Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy First Impressions

So I'm sure you've seen it. Just in case....

When I got my first glimpse of Marvel's next summer flick during the credits of Thor 2, I kinda winced. I like Benicio del Torro, but everything about the scene struck me as campy. Everything from the bright colors to the costumes to del Torro's surreal take on The Collector made me nervous.

When the fifteen second teaser was released, it raised my hopes a little. Granted, my expectations were pretty dismal. Even before the Collector scene, I knew that the threat of Hollywood playing a movie featuring a talking raccoon just for laughs was high. Comic book fans know he's nothing to laugh at, but that's now how the unwashed masses think.

Most people tend to respond to that by saying they have faith in Marvel Studios. And, well, it's true that Marvel Studios bucked a decades old tradition of terrible superhero movies, and changed popular perception of our beloved genre. They made some truly great films. Two years ago. They stopped impressing me after The Avengers. I loathed Iron Man 3, and Thor 2 left me shrugging.

But in that first fifteen second teaser, I thought... okay. Maybe it won't suck after all. I got a fairly solid Farscape vibe off it. The sets and costumes were cool. It promised lots of action.

Then the full trailer came out.

Now I won't get all fanboy and declare that the movie will suck. It might not. I predict it'll do well. It's coming out at the end of the summer, when competition will be waning. And it's clearly appealing to a wide base of comic fans and movie goers.

But I really don't get the gushing anticipation I've been reading. The trailer knocked my hopes right back down a few notches.

I am well and truly torn on it. Like, I loved the choice of music. I'm all for fun and lighthearted. But I hated the line they chose to end on. "What a bunch of a-holes" What? That line is terrible. It sounds forced and unnatural. Discounting the fact that they are supposed to be aliens, who would say something like that in that context? I'm going to predict it'll be the aliens misusing a phrase they hear Peter Quill say earlier in the movie, but that doesn't redeem it. A line like that, used like that (without my rationalization, which could be wrong) transforms the tone of the whole thing from funny to silly. There's a difference.

So my biggest hangup is the overall tone. The trailer has set the expectation that this will be tongue in cheek, bordering on camp. The Nova Corps looks like space faring Keystone Cops. They cast John C. Reilley to be one of them. You may remember him from such landmarks of comedy as Walk Hard, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights. Not a good sign.

(Granted, he is talented, and funny given a good script. He's been in some things I liked, but he is best known for movies that are surreal and silly).

If you want your audience to take your heroes remotely seriously, don't introduce them by mocking them. Doing so set the expectation of a silly spoof comedy with pretty scenery and a budget it won't deserve.

Second big hangup is the spotlight character, Peter Quill/Star-Lord. Now there is a possibility that he will be a loveable rogue, anti-hero. A John Crichton, a Han Solo, maybe even a Jack Burton, who despite being so out of his element and having a ton of comedic moments, manages not to come across as a total doofus.

But the trailer set up the audience for the expectation that he'll just be a clown. They open by mocking him, for which he has no rebuttal. Then he gets tazed by the bully who stole his Walkman. I'll admit the "obscene gesture alert" is hysterical... but all that does is give me a Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan vibe. I'm sure he's got a ton of hidden potential, blah blah blah. He'll save the day at the end of his hero's journey. But will I care?

I say again... Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it will be an action romp more like The Fifth Element. A light hearted movie will be a welcome switch after Captain America 2, which looks awesome, but intense. Maybe it'll be fun without riding on gags. Maybe the trailer was misleading and only showed one small aspect of the overall tone. It has that potential.

But I don't have enough faith in Marvel Studios to assume that anymore.

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