GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Preview Screening Review – Mission Accomplished
Last night I had the chance to see a special first look at Marvel Studios’ latest film, Guardians of the Galaxy. The 17 minutes of footage that were shown to audiences across the country were meant to fuel anticipation and interest in the movie; given what I saw and the audience’s reaction, I can say it was an unqualified success.
At this point in the hype machine rollout for Marvel’s newest intellectual property, it’s time to illuminate exactly who these Guardians are and why we should look forward to another movie about saving the galaxy. I’d say that the preview not only did that, it also presented a group of individuals that were fully formed and interesting to watch. If this is what we have in store for us in one month, this may turn out to be another Avengers-style success.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get serious here. This is an untested property featuring wholly new (to the movie screen) characters, and “serious” Hollywood logic would tell you that it’s not a slam-dunk proposition to bring out these new guns during a blockbuster season. In a year that has seen sure things underperforming, the prospect of a new challenger getting people excited to see another movie about fantasy elements exploding would be understandably laughable in any other situation.
Yet when I arrived at the screening, the line wrapped around the top level of the theater, with many loudly anticipating what they would see. A furry murderous alien raccoon and a monosyllabic tree being were draws for these fans, and many kids were in attendance. This isn’t what a failure looks like, it’s what bright colors and big ideas can do to a movie theater. Well, the fact that it was a free preview didn’t hurt, but I’m trying not to be cynical.
When the lights went out in the packed theater, we went through the onscreen roll call that we’ve seen in every preview for Guardians. The introductions to Drax, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and our very own Star-Lord Peter Quill play out with their playful fervor, and then we see the lineup being transferred to the maximum security prison the Kiln. We then learn that Gamora has worked for Thanos the Mad Titan (the villain revealed at the end of the first teaser of The Avengers), and this means Drax wants to join the gang to hunt both of them down. Immediately after this, Peter Quill tries to steal his Walkman back from a guard who is enjoying his tape of Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling.”
Once we establish how intense the Kiln can be, Groot flashes some of the inventive powers he has as a living tree being. His branches grow organically and form weapons he uses during melee combat, and he can increase his height and reach. Rocket hatches a plan to break out of the Kiln that goes hilariously awry, with the setup falling apart as he describes it. The biggest pleasure in this sequence comes from seeing how the characters play off each other to try and escape, and their personalities are quickly defined. Rocket’s brashness is matched by Groot’s loyalty, and Drax and Gamora are fierce, equally matched warriors. Dave Bautista’s version of Drax is an intelligent, prescriptive and fearsome brawler who will make the crowd smile with his wit in the middle of battle. Finally, Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord is a fun protagonist and audience surrogate for the preview, and he manages to get the biggest belly laugh in a quiet moment during the breakout.
The sizzle reel at the end of the preview had more knowledgeable viewers grinning in anticipation. We’re treated to many great and surely iconic images. Thanos’ throne. Karen Gillan’s Nebula wielding her scythe. The head used to keep the motley crew out of harm’s way. We learn about Nova Corps and see the power of Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, who looks like the de facto villain of the movie. Everything looked very promising, and the sampler ended with the audience ready for more.
What nobody seemed to realize during the production of many of these underwhelming modern blockbusters is that we still go to the movies to have fun and see things we’ve never seen before. We can see explosions aplenty in Transformers, but four movies in there’s very little character reason to go see the series outside of potentially watching your favorite locale light up in gasoline. Thankfully, this one appears to be something different, one where the interesting things include seeing how these five miscreants play off each other. Guardians of the Galaxy burns with the promise of watching incredible exploits in worlds far, far away, and the movie isn’t afraid to get weird while also remaining approachable for audiences young and old. The chemistry between characters real and computer-created was a joy to behold, an actual team forming onscreen. Everybody was disappointed when the preview ended, and the cheers that met the lights turning up indicated a hope for the promise of a fun experience when August 1 arrives. I predict that many kids will be dressing up as Groot, Gamora or Rocket this Halloween, and I can’t wait.
The preview was meant to get audiences ready for Guardians of the Galaxy, to introduce a new idea in the crowded summer marketplace. Tonight in Providence, I’d say that the mission was accomplished.