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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Space Opera > Comedy > Superhero > Counterculture > Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014/Marvel/Disney Blu-ray)

Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014/Marvel/Disney Blu-ray)

Picture: B Sound: B+ Extras: B- Film: B

Though comic book companies are now known for the superhero genre as their mainstay for sales and success, comics can be as diverse as motion pictures with other successful genres covering comedy, horror, war, romance, child tales, animals, drama, science fiction and what eventually became counterculture art discourses in unrated underground comix. The two major publishers in the 1960s and 1970s, Marvel and DC, did not make comix, but were not going to let that genre go untouched without answering it. Marvel was always the rawer of the two coming later and building their roster of characters up in a context of that time since they were rebuilding more from scratch than their major rival.

This also led to comedy in the Mad Magazine mode including the comic series Not Brand Echh and Arghh! This informed their own special attitude in their mainstream action and superhero comics and the resulting attitude was uniquely Marvel at the Silver Age peak of their powers. I wondered if we would ever see a motion picture that could capture this sense of madness, subversion, fun and shots against tyranny. Then I saw James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) and saw this vision realized.

Though taking place in the future, the screenplay by Gunn & Nicole Perlman (from the Dan Abnett/Andy Lansing comic book for starters) has an absolute grasp of what they are doing and every genre they are juggling and crossing throughout. The film credits follow an informative pre-title sequence, we see a masked man in an interesting outfit landing on a planet for reasons unknown. As soon as we see he has an old portable cassette tape player that starts playing classic 1970s hit songs, you know your in for something different that is not going to be another space opera, comedy or mere action adventure. This is quickly confirmed when the man turns out to be one Peter Quill, who has dubbed himself with the 'outlaw' name Star-Lord (Chris Pratt in a breakout performance that is one of the best comic turns of the year) trying to snatch a powerful orb before being intercepted.

This is Quill's usual luck, the kind of luck that has him arrested, hated and often places he should not or does not need to be. Eventually, this leads him to join up with a grunt named Drax (Dave Bautista) who will fight anyone, Rocket (brilliantly voiced by Bradley Cooper) who will try top con anyone, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) who is the con-racoon's friend and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who will turn out to be the key to a big battle upcoming. The chemistry they slowly pull off is a textbook example of great filmmaking and everyone involved is in top form. But that's not al that works.

The film looks great, the money is on the screen, the designs more intricately thought out than most films of its kind and use of color better than most such films. The smart writing, consistent plotting and comic timing are great and putting it over the top are strong supporting actors like Djimon Hounsou, a scene-chewing Michael Rooker, Benicio Del Toro, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, uncredited voice of Josh Brolin, voice of Nathan Fillon, voice of Rob Zombie, voice of Seth Green in a final turn that shows how great this film can be (don't cheat by looking it up if you have not seen the film before) and another amusing Stan Lee cameo.

Now some have questioned if this is a superhero genre film and directly, it is not, yet it has its spirit and energy, plus some characters that fit into that kind of a universe, so it is enough of that genre to count, yet Guardians is so much more and different from most of the films that have come before it (John Carpenter's Dark Star (1974, see the Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) would be a spiritual cousin to it, but it is best to just enjoy it instead of analyzing it. There will be enough of that to come. Films like this only happen once in a generation and it shows just how many of the best people Marvel Studios has on board right now. I wish more studios had this much heart and soul all the time.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is not bad, the film shot with an Arri Alexa XT Plus camera using Panavision, Cooke, Angenieux and J-D-C Scope lenses to achieve a look with character, but the definition is not up there with the 3D and 2D theatrical presentations I have seen and oddly so. I thought on this and now realize that the reason depth and detail is slightly affected is because there is a greenish tone (subtle as it may or may not be) that was not in theaters or other clips I have seen of the film before. Why? Who knows, but we have seen this kind of tampering and slight changing in Blu-ray versus theatrical releases before, so it is not new, but it I always not necessary and not what I bet Director of Photography Ben Davis (Layer Cake, Kick Ass) intended. Otherwise, this is just fine.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix is even better, a more than acceptable mixdown from the theatrical Dolby Atmos 11.1 mix some theatergoers might have been privileged to experience (plus some screenings had D-BOX, which also worked very effectively for those who did not think it was like having someone kick your chair every time you got into the film) in its first release. The classic 1970s hits have been sourced from decent stereo masters (too bad no 5.1 despite that most of the songs would be able too pull that off, but the narrative source is an analog cassette tape player, so that might be pushing it) and new score is fine, along with constantly enveloping surrounds and superior state-of-the-art sound design. That makes it easily one of the best mixes of the year!

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by director Gunn, three Making-of Featurettes, Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel and an exclusive look at Marvel's The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the highly anticipated sequel to the mega-blockbuster Avengers feature film that is looking good!

- Nicholas Sheffo


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