comic

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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What can I say about this movie? Rotten Tomatoes has already given it a 92% rating, and who can argue with that cinematic authority of spoiled vegetables? If you’re looking for a big, fun adventure in space, then get yourself a ticket to the 10th instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stat.

I must admit I’ve been waiting for this movie for months. A ragtag ensemble of interstellar heroes, somewhat scruffier and edgier-looking than the clean-cut Avengers in their capes and spandex, reluctantly banding together to defend the galaxy to the classic tunes of Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling…what more could one desire?

Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a kid who gets abducted from Earth in 1988 by a gang of space pirates called the Ravagers and ends up becoming a carefree, womanising, wandering thief. After stealing a very important orb that attracts the attention of bad guys Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and Thanos (Josh Brolin), a very big dude with a very big jaw who sits in a very big floating chair, Quill falls in with several other misfits: a green-skinned lethal assassin and daughter of Thanos, Gamora (sci-fi screen queen Zoe Saldana); a genetically engineered super-smart raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper); Rocket’s devoted sidekick, Groot the living tree (Vin Diesel); and Drax the Destroyer, a tattooed muscleman hell-bent on revenge (Dave Bautista). Karen Gillan also plays a key role as Nebula, sibling rival of Gamora, a bald and blue-skinned fighting machine.

Guardians manages to pull off a perfectly wonderful mash-up of rock classics and science fiction which, along with the grungy-looking interior of Quill’s spaceship, and the futuristic but gritty technology, gives the movie a great sense of nostalgia and realism. It’s a rollicking, fast-paced adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

There’s nothing much new or unpredictable about the story of Guardians. Frequent jokes tease mildly at heroic stereotypes but the plot ultimately doesn’t stray far from the sugary, upbeat staple of big budget productions. The highlight of the movie is almost certainly the delightful prison break scene. The visual effects, fight scenes and fantastical locations with grungy place names are also commendable. The final battle and resolution, though, fall a little flat.

What makes the movie worthwhile are the characters. Quill, also known as Star-Lord (mainly to himself), is a planet-hopping, rascally scoundrel of the Han Solo type, but more quick-witted than he seems. Gamora, unfortunately allotted the role of the “token girl” in the team, holds her own as a character with an intriguing past. The irritating, cynical and hilarious Rocket is also surprisingly poignant. Drax definitely had the best one-liners and impressive pan-faced delivery. And Groot—well, everyone falls in love with Groot: wholeheartedly sweet and innocent whilst being able to smash a dozen men against a wall with one twisty arm. Each of them have hints of a fascinating backstory.

My only quibble with sci-fi blockbusters is the relative sparseness of female characterisation. Gamora fills the shoes of the Strong Female Character well, but apart from her, the only women are Nebula, Nova Prime, Quill’s sickly mum and the bed-haired girl in a T-shirt whose name Quill couldn’t remember.

Nevertheless: lots of laughs, lots of action, and a feel-good romp through the galaxy. Worth a trip to the cinema.

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Should I read The Walking Dead?

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Before the TV show, there was a comic book series.

This is a difficult review for me to write, partly because the scope of the series is so vast (up to episode 119 and ongoing), and partly because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, and partly because I haven’t watched the TV series. I’ve been putting it off for a while now. 

I’m not an insanely loyal fan who’s been following the series from issue #1. I eventually picked it up a few months ago at the insistent recommendation of Victor, who said it was unputdownable. He even bought me a Surface so that I could read it.

Unboxing the Surface RT 2. :)

Unboxing the Surface RT 2. :)

(The purported consensus between the two of us is that I can use the tablet for reading other graphic novels, manga, PDFs, e-books, browsing the web, star-gazing, etc…but I am pretty sure the real reason was The Walking Dead.)

Neither am I a dedicated zombie enthusiast. I’ve always had a fascination for the zombie myth, but apart from enjoying a couple of zombie movies here and there (28 Weeks Later, Zombieland…) and dressing up as a zombie doctor for Halloween 2013, I’ve never really had a chance to delve into the zombie popculturedom. TWD seemed like a great place to start.

Not my best day.

Not my best day.

The thing about TWD, as you probably have heard, is that it’s less about the zombies themselves than about how humans respond and behave in an apocalypse sort of scenario. Suddenly thrown into a world where survivors are the exception, where you have to roam the country with a weapon at your side to look for food, where you can die at any time, anywhere, humanity’s bleakest and most animalistic instincts emerge. Survivors draw together with tribal loyalty, go to fierce and violent ends to protect their loved ones and become accustomed to callous acts. Children are shaped by this new, unsympathetic reality.

In a way, TWD is a social experiment. My mind drew parallels with The Lord of the Flies. Over time, it emerges that the most sinister enemy is not the ‘walking dead’, but fellow man.

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It’s a gory comic, though slightly meliorated by the black and white schematic. Writer and creator Robert Kirkman frequently uses graphic violence, shock tactics and disgust to keep the reader on the edge of her seat, sometimes more than is tasteful/necessary. Few issues are taboo. TWD does seek to explore every possible nuance and consequence of a zombie apocalypse and, for the most part, I think this is done well. We meet complex characters and cringe at the painful decisions they have to make. We feel their fears and pleasures.

So, should you read it? Yes, if you want a zombie story with lots of hacking of brains and action and fights. Also yes if you want a story about human relationship and psyche in hardship, with believable character development. No, if you get attached to characters easily. And no if you are looking for something that will lift your mood. It’s not a happy world!

OK. Hope I didn’t spoil anything major! Is it worth tackling the TV series next? Anyone?

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