Monday, September 8, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy – 121 min – PG13

This movie is based on a comic book that started in the sixties, then had a revival in 2008. I know this because I had to look it up. I never followed this title so going into this movie I was a blank slate. I enjoyed the ride this movie took me on. It was something that tied into the Marvel universe but it was like nothing I have seen before. It’s not my favorite film from Marvel Studios but it is good enough to make the top 5. I gladly give this movie a green light.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a human from Earth who was abducted by aliens as a child. He was raised by raiders and has grown up to become Star Lord, a notorious thief, at least in his mind. He steals an orb that an evil warlord, Ronan (Lee Pace), wants for himself. Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an assassin, is sent to retrieve the stone for Ronan. Before Peter has a chance to sell the stolen artifact he is attached by Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel) a couple of bounty hunters. They all get arrested for causing a fight in the middle of the city. In prison, they meet Drax (Dave Bautista), a criminal who is seeking revenge on Ronan for the death of his daughter and wife.

This crew joins forces for financial reasons to start out with but as they work together they develop a relationship that builds the team. And thus the Guardians are born. Their friendship is tested as they try and unload the artifact and find out that it is really a weapon that can destroy worlds.
The most enjoyable part of this film is the pop culture references that completely baffle the aliens who Peter comes in contact with. Some of the colloquialisms that we don’t even think about would be completely alien to beings form a different planet.

A friend of mine said this reminds him of a live action Heavy Metal. I would agree, aside for a lack of sensuality it was a completely fitting the gritty science fiction setting that you would find in that magazine.

I did feel the length of the movie at times. It could have been tighter, but it’s easy to see why the filmmakers would have a hard time cutting things out. The story itself could be trimmed, but visually, each scene looks great. This is an origin story so we need to do some slogging through exposition and exploration of the characters. Now that’s done we can go straight to new story arc in the sequel that has been announced.

It will be interesting to see how they tie in this section of the universe with the heroes that we have already seen. There are a few items that cross over like the Tesseract and Thanos (Josh Brolin). Where we go from here is going to be spectacular. It is wonderful to see movies being made by people who are creative and know how to tell stories. This film is another example of the business model of studio heads just running a business and the creative people telling the stories.

Guardians of the Galaxy is this generation’s Star Wars. This is an epic space story that has heroic acts and exotic locations. It’s not the retelling of the hero’s journey but it has a lot of similarities to the themes and flavor.

James Gunn directed this film and his bawdy humor is watered down but still apparent. For Marvel films this one has the most questionable language of all of the films. It’s a fine line between just the right amount to give the environment depth and being offensive. He picked the right amount.

Like any Marvel movie you need to stay until the end. You will see an old face that we have not seen since he was managing Beverly Switzler’s band. Seth Green performed as this character in the end stringer and I am guessing that Marvel is going to try and pretend that the other film this character was in never happened.

One thing we do know for sure is there will be another movie and like everything else we are seeing from Marvel I know it’s going to be big.

What should Marvel do next?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow - 113min - PG13

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." - Tom Clancy. This phrase is the fundamental truth that everyone who enjoys science fiction and fantasy lives by. Writers who work in this genre know that if you set down rules to define the fantastic things you are showing us, you need to make sure that they are understandable, and when you set down rules, you live by them. This film worked very hard at balancing the story and plays within the rules for 95% of the film, then completely ignores its rules in the last 5% of the film. For that last bit, they earn a Red Light.

Earth is being invaded by aliens and the humans are losing. Lt. Col. Cage (Tom Cruise) works in the Army press office. While being reassigned to the front lines, he freaks out and gets busted down to private. Now, instead of reporting on the invasion he is fighting on the front lines, even though he is not a combat trained. The invasion goes poorly and he dies confronting an alien that contaminates his blood and causes him to restart his day. Just like a video game when you die you go back to the save point and try it again. After you die, you now know what is going to happen so you can avoid it.

This is a genetic capability of these aliens and the sole reason they are winning. Once alien Alphas die, they go back in time and, armed with the knowledge of how they died, avoid it. So that is the rule that we now live with. In this story this is how things work. Cage, being tainted with the alien blood also has this power now. He starts back at the morning before the final battle. The problem is that no one believes him. Really who would?

Here is where the rules are very important. The moment he dies he has to go back to that same moment in time before the battle. So he struggles through and learns how to fight from that same battle over and over again. He runs into another person who has had the same kind of event affect her. Sgt. Rita (Emily Blunt) was contaminated and had the same problem but she almost died and had a complete blood transfusion and lost the power. Not before winning a battle and winning her the moniker The Angel of Verdun. Cage tells her, and she tells him to contact her when he wakes up again.

Together they work to get Cage ready to change the outcome of the battle and formulate a plan to end the battle.

Remember the rule they started with? Once he dies, he gets come back to the morning before the battle. I love how they have edited out all of the boring restarts we don't need to see again. We see death after death after death but don't have to walk through the boring parts. You have to realize that Cage has had to live through the entire day several hundred times. Possibly thousands but we don't need to watch the reboot from the start. The gamers in my readership will get this next observation.

Imagine you are playing a game that has no save point except right after the character creation. Now imagine there is no quick play button through any of the cinematic scenes. Now imagine you can never play any other game or sleep or do anything else but play that same game you are locked into. You now have an image of a new level of hell. That has been Cages existence for years? This is a pretty horrific existence and I love video games.
I enjoyed thinking of that aspect of the film and not having to watch it. By this time, you had me bought into this new world and its rules on how things work. There was a lot of work done here to transfer the best parts of this hellish world to entertain us.

I hate however how this film now takes those rules and throws them out at the end of the film. If you don't want any spoilers stop reading here, but if you want to see this film rant continue please keep reading.

What have we learned, dead means reboot. So we have to kill the alien that is rebooting before we die. And if we kill them what happens? Reboot. This is the first problem that I have with this concept. The aliens reboot when they die and have the ability to avoid the thing that killed them. Ok let's pass this one up. Let's go to the one that really gets me mad.

The death blow is delivered. The alien Omega is dead and Cage and Rita have convinced a strike team to sneak behind Alien lines and deliver the final blow. They die Heroes and save the world. NOPE, they miraculously find themselves free of the cycle and are back before the morning of the restart and never start down the path of events that lead to them being heroes. The news reports that the aliens have just died. It seems that Cage gets some of the big alien blood in him and he is now free and can keep his original job and also gets to court Rita because he knows everything about her and they live happily ever after.

I am not anti-happy ending. I enjoy them as much as the next viewer. I really don’t like them when they are misplaced and an opportunity missed. Here is my armchair directing suggestion that I would have liked to see. Cage does kill the Omega. He sacrifices himself and the time moves forward. They are heroes for finishing the war and saving humanity. Having them make the ultimate sacrifice is great, but stealing it away with a restart that wipes away their efforts seems cruel.

Maybe we can slather the film in alien blood and get a better ending after this film dies. But I suppose that is just me.