Last weekend, I had two films I wanted to go and see. I couldn’t decide between them. So I just made time for them both.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy technically takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the same universe as The Avengers and its associated movies, which is expressly indicated at one or two points – but after the opening scene, it’s about as far away from Earth as you can get. The main character, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is abducted by aliens as a child, and 26 years later, has grown into a space-faring outlaw who discovers a mysterious orb on an abandoned planet. When he attempts to sell it, he gets into a scrap with a green assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and two bounty hunters, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and walking tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). After all four of them get sent to prison, they team up with fellow prisoner Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) to escape with the orb, only to find their job going from making some money to saving the galaxy.
This is one of the most genuinely funny movies I’ve seen in a while. Following the necessarily dark opening scene where young Peter watches his mother die of cancer and then gets abducted, we then go to adult Peter walking into an empty temple in his search for treasure – before turning on his Walkman and dancing through the place. It’s a scene that sets the tone for most of the movie – very tongue-in-cheek. I was smiling a lot throughout. The five main characters, and the dialogue they are given, are all fantastic – Rocket is particularly funny.
I still felt like the film was lacking something, however, and I’m not quite sure what it was. Maybe, even though it has such great characters in it, the story is somewhat generic and not especially interesting, though certainly not bad. I wasn’t that impressed with the main villain, Ronan, either: he doesn’t get enough screentime and he’s basically a generic violent baddie. Maybe I would like the film better on a second viewing – but on the first viewing, still definitely worth seeing. Rating: 3.5/5.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The titles of these new Planet of the Apes movies bother me a bit. The first one is called “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” but by the end, it hasn’t actually risen – it’s just established the creation of intelligent apes who have found their own little corner of Earth. Similarly, the Planet of the Apes hasn’t yet really dawned by the end of this movie – while the immediate situation is resolved to some degree, there’s still clearly at least one more movie to come. And shouldn’t “Dawn” come before “Rise” anyway? And what synonym are they going to come up with for the next movie?
Ah, well. We open ten years after the events of the first film: the human population has been decimated by a manmade virus associated with the project that created the abnormally intelligent apes to begin with, while the apes themselves, led by Caesar the chimpanzee (Andy Serkis), are still living comfortably in the woods outside San Francisco, believing humans to be extinct. Of course, they aren’t: a clan of survivors has set up camp in what’s left of the city. They need to get the power back on to keep going, and the only way is to re-activate a hydroelectric dam that happens to be in the middle of the apes’ territory. With some representatives of both sides desperate for peaceful co-operation, and others pushing for attacking now before the other side gets the chance, it’s a very tense situation that only needs one little nudge to upset the balance and make everything go to hell.
The conflict from the situation comes easily and follows a logical path – while there are one or two characters who seem to be hostile for no good reason, most of them are perfectly understandable in what they do. Even though the best solution is obviously for both sides to work together, the apes can’t trust the humans and the humans know full well how the apes feel, so the actions that take place make unfortunate sense. Plus, not all of the characters take extreme positions of “peace and love” or “kill em all”; it’s more realistic than that. Gary Oldman’s character, for example, is determined to make sure that the humans be able to defend themselves but still isn’t all for just blasting the apes away. Caesar, meanwhile, goes on a particularly fascinating journey, wanting peace but still unable to truly trust humans – and eventually learning he can’t put all his trust in apes, either. He’s an excellent hero for the story – not bad for a CGI chimp.
Special effects get taken for granted a bit these days, but the work on the apes is fantastic. Both the expressions and the movements are done perfectly – I mean, you can always tell it’s CGI, but you never actually think about it. Not to mention, this still makes it fairly unnerving when they start talking. And when the action properly kicks off, it’s exciting and suitably harsh and gritty.
Overall, a very good movie, and while I was a bit frustrated by the ending still leaving us hanging, I’m still looking forward to seeing what comes next. Rating: 4/5.