Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, James Gunn)

Guardians of the Galaxy does something splendid and director Gunn never really acknowledges it, which just makes it more splendid. The Rocket Raccoon character–beautifully voice acted by Bradley Cooper–is easily the most successful CG film creation to date. And Cooper gives the film’s best performance; whoever directed Cooper in the sound booth, be it Gunn, Cooper himself, someone else, does a great job.

Gunn directing the actual actors? Not a great job. Not great enough to notice Chris Pratt’s vanishing accent, Pratt and Zoe Saldana’s shocking lack of chemistry, Saldana’s more shocking lack of presence or the not even soap opera nefarious villainy of Lee Pace. So not a good job.

The less said about Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly and Benicio Del Toro the better.

Tyler Bates’s musical score combines plagiarism and ineptness (like much of the film’s visual design, actually).

Guardians is mean-spirited “fun,” with the audience always asked to laugh at someone or other’s suffering. The scenes where Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman try to confront it–usually between Pratt and Saldana–stop the film cold. Then the raccoon or his walking tree (who gets all the wonderment, which is silly) come along and save things.

Or even Dave Bautista, who’s not exactly good, but he’s sincere. And sincerity goes a long way in Guardians because there’s so little of it.

Gunn exhibits apathy, cruelty and an utter lack of imagination. Guardians is far better than it should be.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by James Gunn; screenplay by Gunn and Nicole Perlman, based on a comic book by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; director of photography, Ben Davis; edited by Fred Raskin, Hughes Winborne and Craig Wood; music by Tyler Bates; production designer, Charles Wood; produced by Kevin Feige; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (Groot), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Lee Pace (Ronan), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), John C. Reilly (Corpsman Dey), Glenn Close (Nova Prime), Laura Haddock (Meredith Quill), Sean Gunn (Kraglin), Peter Serafinowicz (Denarian Saal), Christopher Fairbank (The Broker) and Benicio Del Toro (The Collector).


Drax the Destroyer 4 (February 2006)

271067Giffen does manage a couple nice plot twists for the last issue, but since he’s ending this series as a prologue to some other series… there’s not much closure. In fact, the lack of closure just points out what a strange book Drax has been. The human inhabitants–turned into slave labor–are dismissible. Giffen made two of them sympathetic.

He also doesn’t work to make Drax sympathetic. Instead, the Skrull comes off as more likable. The Skrull has a very nice finish in the series (though apparently not enough to make it to the cliffhanger). There’s a strange coda with Cammi’s mother and her sidekick, like Giffen remembered it later.

The first half of the issue, even without the nice Skrull moments, reads better. Giffen isn’t rushing things for it.

Still, he wrote an amusing comic. Not successful, but definitely amusing. Shame the Skrull couldn’t have been the lead.

CREDITS

Hard Penance; writer, Keith Giffen; artist, Mitch Breitweiser; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Andy Schmidt; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Drax the Destroyer 3 (January 2006)

271066Cute Doctor Who reference.

Giffen also has a nice little moment where the “reality” of the Marvel Universe comes into play. There’s no way to call for help in a rural area to report an alien attack.

The issue opens with the girl bantering with the Skrull, which is a fun scene, especially since Giffen has the girl outwit the space thugs. The good banter distracts from the lack of actual content; there are a number of well-written scenes, but nothing with much heft.

For the issue’s last act–I use the term loosely as Giffen doesn’t really work towards a first or second act–Drax returns. Thanks to alien physiology, it’s the first time the reader gets to meet him. It’s also the first time Giffen gives him much to say.

It’s fun–Giffen writes Drax well against Cammi, the girl–but the comic’s running out of steam.

CREDITS

From the Ashes; writer, Keith Giffen; artist, Mitch Breitweiser; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Andy Schmidt; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Drax the Destroyer 2 (December 2005)

271065Giffen continues to impress on Drax. Besides having the two thug aliens for humor, there’s also the Skrull. The Skrull–and his dimwit sidekick–are very funny. Giffen goes beyond the humor though. He’s got some fantastic plot twists.

The first one involves the girl, Cammi–actually, so does the second one. Giffen writes teenage girls well, apparently. Anyway, the first twist is the aliens leaving her alive. She doesn’t quite stand them down, but she points out living in the Marvel Universe, aliens aren’t exactly exciting anymore.

The second one has her setting Drax up to fight for her. It leads into the end twist. Giffen’s bucking the convention with this character; she’s not the nice human child who befriends an alien.

The last twist–besides that cliffhanger–is the aliens’ plan. They want slave labor to repair their ship. It’s like a fifties b movie. It’s great stuff.

CREDITS

Illegal Aliens; writer, Keith Giffen; artist, Mitch Breitweiser; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Andy Schmidt; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Drax the Destroyer 1 (November 2005)

271064There’s so much sci-fi mumbo jumbo in this issue. So, so much. The first five pages or so are just Keith Giffen writing sci-fi babble for his alien characters. Then the comic starts. The sci-fi babble comes back a little later, but the comic’s strong enough it doesn’t annoy.

It’s a great setup. An intergalactic prison ship crashes on Earth (in Alaska). Will the surviving aliens come across the precious teenagers from the nearby town and will it be trouble? Of course. But Giffen writes the characters well–there’s the tough girl and the dorky guy. And the stuff with the aliens bickering… Giffen does fine with it too.

Where Drax has problems is the art. Mitch Breitweiser has a lot of problems keeping the figures consistent, not to mention the dimensions of heads. Lots of problems there. And the action’s not great.

But the writing’s strong.

CREDITS

Earthfall; writer, Keith Giffen; artist, Mitch Breitweiser; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Molly Lazer, Aubrey Sitterson and Andy Schmidt; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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