In 2014, while people ran to see Luc Bessen‘s Lucy, many criminally avoided or brow beats his other effort, 3 Days to Kill. McG and Luc Besson teamed up to deliver an absurd and stylish action thriller. Much like Besson’s Taken the plot involves a father named Ethan, played by Kevin Costner, who is pulled back into a chaotic world of espionage, murder, and torture. This plot has been chomped up and spit out countless times; however, Luc Besson and McG give enough twists and self aware winks to the audience. This isn’t Taken 3 nor is it a parody of those movies. These two are merely taking one last fun ride through this genre. This movie focused less on plot and more on character development. Because of the characters, we’re given a delicious amount of WTF? moments with their dark humor and screwballs. The torture scenes are a great example of the change up. Instead of screaming in the victims face, “where is she?”, Ethan’s fatherly approach is beating and threatening a hostage until he tells Ethan’s daughter Zooey a tomato sauce recipe. Yes, the father somehow patches things back up with his family and decimates all the bad guys. McG’s camera work is stylish and fun with a wonderful color palette, yet the scenes seemed a little undercooked. While some scenes were pure eye candy others seemed mellow in comparison. Although it never attains the height of Crank: High Voltage or even McG’s Charlies Angels: Full Throttle, this movie definitely goes to the same dance clubs. Then there’s Kevin Costner’s performance. I quite honestly bought that he was dying of cancer while tripping balls because of his medication in the middle of a shootout, or he was earnestly trying to be a good father while simultaneously choosing which torturing tactics he should use next. Honestly, if he or another actor came in and phoned in this performance, the movie would have lost its cerebral WTF charm. His acting was Oscar worthy compared to the snoring Draft Day where we needed to cattle prod Kevin Costner to make sure he was alive. If you love Luc Besson’s work, this is a movie worth checking out. Bessen traded some of the snarl and spit of Taken for the attitude and humor many of his other movies are known for, and McG did a pretty fine job translating the work to film.
Guardians of the Galaxy was finally released, and it quickly became a juggernaut of 2014’s box office. Although this movie is currently embedded in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, it’s the first chart topper this year whose roster of characters weren’t previously established. This is quite an achievement for James Gunn, who is the writer and director. Previously, his most notable works included movies such as the Scooby Doo movies and cheeky horrors like Slither and Tromeo & Juliet. So, GotG is unsurprisingly on track to beat all of Gunn’s previous records. The profit and a majority of the critics can agree this is by far Gunn’s greatest work to date. However, Gunn didn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel. Much like Gunn’s previous works much of the drama focuses on the social dynamics of the protagonist, yet this time the relationships seem a little more convincing. It may be because of the camaraderie between the actors, the outsiders plot thread, or the spectacle interspersed to keep us more interested. Whatever it is, I felt more invested in the group dynamic. With that being said, I most definitely cringed at the Gamora and Peter Quill romance. Peter Quill is established as a sleazy loner; meanwhile, Gamora is a brutal warrior. Although their romance could be seen as character growth, it was still hard to see the sincerity of the relationship from both perspectives. Not only did Winter Soldier stay away from this trap, but also Brian Michael Bendis stays away from this dynamic in his GotG comic run. It’s true audiences love to see romance, but it would have made more sense to stay focused on the familial bond rather than creating romantic investment. It felt very unnecessary and went against the characterization of the two protagonists. The way Gunn portrayed the GotG outsider status was stylized in both writing and visualization. First we see Quill’s status as a loner established when he is wandering an abandoned planet and dancing with rats. When we are on Xandar, the look of Rocket, Groot, Quill, and Gamora greatly contrast with the semi sterile and Utopian Xandar community. They look so out of place that one can’t help but wonder why nobody is noticing a raccoon creepily spying on every passerby. Now, the next scene takes place in an intergalactic prison. Some critics had issues with the prison break out to be a tired cliché. However, this early in the movie one should realize this isn’t going to be a movie based on life inside of an intergalactic prison cell. After all, how can one guard the galaxy from the inside a prison cell? This isn’t a Mandela in space movie, and who would want to see that anyways? Secondly, Rocket repeatedly lets the audience know he is going to break the group out. He’s done it twenty two times and we have no reason to question his ability at this point in the movie. So why send them to prison in the first place? It’s simply to enhance their outsider status. On Xandar we saw how the group conflicts with the law abiding civilization. In the prison we see how the group conflicts with the outlaws and degenerates of the galaxy. Although the inclusion of Drax felt more forced than sensible, by the time we get to the big spectacle of the prison breakout the group is solidified, and we can finally move the plot towards an end goal. Like I already said this movie doesn’t reinvent any of the wheels. Thematically, this story is a culmination of all the things we have grown to love about Gunn’s work over the years. However, this is definitely a Marvel movie. Just like all of Marvels other movies it still retains the same origin story formula story right down to having a counterpart antagonist to every protagonist. Because this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, the audience is allowed to sit back and have fun. For me, this movie created a sense of nostalgia and reminded me of other tongue in cheek sci-fi movies like Flash Gordon, Ice Pirates, or Barbarella.
This week, we talk about a Most Wanted Man, Lucy, Final Crisis, Multiversity, Batman vs. Superman, Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, Eisner Awards, Antman, Superboy, Tusk, Godzilla 2, Future’s End, 50 Shades of Grey, Expendables, Last of Us, Constantine, and more! Part 1 of 2.