Tag Archives: james gunn

Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3,’ Closing the Book

James Gunn directs Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautistia, and Bradley Cooper. 

Consistently chaotic and confusing, the film is the kind of mess that only a mother could love. 

Director James Gunn’s first stab at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, released in August 2014, inspired me to write: “Fine, if anonymous big-screen entertainment from a company that appears intent on a course that is slowly flattening. As long as the money keeps flowing, expect more of the same in the future from Marvel Studios.” 

His second entry, released in May 2017, indeed featured more of the same. In essence, I wrote, it is “an animated film, well-integrated with live-action players, that is targeted at the young adult audience. Its sole purpose is to entertain, not to disturb or question the order of things; it’s a goal that it meets quite well.” 

Thus, it’s no surprise to report that his third entry heaps more of the same, only in greater quantities and with less humor than before. There are more creatures, more characters, more visual effects, and more pop songs, yet the whole thing feels tired and obligatory, as everyone goes through the paces of what is intended to kick off the box office season on a high point. 

Writer/director Gunn shows new characters arriving with the assumption that viewers will already know and be invested in said characters, presumably from Marvel comic books, when those of us who are not dedicated Marvel fans whose entire universe revolves around Marvel characters will not have any idea what is going on. 

Truly, this is a movie that only a die-hard fan could love. Occasionally, things happened or words were spoken that made me smile or even laugh, especially those related to the “stupid idiot” Drak (Dave Bautista) — his words, not mine. And I suppose Vin Diesel should be commended for dreaming up 1,000 ways to say “I am Groot.” 

But, for some reason, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) spends the entire movie moping about his lost love, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), all while he is moving heaven and earth to try and save his “best friend,” Rocket the self-denying raccoon (Bradley Cooper), who lies mortally wounded while he recollects his tragic origin story. *sigh* *sob* Oh, yes, many, many people die, or are at least shot with “phew” “phew” weapons, the sounds kids make to mime bullets or laser explosives. And so it goes. 

Only a “stupid idiot” would watch this movie with the expectation, nay, hope, that it would be better, more enjoyable, or funnier than the previous two entries. So call me a stupid idiot. 

The film opens in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on May 5, via Disney. For more information about the film, ask your children. 

Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

GuardiansOfTheGalaxyVol2-300A buoyantly silly sci-fi romp, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is completely enjoyable, if more than a bit familiar. That’s by design, of course.

By the time James Gunn rewrote Nicole Perlman’s script and then directed Guardians of the Galaxy, which was released in August 2014, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was feeling hit-and-miss, quality-wise. (See Iron Man and its sequel, or Thor and its sequel.) Adding to the malaise, just a few months earlier Edgar Wright had departed Ant-Man after years of development due to “creative differences.”

Around that same time, Captain America: The Winter Soldier started to set the ship aright, as far as introducing new, if still straightforward, textures to the Marvel series, and then the first Guardians of the Galaxy represented the first full-bore science-fiction entry.

The film introduced a ragged team of misfits who were less familiar to the general public. Even though it was still an origin story, it felt fresh, in part because it wasn’t tied specifically to any other Marvel films, and in part because it wasn’t focused on an apocalyptic threat to planet Earth. Instead, the action was set against a rich variety of colorful, invented backgrounds, following, in effect, a gang of thieves who slowly bonded. And Gunn told his tale in a sprightly fashion.

As the 15th installment of Marvel’s series — and the seventh sequel — Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 inevitably follows well-worn patterns. Gunn’s sense of humor, though, notably his tendency to ridicule anything that appears grand or showy or pretentious, once again serves the characters well and also tends to undermine self-serious grandiosity.

By the story he chooses to tell, Gunn falls more in line with the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) meets his long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell). He also must sort through his feelings about Yondu (Michael Rooker), the belligerent pirate who raised him and who has now been hired to capture him.

That allows family relationships among the guardians to take top priority: Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillan); Rocket the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his now infantile “brother” Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel); even Drax (Dave Bautista), who talks of his lost wife and child to the sisterly Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who, in turn, cares for Ego like a daughter.

In between the family talk and character reveals, Gunn also weaves in a tale of revenge and retribution pursued by the arrogant Sovereign race, led by the haughty Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), who hired Yondu to capture Peter Quill and the guardians.

It’s all perfectly harmless, as one expects nowadays from a Marvel comic book movie. The foes are vanquished, the heroes are validated, and the importance of family above all else as the key to happiness is driven home. Funny that the film, which dares to feature a god, never touches on issues of worship or divinity or religion or anything that might be genuinely troublesome.

Then again, that’s not its intention. Essentially, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an animated film, well-integrated with live-action players, that is targeted at the young adult audience. Its sole purpose is to entertain, not to disturb or question the order of things; it’s a goal that it meets quite well.

The film opens wide in theaters throughout Dallas on Friday, May 5.

Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ More of the Same From the Marvel Dream Factory

'Guardians of the Galaxy' (Marvel)
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (Marvel)
Bright and personable as it is, Guardians of the Galaxy can’t help but feel like another product issued from the Marvel Studios assembly line.

Sure, the characters are not the same — they even have different names! — and only one of the team members is a confirmed member of the Earth-based human race. But for all the green skin and tattooes and animal skin involved, the characters are mix-and-match assemblages of the familiar Marvel personalities. They are defiantly, resolutely likable, darn it, and resolutely unselfish, kind-hearted, and good-humored.

They are the kind of heroes that kids imagine they’ll grow up to be some day. That is, if the kids confine their reading material to Marvel comic books, television shows, and movies.

The 10th installment of the ongoing Marvel Studios saga, Guardians of the Galaxy distinguishes itself in its setting, which, after an emotionally-affecting prologue, takes place entirely in a science-fiction universe. Humans make up only a small percentage of the population, which is pleasant to see, although, for all the different-colored skin and rampant body modifications, English — middle American dialect, please! — remains the predominant language.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, friendly and charming) is a bounty hunter who runs afoul of aliens while pursuing his latest treasure. The treasure is highly sought by fellow adventurers Gamora (Zoe Saldana, painted green) and the team of the feisty Rocket Raccoon (given a brisk, brusque old-school New York gangster accent by Bradley Cooper) and sentient tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, evidently for reasons that have more to do with promoting the movie than anything else). The foursome are sent to jail, where they soon befriend the vengeance-minded Drax (Dave Bautista, who sounds like a professional wrestler).

The film functions as an orgin story for the team, with primary emphasis on Peter Quill. They do things that we expect from modern superheroes –fight in quick-cut action scenes, exchange peppy banter, scowl aplenty, stick up reluctantly for one another — but little that we don’t expect from modern superheroes. It’s amusing enough as far as it goes, yet there’s nothing in the movie that’s authentically daring or different; instead, it’s more of the same from the Marvel dream factory.

Director James Gunn, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nicole Perlman, delivers an experience that is familiar, despite the very different settings. The harsher edges that were present in his previous directorial efforts (2006’s Slither and 2010’s Super) have been sanded down to meet the PG-13 rating requirement of Marvel films. Actors who have been distinctive in other roles sacrifice their individuality so as to bring to life one-dimensional comic book characters. Chief example: Karen Gillan as the “evil” Nebula, who is permitted but one expression and one tone of voice.

Guardians of the Galaxy is fine, if anonymous big-screen entertainment from a company that appears intent on a course that is slowly flattening. As long as the money keeps flowing, expect more of the same in the future from Marvel Studios.

The film opens wide throughout Dallas and Ft. Worth on Friday, August 1.