Unexpectedly entertaining AND uplifting?

On the advice of Howard Tayler, I ignored my Marvel instinct. You know, the one that reminds you of all the horribleness that a bad comic book movie (or TV show) can bring. I’m getting too old to waste my time on bad entertainment. (Agents of Shield, for example, is still on TV because Fox only cancels good shows.)

But, Howard’s taste is often in agreement with mine, so I gave it a try… I packed up the family and drove an entire five minutes to the Alamo Drafthouse.

Wow.

Although they kicked off with a scene that was REALLY tough for us as a family. Several people that we love very much have either recently been diagnosed or recently passed on due to cancer. Watching my wife tear up at the beginning, I was VERY afraid that the movie wouldn’t be able to recover from starting its first scene on a deathbed. Ouch.

But it was almost like nobody at Marvel was involved in the writing! They found a storyteller or two who know their craft, and trusted them to do it right. They put together an amazing show, entirely without any time wasted on exposition, and still managed to convey depth and richness of characters and universe that usually takes more than 122 minutes to deliver. Because I’ve never read the GotG comics, I don’t know where Groot comes from or the details of Rocket’s origin, but the movie alone made me want to find out.

Like Howard said in his review, I want to go back and watch it again with a notebook just to learn at the knee of some fabulous storytellers.

Sure, there was the obligatory Stan Lee cameo (well-mocked by Rocket) and the characters’ origins are all shrouded in trials, tribulations, and orphan’s tears (I’m sure that there’s a rule against superheroes having a normal, middle-class childhood, functional parents who love them, and growing up in a Cleaver-type home), but the fun part is where the heroes go from there and how they grow. (My inner 10-year old was screaming at them NOT to give the infinity stone to the Xandar. You’re going to need that later, you idiots! Heh.)

The only cringe-worthy moments for me (besides Starlord repeatedly embarrassing himself, but that’s Chris Pratt’s schtick; they did choose the perfect guy for the character – and the writers kept him from getting insufferable) were some of the supporting character names and place names. That’s where the Marvel really leaked through. Knowhere? Thanos? Xandar? Ronan the Accuser? Korath the Pursuer? Drax the Destroyer? It’s like somebody went to the J.R.R. Tolkein School of Naming Conventions and only paid attention during The Naming of Gods And Demons 101. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed Dave Batista’s performance as Drax, he didn’t need an over-the-top title any more than Groot did. Speaking of Groot, I expected his one line to get really old, really fast… But great writers and great actors kept that from happening. As much fun as I’ve had at Vin Diesel movies in the past, I think they found his dialogue sweet spot with three words. He pulled off so many different context-appropriate inflections of “I am Groot” that I was impressed. But… Wherever there was a stereotype or a caricature, I could see the Marvel origins bleeding out, and it made me a little sad.

But not enough to ruin the movie!

The promise at the end was “The Guardians of the Galaxy will return.” At least I hope that’s the promise. (Not that there will be another Howard the Duck movie. That would really [CENSORED] me off!)