood bad-ass, and a jerk waiting to grow into a hero - this should be serious eye roll material. Instead they sprinkle in a few little touches that allow these characters to feel a bit more fleshed out without the sense of flair ever getting too heavy handed. The writing is often profane but feels natural instead of vulgar, and it gives everyone some breathing room. Creature creations that are entirely done in post production have chemistry, and even casting a sports personality fits here. What a treat.

It's true that the big bad is one note and blowing up the universe again is a horrible element in any story, but with everyone else carrying the picture those tired space opera ideas are forgivable. I like that the supporting cast is so weird (oh look it's Michael Rooker... and Peter Serafinowicz too) so it's a fun experience before it even gets to all the eye candy action spectacle scenes. It's a part oldschool '60s Star Trek and bit '80s sci-fi, and who doesn't like that? There are many influences on show, but it's all ever so slightly off centre in a way that gives it personality.

The film itself works best when things are being planned, and subsequently falling to pieces. The characters all get to do their stuff, each showing off a variety of skills and flaws. For your money there's a prison break, a few good chases, plenty of fighting and a standard finale with an all out assault on the bad guy's capital ship. But these are broken up by little moments that carry it through. When the heart of the story includes a talking plant I guess it's hard not to throw that good stuff in here and there. Bipedal trees haven't provided this much movie magic since The Two Towers.

The enemy mooks may be faceless (literally) cannon fodder in some scenes but it doesn't ever get too ridiculous or grim, and the pauses in the action allow in some nice emotion which is welcome. And yes, the original soundtrack is complimented by David Bowie and The Runaways. By flipping the bird on screen to its antagonists and off screen to dumb slow-motion hero walk sequences and notions of cheap romance, this is a satisfying journey into new and strange possibilities. Let's hope things don't become messy with the sequels and the inevitable cross over movies.

4/5