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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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Movie Review – X-Men: Days of Future Past

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What is with the onslaught of sci-fi/action/adventure movies coming out lately?

Not that I’m complaining, but…physically, I can’t keep up! Robocop, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Transcendence, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, Edge of Tomorrow…One of my online course instructors pointed out that most people are fans of science fiction without even realising it, and it’s true: science fiction and fantasy movies constantly dominate the box office.

I struggled to find the time to fit in a viewing of X-men: Days of Future Past, but I wanted to see this movie so much that with much dedication we squeezed it in between work, food, sleep and more work. We chowed down our dinner. We bought a banana choc top (the best kind) and marched into the theatre with a sense of great anticipation. I had thrills. This was movie-watching excitement at its best.

Last decade I followed the X-Men 1-3 movies with enthusiasm, and more recently I thought First Class was a well-made exploration of the early lives of Professor X and Magneto. (Origins and The Wolverine were both a little disappointing in different ways, although the latter had a decent standalone story.)

So how did I find X-Men? Well, my expectations were pretty sky high, and it’s safe to say the movie didn’t disappoint.

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Pros:

  • Decent action scenes. You get thrown into the action pretty much straightaway. Before you even really know what’s going on, there are flaming people and element-shifting robots having a punch on. Don’t worry about feeling confused though, because the movie is ridiculously easy to follow: the characters explain every plot point and change of motive as they go along, which I’ll mention further below…
  • Amazing special effects. I could point out a few scenes here but it’s better if you just watch it :)
  • Interesting new heroes. Of course, along with half the internet, I have to gush about Quicksilver (Evan Peters), the super speedy kid who gets recruited to help rescue Magneto, and his scene-stealing performance. Although I was really doubtful when I saw the pre-release pictures, I ended up really liking the way they styled his character: the silver hair, goggles, Pink Floyd t-shirt and space-age jacket. It suits his personality and doesn’t try too hard. I also must mention Blink (Fan Bing Bing), who can teleport herself and others through these awesome pink portals. Also she’s Asian and has purple hair and green eyes.
  • A solid storyline: go back in time, stop a pivotal event. They didn’t make things too fancy, though it could have got convoluted with the collision of past and future. It felt a bit Inception-y towards the end there.

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Cons:

  • Clunky dialogue in certain scenes. This goes hand in hand with the point I made above about having characters reiterate every step of the story. It didn’t leave much to the imagination. A couple of conversations had me cringing a little when they felt too forced.
  • A couple of plot inconsistencies…which I wish I could discuss but cannot without spoiling!
  • Generally corny jokes. The genuine laugh out loud moment was, of course, the slow-mo scene. Best.
  • Featuring fewer female leads. Really, it was only Mystique who got a kick-ass role :( Jennifer Lawrence, why do you get to be so awesome?

If you want to clarify the timeline of the X-Men Movie Universe, here are a couple of links to check out (spoiler alert – watch the movie before you click these!):

Official Fox tie in website: http://www.25moments.com

X-Men Movie Visual Timeline: https://imgur.com/a/B2M1n