MOVIE MAN

‘Guardians’ keeps Marvel’s master plan on track

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The big gamble paid off and it’s official: Marvel Studios is on the kind of roll Pixar enjoyed. Marvel can seemingly do no wrong.

ABOUT THE FILM

Marvel created a plan of Galactus size. Not only would a series of movies be made – some of them utilizing far-from-popular characters – but they would interlock with each other AND be projected out for years in a series of “phases.”

Plus there would be TV crossovers as well as “one-shots” released on DVDs and into the cyberworld – all part of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (MCU).

Clearly, this is a massive vision, especially considering some of the bigger comic book properties – X-Men, Spider-Man – are outside Marvel Studios’ grasp right now.

Phase One for MCU began in 2008 with “Iron Man” (an 8, Best of Year). The reboot of “The Incredible Hulk” (a 7) followed with both being good movies that enjoyed great success.

Next came “Iron Man 2″ (2010), “Thor” (2011), and “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) – all 7s.

By 2012, the studio had set up the first of three “Avengers” (an 8) movies, and, because of the high quality of its predecessors and the carefully crafted MCU master plan, “The Avengers” became one of the biggest moneymaking movies in history: No. 3 in the U.S with $623.4 million (behind only “Avatar” [2009, a 7, $760.5 million] and “Titanic” [1997, an 8, $658.6 million]). It’s No. 3 internationally, too, with $1.519 billion. Worldwide, only “Avatar” ($2.788 billion) and “Titanic” ($2.187 billion) lead “The Avengers.”

Clearly, Phase One was a monster success. Phase Two began last year with “Iron Man 3″ (a 6) and “Thor: The Dark World” (a 6). “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the third of four films in Phase Two. (TV’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is also part of the scheme.)

The final movie of Phase Two will certainly rake in hundreds of millions in the U.S. when “Avengers: Age of Ultron” arrives May 1, 2015.

Phase Three also starts in 2015 with “Ant-Man.” Fanboys know all about the drama behind its creation and the jettisoning of cult favorite director Edgar Wright who had spent years working on it.

The rest of Phase Three includes “Captain America 3″ (May 6, 2016), the very cool “Doctor Strange” (July 8, 2016), and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2″ (July 28, 2017).

Marvel packages the phases for home viewing along with some “one-shots” that expand on the massive universe. They also plan on using Netflix as a means to showcase Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and other characters to eventually assemble as the Defenders, kinda an Avengers lite.

AND … a Phase Four looms with new film dates just announced by Marvel (not the movies, just the dates): Nov. 3, 2017, July 6 and Nov. 2, 2018, and May 3, 2019. While one of those is surely the final “Avengers” movie, who knows what the others are?

Now all of this is some serious projecting. The same thing is going on with the “Star Wars” universe at Disney, which owns Marvel Studios. “Guardians” was the first Disney/Marvel collaboration, and it has worked out just fine. Here’s hoping the same holds true for the upcoming “Star Wars” onslaught that begins with “Episode VII” Dec. 18, 2015.

Next year will clearly see the release of two of the biggest movies of all-time.

THE PLOT (SPOILER)

In 1988, right after watching his mother die of cancer, young Quill (Chris Pratt as an adult) gets sucked up by a spaceship.

Decades later, he is a thief stealing an orb for the head galactic pirate who snatched him up as a kid, Yondu (Michael Rooker). Quill has no idea the orb is one of the priceless, deadly Infinity Stones.

Soon, a couple of bounty hunters – Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his thug protector tree-like Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) – are after Quill.

And so is Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who has been sent for the world-destroying orb by her cruel master Ronan (Lee Pace) who in turn wants to give it to all-mighty Thanos. But Gamora is actually anti-Ronan and wants to stash the orb from him with the Collector (Benicio del Toro) (Confused yet?)

Quill, Rocket, Groot and Gamora wind up jailed. They escape with the help of Drax the Destroyer (wrestler Dave Bautista) who is desperate for revenge on Ronan.

Evil Ronan gets the orb, but Quill partners with Yondu and his gang to attack Ronan’s ship before he can destroy Nova, a planet he has it in for.

There’s a mighty battle. However, Ronan proves to be one tough dude to dispatch. So, the riff-raff Guardians bond together for what could be one final time.

WHAT WORKS (SPOILER)

The Guardians are all really cool. Pratt is very good and the computer generation, of Rocket and Groot is perfect. (Good luck trying not to sniffle when one makes the ultimate sacrifice.) Rooker almost steals the show as the blue-skinned mercenary with a most unique arrow for a weapon.

As befitting a movie with a talking raccoon and lumbering tree, there are wisecracks aplenty. Many are funny.

All the CG is flawless; that’s a Marvel must and “Guardians” is great there, too. There are a slew of camera shots that veteran sci-fi fans will recognize from “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner,” among other classics.

“Guardians” is earning kudos for its soundtrack; Quill has a 1980s Walkman cassette recorder and a groovy mix tape. A devotee of dance, early on, he busts a few moves while off to snatch the orb, his orange earphones blaring “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone (a rare, all-Native American group).

Other hits older viewers will like include 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” “Go All the Way” by the Raspberries, and, if you are really hip, “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie.

And …

BEST SCENE

… Quill tells Gamora just how fantastic music and dancing is, weaving in the tale of the movie “Footloose.” He puts the earphones on her, and the classic “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by Elvin Bishop plays. She digs it, but … It’s a cool scene.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK (BIG OL’ SPOILER)

Man, the plot is super-convoluted early on. The movie piles on all the plot devices right off the bat and even some fanboys are gonna have to take a moment to get things straight.

The 3-D isn’t used to much great effect, really. That’s a bummer.

The battles are typical space shoot-‘em-ups, the sort that get mind-numbingly the same after a while.

The stinger (scene after the end credits) is way out in left field. The Collector is getting his face licked by a critter which Howard the Duck finds disgusting. Yes, Howard the Duck, the most famous misfire George Lucas ever turned out. You need to be a real Marvel nut to appreciate Howard. Excelsior!

THE RATING

This is PG-13 stuff with a couple of cuss words and the usual violence and comic gore.

SUMMING UP

“Guardians,” the preview to which the Movie Man must’ve seen 100 times, lived up to the hype.

NEXT UP

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” What else?

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