Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Like many highly anticipated anime I know next to nothing about and intentionally try not to learn ahead of time, I was very excited about going to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I had a feeling it was going to shake up the monotony of the last few Summer blockbusters I’d paid good money to see, and boy, did it ever.

Yes, this film crammed a bunch of shit on the screen, and yes, since this is the first time the director has done anything this huge before, it isn’t all perfect, but GotG has in spades what so many films—including other Marvel films—have lacked: genuine heart, soul, wonder, and side-splitting comedy in impressive harmony.

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Franchises in the same vein as GotG I’ve cherished, like Farscape and Firefly, put out (relatively) big-budget cinematic romps in The Peacekeeper Wars and Serenity, respectively. But those efforts failed to capture the magic of the TV shows they were based upon, and only served to remind me how how difficult it is to capture said magic.

GotG isn’t hamstrung by a deep and acclaimed canon (at least for me) or abrupt television cancellation, so it feels new and fresh. It has no past failure it tries desperately to redeem here, so it never feels like it’s trying too hard. But it takes some of the best qualities of Farscape (human pop culture in an utterly alien universe), Firefly (cleverly juxtaposed genres).

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The band of underdog misfits becoming the family they all lacked before they met each other is not a new premise, but it’s executed pretty damn nicely here, because for all its eye-popping visual effects, the film never for one second forgets that the characters are the most important thing in this film, and takes care to make each one of the titular Guardians sympathetic, likable, and hilarious.

Some big-budget films are often strained by their own sense of self-importance or dead-serious tone. Not here. Don’t get me wrong, GotG never plays like one big guffawing joke that takes you out of the fantasy. I fully believed the fantastic galaxy and everything in it. The film just found that sweet spot between cheese and awesomeness that so many films fail, often miserably, to find.

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Really, it reminded me most of The Fifth Element, my favorite live-action film, which also combined stylish, otherworldly visuals and barely-controlled chaos with a firmly-grounded human heart. Eric Serra’s score, which ranged from ethereal to zany, brought all its disparate elements (no pun intended) together the same way the 70’s pop music does here.

To conclude, GotG was the most fun I’ve had in the theater in a long time, and I’m elated by the fact that a sequel is already in the works. I haven’t gone into too many details about the plot and characters because I urge you to check it out for yourself. If your recycling bin nets you rewards like $2 off movie tickets, like mine, so much the better!

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Super 8: The Anime?

Sometimes our minds wander here at RABUJOI, and we think about anime that might work – or decidedly not work – as American TV shows and films, or vice versa. We’re not talking about particularly financially successful shows and films…just interesting ones. And sometimes we just draw parallels from existing anime to existing Americana, or vice versa.

A few for instances: there are tinges of Harry Potter in Occult Academy and Blue Exorcist. True Blood, while a good show, would be far scarier and less goofy if it followed Shiki’s storyline rather than Charlene Harris’s books. I was so turned off by the Marvel-backed Heroman (Bones) and Iron Man (Madhouse) anime, I didn’t even bother with Wolverine (which some may say was a mistake, but I still don’t really regret skipping it).

And then there’s Super 8: a perfectly decent and well-executed sci-fi mystery thriller that amazingly stars a bunch of middle schoolers – including Dakota Fanning’s little sis Elle – that manage not to annoy the hell out of me. The film wasn’t perfect, and the whole time I was watching it I was cursing J.J. Abrams for taking the time to make this film instead of the new Star Trek sequel (Classically a Trek film came out once every two years…the next one better be good for the extra year-plus we have to wait).

Super 8 was a very charming, engaging, and entertaining film, and for some reason I think it would make a great anime. Not a long one, mind you; an 11-episode series in the Noitamina timeslot would suffice in building up and laying out the nicely self-contained story. There are a lot of subtle changes that would have to be made that wouldn’t affect that story in the least. To wit: JSDF instead of USAF; a rural Japanese town instead of a rural American one; a HDV camera instead of a Super 8.

Other things could be left alone. There’s a lot to love: A romance between a boy and girl that’s forbidden by no fault of their own, but by their fathers, due to bad blood? Check. Love triangle that doesn’t get in the way? Check. Train wreck? Check. Weird happenings in a small, quiet town? Check. Classmates making a movie? Check (it worked in Haruhi Suzumiya). Aliens? Check. The town policeman bumping up against the industrial military complex? Check A shonen having to work up the courage to not just defy his and her dads, but to save said girl from said angsty alien? Check and check!

I think Super 8 has great potential moving to the anime medium. Realistically, the chances of J.J. Abrams licensing his script to a Japanese production company are probably slim to nil, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Fortunately, and this is why I watch far more anime than American television, there is no shortage of great stories that already inhabit the anime world.

Iron Man – First Impressions

Stan Lee and Marvel’s first foray into anime this year, “Heroman”, got tiring really fast. This new Iron Man adaptation stars Tony Stark, who’s a bit of a peacock but at least isn’t some random weak-ass kid with long hair, tight pants and a high voice always yelling the same thing over and over. Stark’s an adult – and confident with women – and at this point he’s already built and used the Iron Man suit to save the free world a couple times, as well as revealed his identity as Iron Man to the world.

There’s a nice parallel to the Iron Man franchise making the move to Japan while in the actual story, Stark is doing the same; developing huge arc reactors to provide clean, free power for Japan – ‘cuz he just can, I guess. Plus, he and I share similar sentiments about Japan: the food is tasty and the women are beautiful. The dynamic of Stark trying to get a handle on what Japan is all about and how to win the love of the people is an interesting one; I hope they go into more detail with this.

I’m not gonna lie here, this was nowhere near the showstopper Panty & Stocking was, and it fell a bit below my justifiably high expectations (this is a Madhouse production with a very big franchise behind it). Yet after the first episode, I’m left wondering: now that they have this well-established Iron Man universe, what are they going to do with it? I wasn’t turned off, but I was underwhelmed. Hopefully this first episode was just a sputtering start and future episodes will be more impressive. The raw materials are there, after all. This show will have to turn it around soon; I can’t afford to be patient this season. Rating: 2