Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Guardians of the Galaxy [2014] (directed and cowritten by James Gunn along with Nicole Perlman, inspired by the Marvel Comics comic book series [MarvU] [wikip 1969 2008] of the same name).  Of the Marvel comic book characters / series put on the big-screen to date, this is probably the most "out there" err "ambitious"  Indeed, initially, I chose to "put this one aside", contributing what I would have spent on the film to our Parish's "To Teach Who Christ Is" campaign ;-).  However, the film has proven to be wildly successful, indeed 2014's top grossing Hollywood film, making $332 million according to  So as the year has come to an end, it's hard for a reviewer like me to continue to "set aside" this film.

Indeed, part of the reason why I began writing reviews has been to raise-up and analyze films that _other critics_ have dissed or dismissed but have proven to be wildly popular nonetheless.  So I've happily written about / analyzed (favorably for the most part) films like the toy-based Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon [2011], and the video-game based Underworld: Awakening [2012] and Resident Evil: Retribution [2012] ;-) because I do believe that WILDLY popular films such as these have to speak to viewers on some deeper level than one would normally / superficially expect.

So how could the current film, Guardians of the Galaxy [2014], "speak to viewers" on a "deeper level" than one would initially expect?  The film is about Peter Quill (played briefly as a child by  Wyatt Oleff and later as an adult by Chris Pratt) who, in the 1970s, almost immediately after the death of his mother to cancer is "abducted by space aliens" (with only the clothes on his back and amusingly a 70s era "walkman") and transported into a world, universe WILDLY DIFFERENT than he (or we) was/were previously accustomed.

Okay the death of a parent or, more mundanely, the break-up of one's family can be WILDLY DISORIENTING to a child.  Note that I was at the border of such tragedy in my own family as my mother came down with and not-too-much-later died also of cancer as I was graduating from college.  So while far being older than Peter in the film when he lost his mother, I was still quite young and I can _personally attest_ to the experience being WILDLY DISORIENTING. 

However, putting the wildly disorienting experience of the death of a parent or the breakup of one's family aside -- consider ALSO that another recent film, here the Oscar caliber Wild [2014] is also about young woman played who lost her mother when she was young --  ALL OF US and especially the young are finding ourselves in a far more diverse / disorienting time than in times of recent past.  A number of years ago, a CNN report put it succinctly this way: In the United States, today's Seniors and their grandchildren live in two very different countries.  This is because some 90% of Seniors in the U.S. today remain white, while approaching 1/2 the nation's children especially in the younger grades are no longer white.  Now both African Americans and Hispanics tend to be Christian (Hispanics in large majority Catholic).  However, Asians and Middle Easterners are often, even generally, not.  The result is that American children (and even their parents) are living in a country / world far more dynamic / diverse than their grandparents and great-grandparents.  And that can be BOTH "disorienting" and experienced as COOL.

I do believe that this second possible response to the diversity (and its possibilities) that we're experiencing as COOL is reflected in the WILDLY POPULAR SCI-FI EXPRESSIONS a Cosmos absolutely brimming with almost infinite diversity / possibility.  One thinks of the phenomenal popularity of: (1) the 1960s original Star Trek television series, (2) the 1970s-80s original Star Wars trilogy (the early space alien filled "bar scene" etched into the minds of an entire generation of viewers), (3) the 1970s-80s era Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, which in only somewhat more staid / conventional form (radio then prose) expressed the wild diversity already present in the American/Marvel comic books like, in fact, the original Guardians of the Galaxy, and (4) the 1990s-2000s Men in Black films.  All of these Pop Cultural expressions have simply GLORIED in the infinite possibility of the Cosmos before us only a tiny portion of which we ever experience, let alone, understand.

Add to this the pop-cultural popularity of Erich von Däniken's "Chariots of the Gods?" inspired "Ancient Alien" [IMDb] phenomenon (which fascinatingly seeks, among other things, to bring "unity to religion(s)" by (re)labeling ALL GODS of ALL RELIGIONS to be previously "mis-understood" / "mis-interpreted" SPACE ALIENS), IT SHOULDN'T BE SURPRISING _AT ALL_ that a film like the current one, about a "terran" who was "abducted by space aliens" at "an early age," was (probably) initially "disoriented" by the experience BUT HAS SINCE "ADAPTED" AND IS NOW WILDLY ENJOYING THE POSSIBILITIES ... would prove to be PHENOMENALLY SUCCESSFUL:

ALL OF US TODAY to one extent or another are basically the film's "terran" hero "Peter Quill" ...

The plot doesn't matter.  The story just glories in infinite possibility.  And it's fun.  Peter's companions include an talking / intelligent raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically engineered / sentient and locomotive TREE named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a similarly genetically-altered woman (supposedly to :make her into a weapon") named Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana) and a blue-collarish generally red-faced "space tough" named Drax (played by Dave Bautista).  Together this motley, indeed quite ad hoc crew ... set out to (somehow) "protect the Galaxy" from celestial megalomaniacs / evil doers like Ronan (played by Lee Pace) whose Power (and monstrously Evil designs) we could only imagine. 

In a world that seems to be constantly shape-shifting and changing Peter Quill who's "found peace" and even _delight_ in all this change / diversity becomes a very interesting character indeed ;-).

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