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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/9/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/2/2014
At this point, I would guess that most people consider Marvel Studios to be an unstoppable juggernaut. (No pun intended.) Just look at their track record -- The Iron Man films, The Thor films, The Captain America films, and The Avengers have all been hits, most notably that last one, which was a monster hit and a game-changer for the comic book genre. (Warner Bros./DC certainly sat up and took notice, didn't they?) Given all of that, they could probably make a movie about anything and it would be a hit, right? Before this past summer, I would have questioned that notion. While the above mentioned characters don't have their own balloon in the Macy's parade, they were a part of the zeitgeist. Could Marvel roll out characters that most people had never heard of and get a hit? Guardians of the Galaxy proved that they certainly can.
In 1988, a young boy was abducted from Earth. 26 years later, that boy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), is a Ravager, a band of intergalactic thieves. When we first meet him, he's on an abandoned planet stealing an ancient orb. His theft is interrupted by a group of thugs who work for Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a Kree warrior who wants to rule the universe. Ronan enlists the daughters of Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), for help. Gamora pursues Peter to the planet Xander, the home of the Nova Corps, a group of space police. As Gamora confronts Peter, so do Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically modified raccoon-like creature, and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a living tree. All four are captured by the Nova Corps and placed in prison. There, they meet Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a muscle-bound brute who seeks vengeance against Ronan. The quintet decide to join forces and deliver the orb to Gamora's contact. However, they quickly learn that the relic is part of Ronan's master plan and that this group of outlaws may be Xander's only hope.
I've been a hardcore Marvel follower since childhood, but I never really went for the adventures which took place in outer space (I'm more of a Spider-Man kind of guy), so I knew nothing about the Guardians of the Galaxy, save for some facts gleaned here and there, and what I gathered from the film's trailer. I thought that it looked interesting, but the question remained, would these brand new characters appeal to an audience in this world of sequels and remakes? And further more, would it appeal to a wide audience? (Given the comments form the females in my household, the answer was no.) Taking a closer look, the movie featured an actor who plays a second-tier character on a TV sitcom in the lead role and two CG characters in the primary cast. Not to mention the fact that Marvel entrusted a reported $170 million budget to a director who's made two feature films, both of which didn't do very well.
So, given those factors, why does Guardians of the Galaxy work? For starters, let's look at that last point. Co-Writer/Director James Gunn may not seem like the most likely choice for a big-budget summer tentpole movie, but his indie spirit (he started at Troma) brings a distinctly cavalier attitude to the movie. The movie is not only more cynical and sassy than your average super-hero/sci-fi movie, but there are some interesting choices in casting/performance here. John C. Reilly appears as a Nova official and nothing about his acting says "outer space movie". The movie isn't afraid to put its tongue firmly in its cheek and go against the grain in nearly every scene.
Secondly, this movie is quite funny in spots. If it weren't for the humor, Guardians of the Galaxy might have run the risk of being too dark or perhaps too "nerdy". The movie isn't afraid to delve into some serious sci-fi character names and alien races, and I can easily see how the movie would have turned off many viewers if it weren't for its down to Earth (no pun intended) approach to the material. I found myself laughing out loud several times, as Gunn and Co-Writer Nicole Perlman have done a great job of juxtaposing some of the action or dramatic scenes with some nice jokes. A lot of the laughs come from Chris Pratt. Again, having "Andy" headline a big movie may seem odd, but his "guy next door" approach makes it very believable that he's a stranger in a strange land. His goofy demeanor makes him a great reluctant hero and he works as a perfect anchor for the movie.
If someone had told you that the biggest movie of the year would have a talking raccoon and a living tree, you would have most likely guessed that it was the latest animated offering. Who would have expected a wise-ass space opera featuring obscure comic book characters would have been such a hit? Again, seeing the film, we understand why it took off. It's funny and exciting, the special effects are very well-done, and the characters are well-rounded. Most importantly, from the opening scene, the movie is full of heart and we are drawn into the story. I don't think that I'm far off the mark by saying that Guardians of the Galaxy is like Star Wars for a new generation, as it takes some familiar elements and shakes everything up. In the end, Marvel has another hit on its hands and we've all learned to appreciate the dancing of a tree.
Guardians of the Galaxy offers the best joke referencing a nature magazine from the 70s that I've ever heard on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is extremely sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look excellent, most notably the colorful inhabits of Xander, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is excellent, even in this 2D version and the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The level of detail is very good, as we can see textures on objects, and the CG effects withstand this clear picture. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track nicely compliments the great visuals. The stereo effects constantly alert us to sounds happening off-screen. Similarly, the surround sound effects appear throughout the film, and really stand out during the action scenes. We get some nicely detailed sounds here, and the individual effects really stand out. As one would expect, the subwoofer effects add rumble to the fight scenes, and we feel every explosion. Overall, a nice technical package.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Co-Writer James Gunn. "Guide to the Galaxy with James Gunn" (21 minutes) opens with a great 8-bit homage to the film. We then quickly see that the film was shot under the title "Full Tilt". From there, Gunn walks us through various parts of the movie, explaining the look of film and how/why certain designs were used -- The movie is broken down into section and the key scenes are examined in detail. We hear from the actors and some of the crew members, and get a nice amount of on-set and behind-the-scenes footage. This includes the shooting of certain scenes, set construction, the application of makeup, and visual effects. "The Intergalactic Visual Effects for Guardians of the Galaxy" (7 minutes) examines the creation of Rocket and Groot, and how they were integrated into the film. We see how actors and visual markers were used on-set for the performances and how the CG effects were then layered in. We also see Cooper and Diesel in the recording booth. The Disc contains five DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 4 minutes and can be viewed with COMMENTARY from Gunn. There's only one scene here which feels new, the rest are simply longer versions of scenes from the film. The final extra is a 4-minute GAG REEL.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long